No girls allowed

The Masters golf final is currently being played out at the Augusta National Golf Course, Georgia, USA. It’s also pattering away in the background as I type this in my front room next to my partner. Unlike him, I’m fairly disinterested in golf. What I do find interesting is that such a prestigious international event is being held at a club that bars women from becoming members. And by interesting I mean sexist, distasteful and embarrassingly archaic.

The issue has been making headlines this tournament because the CEO of one of the club’s top three sponsors, IBM, is a woman, Virginia M. Rometty. The past four IBM CEOs have all been offered membership to the club, but neither IBM nor Augusta have yet indicated whether an invitation has been extended to Rometty.

At a press conference on Wednesday, the Augusta chairman stated that the issue of who gets invited to join is “subject to the private deliberations of the members”. This followed his announcement that the club is launching a number of initiatives to widen participation in golf. One can only assume that he looked at the policy to exclude women, weighed up the pros (um, widening participation in golf?) and cons (filthy menstrual blood on the course, bouts of hormone-induced vandalism, stiletto-shaped holes in the putting greens) and decided to continue pretending it’s 1912, not 2012.

Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have come out in support of changing the club’s sexist policy. Which is great. But what would be really great is if even one of the men currently basking in the glory of international sporting adulation would use their privileged position to speak out against the exclusion of women. Their silence and participation (while understandable) represents an implicit approval of the policy, and if – as I’d hope – at least some of them do disagree with it, now would be the perfect time to say so.

Photo by chispita_666, shared under a Creative Commons licence.