We are in the 21st century and have numerous laws to ensure equality for women. It is all too easy to think that we have arrived at a period in history when the female of our species has finally achieved a level playing field but sadly that is not the case. I think we all know that women are under-represented at a senior level in the workplace and that they largely earn less money than men. That is a complicated issue which you could debate for hours but there is one area of discrimination in the UK which is much more cut and dried and that is private clubs.
Many private clubs are still men only institutions and they are acting totally within the law. Regulations for private clubs allow such places to restrict their membership on the grounds of what are termed “protected characteristics”. In other words it is fine to restrict membership to those of a particular sex, sexual orientation, race or religion. Whilst I understand that these are private institutions rather than public places where such practices would never be allowed, I really think it is time to put a stop to this situation.
I suppose you could argue that if these people want to be narrow-minded then let them get on with it and take your money elsewhere but I do believe that the very existence of such institutions is demeaning to women and sends off all the wrong signals to those who may have some lingering prejudice. They are largely controlled by anachronistic old codgers who will hopefully die out to be replaced by more enlightened beings but in the meantime there are some places that women simply can’t go.
At this moment in time those places include the venue for the 2013 Open Golf Championship – Muirfield. I am sure the organisers are happy to take women’s money to watch this great event but if they want to join the club they can forget it! Muirfield is not alone either. Royal Troon, Royal St. Georges and the Royal and Ancient all have the same policy. Their attitudes are unlikely to change in the near future even under the weight of the current public outcry. Golf is a wealthy sport that does not need public funding and so can more or less do what it likes.
Different but Equal
I am not saying that I want men and women to be the same or that they should always want or need the same things. The sexes will always be different and that is a good thing. Whilst fashion has become more unisex over recent decades women will probably always dress at least a little differently to men and then there is the issue of size. Take watches, for instance. Leading brands do offer watches for both men and women but they are different. We still have men’s Hugo Boss watches and women’s Tissot watches because of size and different tastes in styling but the companies at least serve up a product for both sexes. It is a matter of opportunity. Quality watches and clothes are available to both sexes but not some golf courses it seems.
The clubs concerned proffer ridiculous arguments about men sometimes wanting to associate with men only. What a non-argument that is. Women are not asking to talk to the men or interrupt their social groups just to be able to join the club and play golf! I am fairly sure they would have no interest in talking to these stupid people anyway. I just don’t think it is right that women are denied access to some of our country’s most historic golfing institutions. It is discrimination pure and simple and reinforces the old fashioned attitudes that have held women back in the workplace for decades.
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Sally Stacey is a keen golfer who has encountered a great deal of sexism in the game.