Poor, Unfortunate Muirfield

Written by
Share this:
Close up of a golf ball lying on the green, with the horizon and blue skies in the background.

OK, let’s talk about Muirfield.

You know, Muirfield, that golf course that has been hitting headlines left, right and centre (and spawning hilarious new memes) for the last 24 hours. Not ringing any bells?

Let me bring you up to speed.

An aerial view of Muirfield greenMuirfield golf course hit the headlines yesterday after it voted to uphold its controversial ban on female members. The vote to admit female members fell short by just 14 votes. Meaning the golf course will maintain its 272-year long male-only member status.

So what’s all the fuss about?

Personally, I can’t really say that I was overly upset about the vote; perhaps because I am not a golfer. I also think that gender exclusive spaces are not inherently terrible (women’s only spaces, for example, can be very important).

I know, I’m straddling a feminist ‘grey area’ here (I tend to live in the grey area most of the time).

But what pulled me out of the grey area on this issue were the reactions and commentary from golf pundits and male golfers themselves: their sexist justifications and the failure to acknowledge men’s roles (their roles!) in advancing gender equality.

A woman holding a raised golf club against a backdrop of treesWhen it comes to the Muirfield situation, the word most commonly thrown around in the professional golf world is ‘unfortunate’. But, of course, it’s not ‘unfortunate‘ that in 2016 we are dealing with gender discrimination.

Oh no.

What’s ‘unfortunate’ is that pro golfers are no longer able to play there during The Open Championship tournament.

As a result of the vote to maintain the ban on female members, Muirfield has been removed from The Open Championship rotation (non-golf speak: an annual tournament in the UK it is famous for hosting and was due to host for the 17th time).

The possibility of no longer playing The Open at Muirfield appears to have caused more distress than the outcome of the vote itself.

Golfers may have no issue parading pink Breast Cancer awareness gear during tournaments and taking a stand in support of women suffering from the condition, but asking them to speak out against excluding those same women from a golf club is a bit too radical.

What put the debate into perspective for me were Peter Alliss’s comments to BBC Radio 5. Alliss is a veteran BBC golf commentator and known for his off the cuff sexist commentary. He stated:

‘I believe clubs were formed years ago by people of like spirit: doctors, lawyers, accountants, bakers, butchers, whatever they like. And they joined in like spirit to talk amongst them and to do whatever.’

Cartoon of a caveman golfing with a large stone club, Muirfield in the background.

Copyright Steven Camley 2016

This was topped off with: ‘If somebody wants to join, well you’d better get married to somebody who’s a member.’

These comments say two things to me:

1) Women are still not recognised and valued in their professions (newsflash Alliss: there are now more women doctors and lawyers than ever before!)
2) You’re still nobody till you’re somebody’s wife.

If this is how members of Muirfield see women then the situation is very very grave indeed.

What is encouraging is how quickly the R&A (The Open’s governing body) made the decision to restrict Muirfield from hosting its 17th Open due to its policy banning female members.

Even better, R&A Chief Executive, Martin Slumbers made it very clear that any club with a male only membership policy will be banned as well (good on ya, Mezza!)

There are some positive voices in the professional golfing world, but it’s time to get the rest of the lads in line, too.

Author imageJenn Glinski is a PhD researcher on violence against women at the University of Strathclyde and a women’s rights advocate. She has a LL.M. in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex and has been active in human rights for eight years. She has organised international conferences on maternal mortality, taught human rights at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh, and co-authored the Harvard Initiative on Violence Against Women report on Scotland. Jenn, originally from Michigan, USA moved to Glasgow in 2011 and lives there with her fiancé and their black lab, Hector. Tweet her @jennski_27.

Share this:

Back To Top