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On Women (and Martha Burk) at Augusta
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Four
by Brian S. Wise
18 April 2003

If the National Council of Women’s Organizations truly has seven million members, as Burk claims, how come only 50 people made it to Augusta?

Last Saturday (April the twelfth), Martha Burk – head of the National Council of Women’s Organizations – held her much promoted and discussed protest outside Augusta National, where the Masters golf tournament was continuing. (Well, Burk was “outside” Augusta in the same sense Reno is outside Las Vegas, but you get the point.)  “You’ve got to make a choice – is it discrimination or is it dollars,” she said.  “Today we are protesters with placards.  Tomorrow, women will protest with their pocketbooks.”  This author was heard to have mumbled, “Hey, good luck with that, little lady.”
No word as to exactly how much economic damage 50 women – 50 being the approximate number of protesters that showed up for the event – could do by simultaneously closing their pocketbooks, though I am an astute enough observer of the world around me to know the implication is that the numbers could increase dramatically, perhaps to 75, or even more spectacularly, to 125.  Conspicuous by his absence, Jesse Jackson, whose Rainbow / PUSH coalition was standing in ideological lockstep with Burk and the girls.  Probably a good thing he was absent … what feminism does not need is an adulterer and deadbeat dad preaching about how men at Augusta should treat women better.  We can be sure Jackson was with Burk in spirit, even if with yet another woman in his physical form.
The big questions remain unanswered: 1) Did Burk’s protest work?  No.  Augusta National will not allow women to become members.  2) What will it be, discrimination or dollars?  It will be discrimination (though I object to the terminology, see below), as Augusta will lose over seven million dollars in advertising revenue this year, but it is prepared to lose that amount every year to make its point, if it must.  3) So what did Burk accomplish?  Not much, other than she got a few women mad that were not mad before, and managed to sign on a few new members.  4) If the National Council of Women’s Organizations truly has seven million members, as Burk suggests, how come only 50 people made it out to Augusta?  Because they don’t have seven million members.
Now to the philosophical points: Why not allow women to become members at Augusta National?  After all, if women can play there as guests, isn’t the next logical step to allow them very expensive memberships?  And not for nothing, but the current members of the club all look old enough to have crossed the Delaware with Washington, and probably have to cart around with their colostomy bags in tow; will not the club have to mix in some new blood in order to ultimately remain solvent?
First, the exact purpose of male only clubs and organizations is to allow men the opportunity to do at least one or two things in their lives without women hanging around, something important to a lot of men, your author being one of them.  Now, I have maintained in this space that it is probably a fact that Augusta’s membership requirements were set at a time when male comradeship decidedly was not the point, and that having no one other than white men was the point.  It is not by that standard that I defend Augusta, it is by the standard suggesting that sometimes men want to be left alone to socialize with other men, and should at those times be left alone to socialize with other men.  Feminism will make absolutely no greater contemporary strides forward than it will on the day it realizes there are simply places women are not wanted, and then acts accordingly.
And this is certainly not limited to male only institutions; I would no sooner like to see a man enrolled into St. Mary’s college (one of this country’s finest all female colleges, in my hometown of South Bend, Indiana) than I would a woman at Augusta National.  It really is okay for men and women to be separate here and there; every desire a man has to be apart from women does not constitute an occasion for which bras should be burned, rednecks should be hung in effigy, et cetera.
Second, what about those men who have been denied membership to Augusta National?  It has happened and will continue to happen, where is their protest?  If discrimination is the act of choosing people or things on the basis of category rather than individuality (and it is), then where is the outrage for every man turned away from Augusta in the last, oh, decade?  The Burk protest was not about inclusion, it was about dominance and the outrage that typically follows when someone who is used to getting their way is finally told “No.”

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