Last week’s controversy concerning the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club and their policy of refusing to admit women reminded me of two old jokes. First, Groucho Marx’s line, “I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.” This must be the response Augusta Chairman Billy Payne hopes to receive if Augusta ever gets the courage to invite IBM’s new CEO, Virginia M. Rometty, to join the club. (Memberships are traditionally offered to IBM’s CEO).
I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the invite, Ms. Rometty. The Augusta members strike me as a pretty cowardly bunch.
The second joke is about an old golfer, desperate to know if there is golf in heaven. His recently deceased friend returns as a ghost to give him the good—and bad—news. “Yes, there is golf in heaven. You’re teeing off Tuesday.” For Augusta National, the news is that there is also golf in hell and Augusta’s membership policy makers will, I hope, be teeing off there soon!
The important women in my life include my grandmothers, my mother, mother-in–law, sister, wife and my daughter. All of these women have helped to teach me the “rightness” of equal treatment and the evil of sexism. The idea that in 2012 the equality of women could be seriously questioned seems ludicrous. But I know better of our so-called progressive culture. Augusta won’t accept women members, the Catholic Church won’t ordain women priests, and Democratic lobbyist Hillary Rosen says that a stay-at–home mother with five children has “never worked a day in her life.” In some other cultures around the world, women continue to be officially and legally mistreated, physically abused and denied basic human rights simply because they are women.
It is 2012. Sexism should be gone, a thing of the past. But it is not, and institutions like Augusta and the Catholic Church and comments like Ms. Rosen’s are part of the reason. Augusta won’t accept women because they have never accepted women. The Catholic Church won’t ordain women because the disciples weren’t women and women have never been ordained. Tradition alone is not a reason, and certainly not a reason to perpetuate something as wrong as sexism. Ms. Rosen attempts to create a different tradition, but it’s one in which every women must work outside the home or be devalued. This is just as unfair as the old standards because it fails to recognize women as free and equal persons.
The Catholic Church had a tradition of claiming that the earth was the center of the solar system. When Galileo, based on scientific observation, reported that in fact the sun and not the earth was at the center, the church threatened to toast him like a marshmallow at a cook-out. The threat got Galileo to recant, but all of the church’s power and threats could not rearrange the planets to make them fit with church tradition. The tradition was simply wrong and the sooner that was accepted the sooner real progress toward truth and justice could occur.
So to with sexism. We must all demand that traditions and new standards that perpetuate injustice be rejected so the truth can be recognized and justice achieved. Shame on all of us if we choose to look the other way under the camouflage of tradition or political correctness and allow Augusta, the Catholic Church, and other institutions or individuals that perpetuate sexism to go unchallenged in their conduct.