Maria Miller and the Open: what kind of message do men-only golf clubs send out?

These elitist and exclusionary men-only clubs are not there to boost the shocking low numbers of men who play regular golf

Kate Smurthwaite
Tuesday 16 July 2013 18:28 BST
(Getty Images)

Maria Miller has announced that she will not be attending men-only golf club Muirfield for this summer’s Open tournament. The establishment is no doubt turning in it’s collective grave while the ghost of Emily Wilding Davison dances for joy.

Miller, the best-placed person in the country to do something about the problem, has instead asked the clubs to “think long and hard” about their policies. Perhaps it’s time she herself has a good old think about the purpose of government.

The thing is I’d never heard of Muirfield Golf Club until today and the nearest I’ve been to a golf club in my life involved trying to get the ball over the miniature bridge into the little windmill.  When I raised the subject this morning on Facebook the overwhelming reaction seemed to be that the R&A (the sport’s organising body, I had to look that up) are tangentially doing all us girls a favour by keeping us away from something we’re not interested in.

Well that is not the point. That’s like telling Rosa Parks “the back of the bus is actually safer if there’s a crash”. It’s why gay rights activists want marriage as well as things-that-look-like-but-aren’t-actually-marriage. Equality is not about making “good” choices on behalf of other people, it’s about giving them the freedom to make the same good or bad choices as everyone else.

The other response, mostly from people I should have blocked on Facebook years ago, is “what about the women-only gyms?”. Well, I don’t think we should hold any national tournaments in them. How’s that for an answer?

Women-only gyms exists because some women feel intimidated in mixed gyms and miss out on exercise as a result. These elitist and exclusionary men-only clubs are not there to boost the shocking low numbers of men who play regular golf. 

I prefer what they do in the US where they have "no muscle guys" gyms which don't allow those men, and occasionally women, who show up in tiny shorts and a big leather belt and hog all the weights for hours. 

I go to a mixed gym and at certain times of day I'll pick up a couple of dumbbells and sit on an apparently vacant weights bench only to have some huge guy lumber over and announce "I'm using that". I never argue with him. Anyway I'd go to the gym less if it was possible to jog in my neighbourhood without getting sexist comments all the time. Ugh. None of which justifies men-only golf clubs. 

Maria Miller is Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, she is also, presumably as some sort of afterthought, Minister for Women. I want those jobs to belong to separate people. And then I want the Minister for Women to chain herself to the railings of the Secretary of State for Sport’s office and refuse to leave until something is done about the hotbed of sexism that remains in organised sport in this country.

Even more importantly most golf in this country is played not for sport or competition but as an excuse for business networking. Excluding women from that is a serious issue which the Minister for Women needs to tackle. And not by skipping a golf tournament she probably wasn’t interested in anyway. 

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