Gender-Benders Augusta & Akin Skirt The Important Issues

August 27, 2012

Not since the 19 th Amendment allowed Americans of the non-male persuasion to vote in 1920 has there been so much estrogen flowing in Augusta, Georgia. The last high-visibility bastion of good ol' boyism, Augusta National Golf Club, has deigned to allow Gyno-Americans the right to be actual dues-payers. (If you have to ask "how much"....).

After 80 years of penis-only membership, the home of The Masters has, reluctantly and minimally, bent under pressure from the clear-thinking world, and admitted two women. Symbolically, one white, Darla Moore, and one black, Condoleeza Rice. Club Chairman Billy Paine put on his best politician two-face and declared "This is a joyous occasion". Buy a bridge, anyone??

Even 81-year old Hootie Johnson, who, as club president in 2002, famously blocked female membership with the statement "We have the moral and legal right to organize our club the way we wish", now declared "This is wonderful news for Augusta National Golf Club and I could not be more pleased. Darla Moore is my good friend, and I know she and Condoleezza Rice will enjoy the Club as much as I have."

There were immediate huzzahs from some. The Walls of Jericho had finally fallen. (Most ignored the small detail that the collapse came about a half-century too late). Martha Burk, who took on Johnson 10 years ago as chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, was so surprised that she exclaimed "Oh my God, we won!"

Well, maybe. Prior male CEO's of IBM, a major Masters sponsor, have been traditionally invited to join Augusta. Current CEO, Virginia Rometty, was not. Let's not mistake tokenism for equality.

ESPN reported "A person with knowledge of club operations said Rice and Moore first were considered as members five years ago. That would be four years after the 2003 Masters, when Burk's protest in a grass lot down the street from the club attracted only about 30 supporters, and one year after Payne became chairman. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the club keeps membership issues private, said Payne and Johnson agreed on the timing of a female member."

The gender line may now be dented, but not the elitism. Moore is a politically-connected, extremely wealthy vice-president of a private investment firm, married to its president. Rice, of course, is the former Secretary of State, former provost of Stanford, a director of half a dozen mega-corporations, and recently appointed to an influential U.S. Golf Association committee that nominates members to the executive board.

Robert Lusetich of Foxsports opined "It might be a milestone for some women. But what it's not, and never has been, is some kind of victory for civil rights. It is simply an acknowledgment that rich, privileged women should get to join rich, privileged clubs, too."

And Dan Wetzel at Yahoo.com added: "This really isn't some monumental day in the women's movement. It isn't some big victory for the pressures brought by public sentiment or even the forces of political correctness. Augusta will remain a playground of the rich, powerful and connected. There are just now two rich, powerful and connected women involved. Augusta National simply did what was easiest and best for it to move forward, to shed a painful line of questioning and entering the 21st century [or 20th century] on its own terms."

Christine Brennan wrote in USA Today "And where are the female leaders in golf? Look at the background of nearly every 18th-green trophy ceremony at the men's majors and you'll be hard-pressed to see more than one woman in the sea of faces. Clearly, this sport has quite a bit more work to do."

But while some will cheer Darla and Condaleeza as Rosa Parkses with putters, the real test will be in upcoming years. Augusta admitted its first black member in 1990, amid fears of losing the Masters for blatant racism. Twenty-two years later, the club remains starkly white. So now will women be admitted on an equal basis with men, so that the membership is eventually gender-balanced? Will Darla and Condaleeza speak up for that equality? If the answers are anything but yes and yes, nothing has really changed.

Meanwhile, a few states to the west, six-term Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin, a member of the House Science Committee, assured his place in the Misogynist Hall of Shame by announcing that a woman's body can actually prevent conception if the woman is raped "legitimately". Akin, who is campaigning for a Senate seat, was asked if he would support abortions for women who have been raped. "It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down".

Fortunately, what actually was shut down was Akin's political support. Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, five current and former Missouri senators, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and most of the civilized world called on him to end his election bid, and step down to allow the GOP campaign to focus on Obamacare, and the economy. But Akin, a conservative's conservative who opposes abortion under any circumstances, won't budge. Only his opponent, Sen. Claire McCaskill , seemed pleased that he is still in the race.

Akin invoked the Richard Nixon-Robert Bork-John Edwards-Herman Cain defense - "the liberal media twisted my words". And he asked his grass-roots supporters to each send him five dollars to counter the withdrawal of all funding for his campaign by both the national and state parties. "By taking this stand, this is going to strengthen our country," he boasted. "It will strengthen the Republican Party."

Obviously, Romney and Ryan don't agree, and for good reason. As Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein pointed out "First, the source for Akin's wacky theory that the female reproductive systems has an organic spermicide hidden behind a red case marked 'break in case of legitimate rape' is probably Jack C. Willke, a physician and former president of the National Right to Life Committee. In 2008, Willke endorsed Romney and was described by the campaign as 'a leading voice within the pro-life community and will be an important surrogate for Governor Romney's pro-life and pro-family agenda'."

Sadly, Akin's dark-ages views aren't limited to one lawmaker. Kansas Republican state Rep Pete DeGraaf suggested women should plan ahead for rape the way he keeps a spare tire. A few weeks later, Indiana state Rep Eric Turner, another Republican, said some women might fake being raped in order to get free abortions. Former presidential hopeful Rick Santorum suggested doctors who perform an abortion on a woman who becomes pregnant from an attack should be thrown in jail, and this year suggested rape victims who become pregnant from an attack should be forced to keep the baby and "make the best of a bad situation".

In 31 states, that "bad situation" means the rapist has the legal rights of a father. It makes those family holiday get-togethers really special, don't you think?

Akin has been barred from the Republican convention this week, but the platform committee adopted language calling for a ban on all abortions, with no exception for incest or rape. One small step down for woman, one giant tumble for womankind.

Hard to believe that in 2012 women still put up with - and even promote - this obscene war on themselves.