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What is the Deal?

October 20, 2002

What is the deal with Martha Burk?

By Jan A. Larson

Martha Burk is the head of the National Council of Women's Organizations.  She has her sights set on changing the membership policy at the Augusta National Golf Club.  Augusta National has maintained a "men only" membership policy for the 70 years it has been in existence.  In June, Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson responded to an inquiry by Ms. Burk regarding the admission of women members stating that club issues are private in an attempt to put an end to the argument then and there.  Augusta National is a private organization and, as such, may choose to admit or not admit members as it sees fit.  There are no constitutional issues at stake in this debate.

The debate made news for a few weeks and has since mostly died down.  It is certain to make news again by the time the next Masters tournament rolls around in April 2003.  Burk has more or less demanded that Tiger Woods, the world's number one rated golfer, take a stand on the issue.  Considering that Woods is of mixed race and Augusta did not admit its first African American member until 1990, she determined that eliciting his help would be the best way to achieve her goal.  Of course, she didn't ask him privately if he would help her further her cause.  She more or less "demanded" that he take a stand, ostensibly against this outrageous demonstration of discrimination.

Last week, Woods announced that he basically felt strongly both ways, stating that both Burk and Johnson were right.  Great way to take a stand, Tiger.  Frankly, if I were Tiger Woods, I would have probably remained silent on the issue.  He is not required to take a position on political issues should he choose not to do so.  No matter what he says, someone will not like it.  Burk put him in the middle of her issue and she shouldn't be disappointed, although she said she was, that he didn't take a stronger stance.

It is ironic to the point of being laughable that Ms. Burk is demanding women be admitted as members to Augusta National from her position as the head of a council of women's organizations.  I wonder how many of those woman's organizations admit men?  Does Burk stand up for admitting men to those women's organizations that practice similar gender discrimination?

Some of the member organizations of the National Council of Women's Organizations:
  • Black Women United for Action
  • Jewish Women International
  • National Asian Women's Health Organization
  • Woman Activist Fund, Inc. and the Woman Activist
Just how many men do you believe are members of these organizations?  Just how many Catholics are members of Jewish Women International?  How many Asians are members of the Black Women United for Action?

The point is that I do not advocate that there be Jewish men in the Black Women United for Action or that there must be Asian men in Jewish Women International.  It is legal and acceptable for groups of people with a common interest or attribute to form organizations and to run those organizations as they wish.  If no organization could exist without a fully open admission policy, there would be no point in having common interest organizations.  

Most of the men I know would have no interest in belonging to any woman's organization.  Why is it that so many women, Martha Burk among them, get so chapped at men having their own exclusive organizations?  Of course, this isn't really about women at Augusta National, but about Martha Burk.  Ms. Burk is on a power trip and Augusta National and Tiger Woods are convenient, high profile targets.  She might be well advised to take a look in the mirror and make sure she doesn't see a pot calling the kettle black.


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The opinions expressed in "What is the Deal?" guest columns reflect those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Pie of Knowledge.  The owner and staff of the Pie of Knowledge accept no responsibility for the content or accuracy of submitted commentary.  (c) Copyright 2002 - The Pie of Knowledge (Jan A. Larson).  All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.