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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Wednesday, November 13, 2002
12:44 PM

Here's the Boswell column on Augusta. Not all bad but like Martha Burk herself, Boswell doesn't engage the central question, which is whether single-sex institutions are acceptable under any circumstances.

The not-so-bad part:

If Burk had searched every phone book south of the Potomac River, she could hardly have found a man whose whole life was more opposite to the stereotype she was trying to pin on his chest. Instead of a cartoon bigot, it turns out her adversary has been working to help minorities and women for decades. Nobody's done more to promote Hootie the Progressive than Burk.

Glad to see this finally being acknowledged someplace with a circulation bigger than Postwatch's or the Augusta Chronicle. Bowell goes on to say Burk is Johnson's "nightmare opponent" as well, since Augusta can be a high-handed, arrogant place, Johnson's initial response was over the top, and "she's been firmly affixed to his ankle ever since."

But I think Boswell is wrong that Burk and Johnson have both engaged in some kind of mutually embarassing cycle of violence. Though there are exceptions, Johnson has been more restrained since his first "point-of-a-bayonet" response, while Burk keeps calling Johnson a bigot and has made strange statements the likes of which I last heard during junior-high recess, e.g., "People don't like Hootie."*

Boswell's mistake is that he splits the difference and says both sides are right--Augusta shouldn't discriminate against women, and a private club can choose its own members. This is the mathematical approach to finding the truth.

So should Augusta admit female members or not?

My feelings on this topic haven't changed. When you have the law on your side, but history against you, who's going to win? Augusta may be a private club, but, without the Masters, it would be as unnoticed as Pine Valley. By embracing the public on its grounds and on TV, it has opened itself to public opinion and public pressure. That's not a legal issue. It's just the way the world works. When the force of historic trend -- like equality for women -- leans against you, even gently, it's wiser to accommodate it gracefully.

But like Burk, he doesn't call on institutions like Smith College to accommodate itself "gracefully" to a "historic trend." Howcome? Because feminists, and people like Boswell who buy some of their arguments, speak only of equality for women. "Equality" in this alternate universe means women alone have an automatic claim to joining private, opposite-sex institutions. In the Standard Universe, equality means you must end all private, single-sex associations if you mean to end any of them.

*"People don’t like Hootie, and they don’t like Augusta National. But nobody has been willing to publicly step out and say that.” Rich and Famous Mum on Augusta, Chicago Sun-Times, July 17, 2002.

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