Posted on August 31, 2002
A Paper Tiger Trap
NCWO feminists need a villain
If you're among those who became sick of reading about Tiger Woods a long time ago, please be patient, because this column isn't primarily about him. Woods' ten-foot-tall image is only being used as a projecting board for the real story, which is the self-absorption of the feminist movement, and its ability to persuade lazy-minded feelgooders who lack either the ability or the willingness to distinguish between simple incongruity and true injustice.
At this year's British Open, Woods was startled by a question about the fact that the Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts The Masters, does not have any female members. Woods' stammering answer was sorrily insufficient, but not for the reasons his critics say it was.
In her August 15th column, USA Today sportswriter Christine Brennan ridiculed the reporters who spoke to Woods more recently, at the PGA Championship in Minnesota. What was it that made her so mad? Those fools asked the golf legend a bunch of stupid questions about golf, of all things, instead of pressuring him to take a stand for Social Justice, against the oppressive Augusta club.
Brennan wanted them to keep the heat on Woods because he was so obviously uncomfortable answering the original question at the previous tournament. At that time, he said, "You know, it's one of those things where everyone has ... they're entitled to set up their own rules the way they want them. It would be nice to see everyone have an equal chance to participate if they wanted to, but there is nothing you can do about it." When asked whether he would react the same way if the club instead excluded blacks and Asians, he answered, "Yes. It's unfortunate that it is that way, but it's just the way it is."
Both of Woods' answers are wrong, but the reporters are wrong for asking the questions in the first place. At least Woods has an excuse. He was put on the spot unexpectedly, and he panicked. But for the media to expect him (not being a member of Augusta himself) to do anything about that club's membership policies is unreasonable -- and for them to compare Augusta's exclusion of women to racial segregation is either devious, or very, very stupid.
Of course, any private club should be allowed to accept or reject any prospective member for any reason, no matter how objectionable someone else might find that reason to be. People have a right to associate with whomever they want. Contrary to what Woods says, however, that doesn't mean there's nothing that can be done. If a club's membership rules are offensive, it can always be subjected to public scorn and ridicule. Some members might then feel pressured to quit, and others who were unaware of the offending policies might leave on their own accord. If today, in the 21st Century, the Augusta golf club refused to allow blacks, it would be humiliated into changing its policy overnight.
Discrimination in club membership is only wrong when the distinguishing factor is irrelevant to the purpose of the club. If the purpose of an organization is to observe and celebrate the traditions of Italian heritage, for example, the admission of black and Asian members would be counterproductive. To cry racism because the club allows only people of Italian descent would be sheer absurdity. A golf club is different, because a person's race is irrelevant to it. If a golf club excluded people on the basis that they were black or Asian, the reason must simply be that its members don't want to associate with people of those races. While it's perfectly legal for them to adhere to that rule, it's also morally repugnant, and deserving of stigmatization.
The same is not true of the separation of men and women. The differences between the sexes aren't as trivial as a difference in dialect or skin color. It's perfectly natural for men and women to want places to go where they can be away from each other, because nature and society dictate that they behave differently in mixed company than they do among themselves. To make this easy for even a liberal like Christine Brennan to understand, remember what Vernon Jordan said that he and Bill Clinton talk about on the golf course, and ask yourself if they would care to have Christine tagging along.
Lacking anything resembling a point, feminists have seized upon Woods' defensive answers as damning evidence of some sort of civil rights violation. But what if he had reacted differently? What if he'd acknowledged that he'd be angry if the Augusta club had barred blacks or Asians, and that in that situation, he'd boycott the Masters in order to pressure the club into changing its policies? What if he'd then scolded the reporters for belittling the civil rights struggles of the Jim Crow era, by likening them to trifles like the Augusta "controversy"? How would his critics have responded if met with such resistance?
Martha Burk gave us a hint during a recent interview on CNN. Burk is the chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations (NCWO), a coalition of feminist groups that includes the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Organization for Women, the League of Women Voters, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Abortion Federation, and something called the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy, and Action ... among others.
Obviously not expecting her opinion to be challenged, she bloviated about the Augusta club's supposed immorality, throwing in a comparison between club chairman William "Hootie" Johnson and former Alabama governor George "Segregation Forever" Wallace for good measure. CNN anchorwoman Kate Snow pointed out to her that there are lots of women's health clubs that exclude men, and asked her why a men's club that excludes women should be treated any differently. Burk's answer: "Women's health clubs don't produce the most high-profile golf event on the planet. That's the difference."
What, exactly, is her point? Is it that the Augusta National Golf Club is too good a club to exclude women? Is it that all-male or all-female clubs are allowed to exist just as long as they're so crappy that nobody of the opposite sex would want to belong anyway? No -- to attribute even that degree of coherence to the feminist activist is to give her too much credit. Ms. Burk had no point, nor did she expect to need one. Feminists can usually assume a tacit agreement with the press, that their views will be aired without challenge. For a female reporter from a reliably liberal cable network to embarrass the leader of America's largest "women's organization" by asking her a logical question must have seemed terribly ill-mannered.
Brennan explains Tiger Woods' meltdown over the Augusta issue by writing that "he never expected the reporters who've coddled him over the years to ask him the question." She could just as credibly have written that about her allies in the feminist movement, whose propaganda is typically regurgitated uncritically by the media. They want what they want because they want it, and if asked why, their answer is "because." A more detailed explanation is seldom required.
That's how they avoid having to justify the double-standards with which their orthodoxy is riddled. Women must be allowed to enter the Citadel, but for men to enroll at Wellesley would be heresy. Why? What is the reasoning that dictates that both the Citadel and the Augusta must admit women, but that schools and clubs that exclude men are okay? There can be none, as long as one operates under the assumption that men and women are equal, which the NCWO evidently does not. But as long as the feminists are not forced to explain themselves, their irrational conclusions are taken as axiomatic.
The NCWO doesn't have logic working for it, but it thinks it now has a villain, which is even better. The truth never did any good for Bill Clinton's defenders, but they didn't need the truth, because they had Ken Starr and Linda Tripp. The critics of the Augusta are hoping that Tiger Woods will serve the same purpose.
There's one serious problem with that. You can't define your enemies if the public already knows them. If America didn't already know who Tiger Woods was, feminists could describe him in cartoonish fashion, as a vicious, pig-headed abuser of women, and nobody would be able to contradict them. They can't possibly make characterizations like that stick to someone who is already almost universally recognized, and who is probably the most popular golfer to hit the pro circuit since Arnold Palmer.
For this reason, they'd ideally prefer to cast Hootie Johnson as the villain, but they need him to play along, and he won't. After Burk wrote to Johnson that the NCWO wanted to meet with him to discuss the matter, Johnson publicly and immediately responded that, "Our membership alone decides our membership -- not any outside group with its own agenda." The NCWO had threatened to pressure the club through the Masters' corporate sponsors, but Johnson has recently declared that this year's tournament will be broadcast commercial-free, rather than expose the sponsors to harassment. Next year, any sponsors will understand upon entering an agreement that they will have to tolerate protests and threatened boycotts. That's a small price to pay for being the official candy bar, motor oil or deodorant of the Masters. The tournament will go on, and the threat will be nullified.
That isn't the sort of response that feminists are accustomed to. They're used to being able to drag offending parties into sensitivity training seminars to get their minds right. When somebody like Hootie Johnson, who is not at the mercy of a college administration or a corporate human resources department, says no to them, they're stunned by the reality that they have no power over him. What they require, then, is voluntary compliance, from an adversary who will go wobbly when confronted.
Enter an unsuspecting Tiger Woods, returning from an ordinary day on the job to be accused of being a hypocrite, just for minding his own business. His defensive answers are expected to be only the first step in a progression. Next is supposed to come the apology, then the begging for forgiveness. Finally, Woods is supposed to join the NCWO's cause, thus giving them a popular spokesman, as well as a facade of reason.
... But really. Do they expect the best golfer in the world to skip the Masters, just to pacify them? What do they intend to do when he doesn't, boycott all the products he endorses? It's unthinkable that any company would reject Tiger Woods as a spokesman over something as trivial as the Augusta protest, but even if it did, that wouldn't hurt him at all. He'd just sign equally big contracts with competing soft drink and shoe companies, and the ones that had dropped him would learn never again to cave in to a bunch of foot-stamping screechers like the NCWO.
When these feminist activists look at the Augusta National Golf Club, they see it the same way Mr. Potter saw the Bailey Building and Loan. They see something they can't get their fingers on, and it's galling them. Well, in the whole, vast configuration of things, the NCWO is nothing more than a scurvy little spider. It may look frightening, but if everyone just ignores it, it will be left to spin its own little webs, in its own little corner, as the rest of the world happily goes about its business.
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