Peter Dawson, CEO of the Royal & Ancient golf society, spoke about the males-only policy at Muirfield, site of the 2013 British Open. Dawson said the issue would be looked at after the Open is concluded but derided the idea that gender inequality was anywhere near as awful as racial or religious discrimination.
Here is Dawson’s response to a question that compared males-only clubs with whites-only clubs (via ESPN):
Oh, goodness me, I think that’s a ridiculous question, if I may say so. There’s a massive difference between racial discrimination, anti-Semitism, where sectors of society are downtrodden and treated very, very badly, indeed. And to compare that with a men’s golf club, I think, is frankly absurd. There’s no comparison whatsoever.
We do, I assure you, understand that this is divisive. It’s a subject that we’re finding increasingly difficult, to be honest. In recent months we’ve taken great pains to try to explain some of the facts about this matter. Single-sex clubs are in a very small minority in the U.K. Half of them are women-only, half of them are men-only. They’re perfectly legal. In our view, they don’t do anyone any harm.
We think the right of freedom of association is important, and we’ve explained our view. We think there is no material adverse effect on participation. On the other hand, the media are with seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm, giving out the message that this is an issue and that such clubs should be condemned to extinction, and that we should be using one to stage the Open Championship. And we understand that view, too.
Golfer Rory McIlroy was similarly evasive when asked about the gender inequality issue, saying it was something that people “shouldn’t even be talking about” because it is so controversial.
(And, perhaps, because refusing to treat gender inequality as an issue worth discussing/keeping the issue at arm’s length allows the status quo to remain unchallenged. It’s a lot easier to call something a “non-issue” or “too hot to touch” than it is to actually dialogue about it.)
What are your thoughts, FanSiders?