In a week where the phrase “legitimate rape” became part of the American political discourse, it’s understandable that anyone who believes in women’s liberation would be scavenging for some good news. Like parched souls in the desert, some believe that a trickle of water, if not an oasis, has appeared. After eighty years of antediluvian sexism, the Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters, has finally decided to admit women into its ranks. All hail the trailblazers: President George W. Bush’s national security adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina billionaire banking executive Darla Moore.
As Christine Brennan of USA Today wrote, “Today, one of the last bastions of male supremacy is no more. Today, Augusta National has made a crucial statement to every girl and woman who has thought about picking up a golf club. The message is simple: You are welcome.”
Her joy is certainly understandable. This is a club where as recently as 2002, after a series of protests, then–club President Hootie Johnson said that Augusta National would admit women on their own schedule and not “at the point of a bayonet.” The woman who led those protests, Martha Burk, received dozens of death threats. Today she was on ESPN radio saying simply that “the women’s movements, the U.S. women’s groups and individual women who have been pushing for change for 50 years, yeah, we won.”
PGA tour President Tim Finchem, who was frightened to raise a whisper of criticism against Augusta National, today tried to get some of the glow, saying, “At a time when women represent one of the fastest growing segments in both playing and following the game of golf, this sends a positive and inclusive message for our sport.”
And yet, please forgive me if I don’t join the chorus of cheers. Rice and Moore are not twenty-first-century Jackie Robinsons, and their acceptance into this bastion of exclusion has nothing to do with women’s liberation and is utterly disconnected from the reality of daily life for millions of American women.
Condi Rice as a symbol of female power? Only if by power, we mean the power to put thousands of Iraqi women in graves all in the name of a war based on lies that she actively promoted.
Then there are the birth defects suffered by the children of women in Iraq. In 2009, the Guardian reported that doctors in Fallujah were were “dealing with up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants, compared to a year ago, and a spike in early life cancers that may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting.”