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Tiger's Potential Bully Pulpit

Posted: 04/15/10 01:14 PM ET

America's favorite golfer must understand that corporate dealmakers use 'men-only' clubs to maintain power

Bully for him! Tiger Woods had earned my scorn and contempt years ago, well before the revelations of his marital problems. I knew he was an enema bag without knowing about his double life, cheating addiction or peccadilloes with numerous "dillos" with his pecca. More fundamentally, he earned my disgust through his lack of principles and absence of a stand on gender apartheid at the apex of corporate and athletic America: the Masters Golf Tournament and Augusta National Golf Club.

In case you're not a golf enthusiast, have been living on a desert island or don't follow sports in general, let me give you a thumbnail portrait of the Masters, one of the most important golf events on the planet. According to the Wikipedia, it is "one of the four major championships in professional golf. Scheduled for the first full week of April, it is the first of the majors to be played each year. Unlike the other major championships, the Masters is held each year at the same location, Augusta National Golf Club, a private golf club in the city of Augusta, Georgia, USA."

Buried in the same Wikipedia article is the fact that Augusta National Golf Club is restricted to only men, and in my opinion is the equivalent of 1950s-era "whites-only" buses, water fountains and lunch counters. However, gender apartheid is often "winked" at, minimized and certainly accepted at the most powerful and monied levels of our society.

You may be saying, "Oh, but Ellen! Where's your sense of humor? Boys will be boys, and can't they just play a game without including the girls? For goodness' sake! Come on now! You're making a mountain out of a molehill!"

Let me disabuse of you the notion that golf is just a little game: we're talking billions of dollars and a social network that reaches into the highest platforms of government, the military and capitalism. But before I give you a little profile, let me lead you to one of the most inspiring gender analysts we have writing today: Martha Burk. I'm proud to claim Martha as a friend, although I must admit I have author envy. Burk wrote a book I wish I'd written called "Cult of Power: Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It." In addition to writing "Cult of Power," Martha led a protest in 2003 that brought a lot of attention to gender apartheid in golf. But don't take my word for it; get the book and read it cover to cover. It'll explain just why women of all colors face such a major glass ceiling in the Fortune 500 corporations, nationally and internationally. Which brings me back to Tiger Woods. Tiger was not only the youngest golfer to win the Masters tournament at Augusta, but the first man of color to do so. Augusta National Golf Club let the first African American into its hallowed ranks for the first time in 1990, only seven years before Woods played and won.

Tiger Woods has more authority and moral positioning to stand up for ending "men-only" policies at Augusta than almost anyone else I can think of ... but of course he wouldn't, because his behavior indicates that, to him, women are playthings, not people to be taken seriously. If I'm being too harsh in that judgment, since I don't really know the guy, at the very least his sexual shenanigans would make him reluctant to take a visible stance about ending discrimination against women.

Woods is purportedly receiving treatment for his sex addiction. Typically, treatment involves making amends for commissions and omissions that are based in the person's drug of choice, which in this case seems to be heterosexual sex outside of marriage. It's not too much of a stretch to say that Woods has taken objectification of women to new public lows.

Hey, Tiger! Do I have an amends idea for YOU!

Use your bully pulpit -- or Tiger pulpit, in this case -- to insist that the Augusta National integrate its club further with women. Why? Because it's a disgusting bastion of male privilege and for you to take that kind of stand would be a triumph of morality.

Again, Burk's "Cult of Power" is a must-read, but it doesn't take a hole-in-one golfer to understand that corporate deal makers use "men-only" clubs to maintain power, cut deals and, yes, exclude women from the halls of power and decision-making. Having a penis apparently is still the most important club to have in one's bag.

The term "bully pulpit" came from President Teddy Roosevelt's using the term for the White House and its astounding power to impact opinion and change. Roosevelt used the term "bully" as an adjective, like "great" or "magnificent."

Wouldn't it be "bully" if Tiger could turn his personal fiasco into a major stride for women? I'm not holding my breath.

Note: This post appears both here and in my column in the April 15, 2010 issue of the Pasadena Weekly, for which it was written.

 

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