2002-12-12 / Arts & Entertainment


©2002 Tribune Media Services, Inc.


Tom Wyman, a former president of CBS whom I knew more as a boss than a friend, has dropped his membership in the Augusta National Golf Club because the club has persisted in refusing to admit women as members. The chairman of the club, Hootie John-son, has been dumb and pigheaded about this. He says they do not admit women and they are not going to change that policy. Wanna bet, Hootie?

The word "club" suggests exclusivity and the reasons for any club ex-cluding people for one reason or an-other are often valid. When I was young, there were Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, a YMCA and a YWCA. The Knights of Columbus probably wouldn’t want a lot of Presbyterians, Jews or Muslims applying because it’s a Catholic or-ganization. That’s defensible. NOW, the National Organization for Women, has only about 10 percent men as members.

The reasons for denying membership to women in the Augusta Golf Club are understandable but indefensible. A group of men together has a different character about it than one that includes women. There is an undeniable camaraderie among a collection of men in a locker room that would not exist if there were women present. It isn’t just a mat-ter of getting caught with their towels down. Men behave differently in the presence of each other than they do when women are there. I could not be-gin to say why, even if I knew. It’s not only different, but the atmosphere, for that brief time, is often better. I should think the same thing is true about a group of women who gather for bridge or to elect a candidate to office. I can’t speak for a women’s locker room.

There are good things about exclusive clubs. However, the advantages are outweighed by the necessity of doing something about the bad deal women have gotten over the years as a result of men’s discriminatory treatment. One of the things that can be done is to break down the barriers for entry into previously all-male organizations.

There are thousands of social or-ganizations that help form the fabric of our society and many of them are exclusive for some reason or another. We prefer to mingle and we’re happiest mingling with our own. "Our own" can refer to national origin, religious affiliation, or something like having served in a war, or bowling with the same people every Tuesday night. We join bridge clubs, sewing groups and political organizations. They all provide a place for us to exchange and express opinions with people basically like our-selves.

I wish the Augusta National Golf Club didn’t have to admit women if it doesn’t want to but it has to. If the club doesn’t announce that it will ad-mit women, CBS Sports has no choice but to back out of broadcasting their golf tournament. Tiger Woods is an in-nocent bystander but he has to pull out of the tournament.

I belong to a club in New York City that was all male for its first 125 years of its existence. In about 1988, after a bitter battle among members, women were admitted. Many enlightened mem-bers who didn’t like the idea of letting women in nonetheless voted in favor of it because they thought it was the right thing to do. The club is undeniably different.

Margie belongs to a prestigious wo-men’s club in New York whose membership comprises many of the women in positions of importance to the city’s cultural life. They do not admit men because members feel this would alter the character of the club in a way de-trimental to women. Sorry, dear. That’s the way we felt at my club but we knew what was right to do and we did it. Bring home an application form. I want to apply.

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