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Augusta National: Progress for women or more of the same?

 
Last week marked Augusta National Golf Club’s admittance of its first two female members: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and investment banker Darla Moore. The club’s policy change is undoubtedly long overdue, a fact echoed in the majority of the press coverage surrounding the announcement. More interesting than the inclusion of women is the background of the women chosen for membership. 
Golf Magazine’s executive editor Eamon Lynch responded cynically to the announcement by remarking that “today Augusta National has two more wealthy Republican members than it did yesterday.” His derision is not completely unfounded. 
The club contains some 300 members, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, and is renowned for its exclusivity. Augusta is also acknowledged as predominantly politically conservative, and this philosophy is associated with the sport as a whole. Both Rice and Moore have previously golfed at Augusta and maintained support for the organization during previous attempts at gender integration, with Moore remarking in 2002 that “some things ought not be messed with” in regard to the admittance policy. 
With their support of the all-male membership policy, Moore and Rice both interestingly advocate positions which should yield success in terms of financial and political power yet potentially undermine the position of their gender within society. 
Rice’s tenure as Secretary of State within the Bush administration occasionally pushed her into a similar position, as questions concerning racial profiling and affirmative action prompted careful responses from a black conservative.  Rice must align herself appropriately with conservative ideology, though it may be dissimilar to minority opinion, while also maintaining a sort of allegiance to black Americans, specifically black women. Her decision to join Augusta works within this paradigm, as she advances herself within white conservative society as a member of the club while also advancing the position of black women by moving into a once-closed part of predominantly white society. 
While Moore’s entry into Augusta does little to alter the image of golf as white and elite, her admittance to Augusta does signify new territory for women. The victory of this arrival is somewhat hollow with Moore’s support of the club’s admittance system, however. In the end the women rewarded with admittance to the club were those who agreed that men should decide when they should be admitted. Those who spoke against the policy were derided as pushy and overbearing, predictable labels applied to feminists since the term was coined and probably before. 
How many successful women in the business world mimic the position of Rice and Moore? Martha Burk, leader of the 2002 campaign to end all-male membership at Augusta, argued, “Let’s face it. It was never about golf. It’s about access to power.” If that is the case, then the admittance of Rice and Moore signifies that these women indeed have access to power, but at what cost? These women are two of the more powerful female figures in the nation, and they supported a policy broadly acknowledged as discriminatory. What does this paradox mean for both the business environment and our nation at-large? While the acceptance of women into Augusta should not be completely obscured by the former positions of Rice and Moore, their business and political backgrounds interestingly complicate the club’s decision. 
 
Meghan Holmes is a second-year graduate southern studies student from Arab, Ala. Follow her on Twitter @styrofoamcup.