The Masters and our masters

Groucho Marx famously refused to join any club that would have him as a member. Marxist grouches invert the mustachioed funnyman’s wisdom by forcing their way into clubs that don’t want anything to do with them. 

Bubba Watson won The Masters. Feminists won the attention. 

Those who most vehemently insist on a right to privacy ironically work to eliminate the private sphere. Not content with merely waging a war on religion through the birth-control mandate, on expression through campus speech codes, or on the press through appeals to the FCC to pull Rush Limbaugh, feminists seek to quash freedom of association by forcing the Augusta National Golf Club to admit female members against its members’ desires. The First Amendment is supposedly the popular part of the Constitution. 

IBM sponsors the prestigious Masters golf tournament. But the company’s new CEO Ginni Rommety, unlike past CEOs, hasn’t been invited to join the country club that hosts the tournament. She plays golf. But she lacks a penis. Ostracism based on this does seem rather petty. But it’s not my club. May I be forgiven for refusing to regard the millionaire CEO as a 21st-century Rosa Parks? 

Barack Obama, who has excluded women from all but two of his ninety-three rounds of golf played during his presidency, just can’t understand why members of Augusta National prefer to golf with other men. His mouthpiece Jay Carney (The Lawrenceville School ’83), a product of an all-boys high school, explained: “It’s long past the time when women should be excluded from anything.”

Mitt Romney (Cranbrook School ’65) graduated from a single-sex high school, served in the males-only position of Mormon bishop, and oversaw an Olympics where female bobsledders weren’t allowed to compete against their male counterparts. But if he were running for president of Augusta National rather than of the United States “of course I’d have women in Augusta.” 

Terry O’Neill (Rosemary Hall ’70) claims that Augusta National “thoroughly disrespected” IBM’s CEO by not offering her a membership. “It’s not fair.” O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, sits in an office that has never been, and never will be, occupied by someone with an Adam’s Apple. 

Is that fair? 

Country clubs aren’t fair. They don’t look like the United Nations. They don’t smell like the projects. They offend our sense of egalitarianism. 

To object to a club’s cliquishness is really to object to the existence of clubs. Exclusivity defines them. In truth, most people condemn the clannishness in principle but not in practice. They want to join something that not everybody can join. Inveighing against the snobbishness of the velvet rope while enduring the wait and the weather to get on the other side of it is another way of admitting yourself a snob. Most people object to snobbery only when it’s incoming. 

Condemning a behavior by participating in it isn’t very principled. Joining the in-crowd isn’t a protest of exclusion. It’s an endorsement of it.

If you dislike cliques, don’t join one. 

Those who feign oppression seek to be the masters. The worst tyrants imagine themselves as victims of maltreatment. They rationalize their domineering as rectifying past unfairness. Dictating to strangers who they must, and must not, associate with is heavy-handed.   

People socialize based on shared characteristics (sex, ethnicity, religion) and interests (science fiction, chess, animal welfare). They do so formally in groups and informally in friendships. This isn’t illegal. It is normal. 

When did normal become controversial? 

There are plenty of venerable institutions that, just like Augusta National, restrict admission by sex. Just ask Hillary Clinton (Wellesley College ’69), Gloria Steinem (Smith College ’56), or Jane Fonda (Willard School ’55).