Condi Rice's Membership at Augusta National Is Nothing to Celebrate

In a week where the phrase “legitimate rape” became part of the American political discourse, it’s understandable that anyone who believes in women’s liberation would be scavenging for some good news. Like a parched soul in the desert, many believe that a trickle of water, if not an oasis, has appeared. After eighty years of antediluvian sexism, the Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters, has finally decided to admit women into its ranks. All hail the trailblazers: President George W. Bush’s national security adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina billionaire banking executive Darla Moore.

As Christine Brennan of USA Today wrote, “Today, one of the last bastions of male supremacy is no more. Today, Augusta National has made a crucial statement to every girl and woman who has thought about picking up a golf club. The message is simple: You are welcome.”

Her joy is certainly understandable. This is a club where as recently as 2002, after a series of protests, then–club President Hootie Johnson said that Augusta National would never admit a woman, not even “at the point of a bayonet.” The woman who led those protests, Martha Burk, received dozens of death threats. Today she was on ESPN radio saying simply that “the women’s movements, the U.S. women’s groups and individual women who have been pushing for change for 50 years, yeah, we won.”

PGA tour President Tim Finchem, who was frightened to raise a whisper of criticism against Augusta National, today tried to get some of the glow, saying, “At a time when women represent one of the fastest growing segments in both playing and following the game of golf, this sends a positive and inclusive message for our sport.”

And yet, please forgive me if I don’t join the chorus of cheers. Rice and Moore are not twenty-first-century Jackie Robinsons, and their acceptance into this bastion of exclusion has nothing to do with women’s liberation and is utterly disconnected from the reality of daily life for millions of American women.

Condi Rice as a symbol of female power? Only if by power, we mean the power to put thousands of Iraqi women in graves all in the name of a war based on lies that she actively promoted.

Then there are the birth defects suffered by the children of women in Iraq. In 2009, the Guardian reported that doctors in Fallujah were were “dealing with up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants, compared to a year ago, and a spike in early life cancers that may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting.”

A hospital spokesman, Nadim al-Hadidi, told the Inter Press Service, “In 2004 the Americans tested all kinds of chemicals and explosive devices on us: thermobaric weapons, white phosphorous, depleted uranium…. we have all been laboratory mice for them.”

There were also, under Rice’s watch, 19,000 reported sexual assaults of women combat troops in the the US Armed Forces every single year. As the Guardian reported, “A female solider in Iraq is more likely to be attacked by a fellow soldier than killed by military fire.”

In an eerie echo of the Representative Akin controversy, these women, if impregnated during their assault, could not get an abortion on a US military base. Rice, who claims to be pro-choice, never raised a voice on behalf of these women.

In a sane world, Rice would be awaiting trial at the Hague. Instead, she gets to play golf at a club that, incidentally, didn’t allow African-Americans until 1990.

As for Darla Moore, she is a banking billionaire who lives on a South Carolina plantation that’s been in her family for seven generations. She is a longtime friend of the Bush family as well as of the aforementioned Hootie Johnson. Ten years ago, when asked about becoming the club’s first member, she said, “I’m as progressive as they come. But some things ought not to be messed with.”

I’m sure it’s tempting to look at today as an advance for women in sports. But it’s very difficult think that today’s national celebration of a multi-billionaire and a war criminal has anything to do with women’s liberation. If anything, this should only be a story because it’s so unbelievable that the membership of the Augusta National Golf Club still opposed the presence of women in 2012. The only way this club could be any kind of symbol of progress and justice is if the people of Augusta, Georgia, a whopping 32 percent of whom live below the US poverty line, took to the eighteenth green and occupied the Masters. Let’s see whose side Condi Rice and Darla Moore would be on then.

10 Reader Comments | Add a comment

Meh. Doesn't resonate much either way.

I see your point in questioning the admissions as a watershed. For, I suspect, most of us, the whole country club scene is a foreign world that neither improves nor harms our existence. Unlike a university or workplace, this is a playpen where the entitled seek acceptance from the even more entitled. To be accurate, women have been allowed entry and to play on the course for some time, but not actual membership. Clearly enough for Moore and Rice, their aim was not to disrupt the club, just to join it.

Symbolically it matters that Augusta has admitted female members, I suppose, as it hosts the LPGA's premiere US event. But this is a country club, after all, so by definition exclusionary. Not just any country club, either. Yes, Moore is a billionnaire, and that's the point. If you look at some of the famous members, having a ton of money doesn't hurt admission, but even Bill Gates didn't get membership on his first bid. Less known is

Occupy the Masters? That's fine as a prank from a 1980's slobs vs. snobs comedy, but all it could possibly accomplish is to remind the type of people who join country clubs why they did so in the first place. Not that it would alleviate the economic struggles of Augustans. I don't know about the entirety of the membership, but the most famous ones have no apparent link to Georgia other than whiling away some hours at Jones's golf course. If you paved over the whole thing and built a theme park over it tomorrow, the members would simply find some similar place to spend annual dues.

Ooops. Meant PGA, not LPGA

Must have had women's golf on the brain.

Weapon of Mass Destruction

I think that every time anyone sees Condoleeza Rice anywhere, they should yell at the top of their voice, "Look! A weapon of mass destruction!" She and her Gang led us into a war based on lies and fabricated falsehoods, and she owes an apology to every American and Iraqi who has suffered because of that decision. She herself is the Weapon of Mass Destruction. And look! She's a professor at Stanford! She's a member of Augusta National! Mentioned prominently as a VP candidate! I wonder how she sleeps at night.

Put her picture on a bus coin because...

Condoleeza Rice is the quintessential token. Protesting against wrongs is not how she got where she is. I'm not a fan of hers but to put the blame for the atrocities of the Iraq war at her feet is grossly inaccurate and unfair. There are a lot more powerful people than her responsible for that mess. She was nothing more than a dutiful servant.

Golf is WMD

From Aberdeen to Benton Harbor, golf is a Fountainhead of evil.

Hootie?

How can ANYONE named Hootie be taken seriously? I mean, "Here, Hootie!"

"Woof, woof!"

Augusta

Let Rice and Moore co-host charity tournaments to benefit the victims of all illegal US wars. Paul Mitchell could be a sponsor and they'd both look great with their mushroom cloud-shaped hairdos while hitting depleted uranium golf balls.

@ Rod

That thought had crossed my mind, too. Some of these old boy clubs might seem sinister if not for containing grown men with names like Hootie, Wimp, Bubby, Skip, Scooter, Shug. As much as I love the Deep South (well, some things about it anyway), when the ultimate cool lunch table is headed by a guy named Hootie, maybe it's time to ask yourself whether you have to get in on this.

the bells of freedom are sort of thudding

Yes, Mr. Z--I knew I could count on you. This news gave me a mild case of ambiguity, but it was gone immediately: How out-of-touch Augusta's sensibilities seem to be! What a thud-heard-around-the-...(yawn)! What a weird hurdle cleared--as it was being hurdle-hussled onto the hand-truck!
Yay!?
As you suggest, a gut feeling of praise or acceptance is not what I feel in response to an organization (and culture) that was right up-front about its respect for women all the way until this summer of 2012--I think any esteem or gratitude ought to flow toward the overwhelming majority of the public from the wrong-headed discriminators, and not the other way around. Maybe they should host a big picnic. Maybe they should recruit and invite twenty-five women golfers to join.
And what does the status of each of these two particular women signify?--one woman so rich and such a team-player that she is allowed a higher station than most women deserve? And Dr. Rice, messenger (agreeing w/ Conspiracy Brother above) of Cheney-Wolfy-Rummy's doom, who proves that high stations are available to those willing to do the bidding of fascists. Is that news? Is it progress?
Feels mostly like the power-elite doing what it has to do in order to keep doing what it does.
FORE!

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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