It is bizarre that an anally all-male golf club ever so slightly opens its membership to two women for the first time in 80 years and America sees in it a source of joy and hope, not to mention a great wrong being righted.
That this embarrassing anachronism existed at all has become secondary to the finely calibrated decision to allow its first two female members.
Augusta National Golf Club of Georgia, which hosts the annual Masters tournament, has just admitted former Secretary of State and golf aficionado Condoleezza Rice and businesswoman Darla Moore.
It is only fair to clarify that Augusta National is a private club and has every right to choose whom it admits and whom it excludes. If its management chooses not to admit men with a unibrow or men with attached earlobes nothing can be done about it. It is their freedom because it is a private club.
However, even Augusta exists in a certain societal context and it would eventually find it untenable to eternally maintain its tradition of not admitting women into their fold. My point is not so much about how a tightassed club has decided to loosen up a bit. My point is about how its decision has been greeted with such effusion as if it is the first real harbinger of gender equality and fairness.
It reminds me of how even marginal freedoms granted to the women of Saudi Arabia, such as being able to drive on their own without a male escort, get exalted into a seminal change worthy of serious sociological studies. It is tragic that our benchmarks have become so low that a golf club admitting two women as members becomes a news story worthy of heralding nationwide. It has been projected as the club’s belated entry into the 21st century. Those who do that forget that the 21st century, a product of an arbitrary calendar to begin with, is not a some sort a magical border beyond which wonders of equity and egalitarianism, peace and love, abound.
It says something unsettling about a society that celebrates these meaningless little gestures as great signs of the times.
Separately, it is bizarre that the Augusta decision almost coincided with Congressman Todd Akin, an ultra conservative Republican from Missouri, saying this about whether abortion should be allowed for women who become pregnant as a result of rape.
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s (pregnancies out of rape) really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child,” Akin told KTVI-TV on Sunday.
Not that there is any connection between the two developments but to me it speaks of a society that still remains in ferment about fundamental issues.