GULLANE, Scotland – In the lead up to Thursday's British Open, the big stink here was that Muirfield, host of the 142nd edition of the Open Championship, doesn't allow female members.
Predictably, cue the media outrage. Never mind that this is an issue that has no impact on any of our lives – Muirfield isn't in the cards on a journalist's salary – nor the lives of 99.9999999 (I could keep going) percent of the women on this planet. When there's low-hanging fruit to be picked, well, we'll pick it.
As you said, Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, was asked in a news conference Wednesday, single-sex clubs are legal, but morally, what's the difference between men only and whites only?
"Oh goodness me, I think that's a ridiculous question, if I may say so," Dawson responded. "There's a massive difference between racial discrimination, anti-Semitism, where sectors of society are downtrodden and treated very, very badly, indeed. And to compare that with a men's golf club I think is frankly absurd. There's no comparison whatsoever."
Moral equivalency is a little trick they don't teach in journalism school, but it certainly comes in handy. When it comes to issues like this, it's always made out to be about the exclusion of someone or some group rather than something much more innocuous: a bunch of guys who want a man cave – in this case, a golf course – to themselves.
(It should be noted that while Muirfield doesn't allow female members, females are welcome to play the course.)
Of course, on our side of the pond we've already dealt with the issue of men's only clubs at Augusta National, home of the Masters. Thanks to Martha Burk's protests and a relentless line of questioning, Augusta finally allowed female members 11 months ago, and, oh, how the world is a better place.
Has the R&A become a hostage to fortune on this issue? Dawson was asked.
You bet your ass the R&A has become a hostage on this issue, because the media gets to set the agenda as we see fit. And so we ignore the exclusive clubs we deem acceptable – and there are plenty of women's-only clubs, just ask Justice Sonia Sotomayor – and pick on the ones we don't.
Wednesday, Dawson was asked if he could "explain to the 10 women in the room why racism is unacceptable and sexism clearly is?"
"I don't think in doing that they're intending to do … others harm," he responded. "It's just a way of life that some of these people like. And realistically, that's all it is.
"You can dress it up to be a lot more, if you want, but on the Saturday morning when the guy gets up or the lady gets up and out of the marital bed, if you like, and goes off and plays golf with his chums and comes back in the afternoon, that's not on any kind of par with racial discrimination or anti-Semitism or any of these things."
The nature of the "question" meant that no answer other than total agreement would be acceptable nor will dissent ever be acceptable. Like a kid hungry for ice cream, we won't stop screaming until we get what we want.
So this is how it's going to go: We're going to keep hammering away with questions and in the process we'll marginalize the opposition, all in the pursuit of making this world a better place, in our vision of course. Then, one day soon, the folks at Muirfield will get sick of dealing with the pressure and relent, just as Augusta National did. When they do, we'll criticize them for taking too long.
And for 99.9999999 percent of women, the world will have changed not one bit.
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