03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Golf, Gender, and the President

The president is in the Oval Office. The mood is somber.

"Ladies," she says to her top-level advisers. "I'm tired of the heat. We have to move and move fast.

"Find me a man who can play golf. And find him fast!"

"But, Madame President," complains the chief of staff. "We might have to lower our standards."

"Wouldn't that look like reverse discrimination?" asks the vice president.

"We're not in the affirmative action business here!" exclaims the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I don't care what you have to do," the president barks. "I'll stoop to Tiger Woods if I have to! The old guy must have a few swings left in him. Just find me a man!"

The Oval falls silent. And, one by one, the powers that be march out, their orders clear. This White House might be a girls' club -- like so many that have gone before it -- but that isn't the image it wants to project. After all, the president won with a majority of men's votes, on a platform that backed equal pay for men, tax credits for stay-at-home dads and Title CIX, which has been a godsend for boys' sports.

This president believes that men's rights are human rights, that her two sons should have the same opportunities as the vice president's daughters (yes, even the combat veteran), that men can do math.

The chief of staff shouts profanities from her West Wing office as one man after another tells her he just can't meet the president's golfing standards. "I don't care if you can't get out of a *&#@ing sand trap! Just hold the bag and pose!" she screams in the manner that her office demands. She didn't pass up a chance to be speaker of the House for this!

Behind their bluster, the women of the Locker Room (what, in male-dominated world, might have been referred to as the "Kitchen Cabinet") understand the frustration of the Big Gal.

It isn't just the conventional wisdom that, in politics, style trumps substance. It's more integral than that.

Playing golf with the president (just like playing hearts with one of her predecessors) offers the chance to build a relationship with her, to have her ear -- and her trust. If you're a staffer, it's a way to get ahead, to move closer to that coveted inner circle. If you're a member of Congress, it's a way to put your pet issue on the president's radar. If you're a lobbyist, it's a way to weasel your way into an administration that, like so many others, publicly eschews those of your ilk. It's money in your pocketbook.

In other words, playing golf is part of playing politics. But here, as in so many areas of American life, men have been at a distinct disadvantage. And it shows in the issues they care about most: child care, paid family and medical leave, family friendly workplaces, equal pay, health care, education, the environment, the social safety net, reproductive rights, domestic abuse.

Playing golf might be trivial, but access to the president is not. And this president believes that men deserve equal access. She knows that if she is to be a president for all people, she needs to include all people in all aspects of her presidency.

So she'll play golf with men. Maybe she'll even start a pickup basketball game. From now on, men's rights are the name of the game.

Anything to get Fox News off her back.

Jodi Enda is a journalist in Washington, D.C. She formerly covered the White House for Knight Ridder Newspapers. She does not golf.

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