Sexism in Golf: Grass is Green

I don’t usually read Golf Digest but this last issue included a few articles related to sexism within the golf world. The first article was “Woman Undercover” by Peter Finch. In this article, professional golfer, Kim Hall, played golf at five different courses assuming a different persona: the stay at home mom, the golf newbie, the pretty golf newbie, the jock, and the LPGA Tour player. She played the golf course according to her role and the anecdotal observations demonstrates that sexism is pervasive on the links. (Is that what they call it? I’ve never golfed before, so who knows.)

I’ve always thought of golf as a patrician sport. To me, golf is a sport that is mostly male and upper class, as it is expensive to play and it is where lots of men (and some women) do business. I read the article with particular interest, as it was suggested to me by the golfer in my household. I opened up the magazine with an open mind considering that he often refers to many a Men’s Health article to me for review.

When I read that the Hall “mom” character shared that she was a mom and was summarily ignored for the rest of the game, I was not too surprised. Western society often does this to mothers—they are boring and have nothing to add. I recall being a new mother and taking time off from my dissertation and seeing people’s eye glaze over, when I shared that I was a new mom. Hall was “just” a mom and the small talk did not take place—she was invisible. Not surprisingly the persona that fielded the most attention and deference was the pretty persona—including red lipstick and more alluring outfit. It was interesting to read how the people she was paired with would leave without her…they didn’t wait! Each of the characters she portrayed was treated with some dismissal though, until Hall played her true game, then the male golfers that she was paired with paid attention. They denied that they had tried to lose her by starting without her, but I think they had “misremembered.”

Hall had a good taste of the way in which she was immediately judged by men based on her dress and golf game. Again, this study was not scientific, but we can certainly draw something from it. I read each anecdotal experience with great interest. And, you would have to live on an island to not know that golf is not a sport that has lots of gender parity and diversity among the golfers. We can thank Babe for opening golf to more women, but that is a different post!

One of the next articles is a short one by Stina Sternberg “Avid Women Golfers Speak Out,” where some statistics are offered about the ways in which women golfers perceive the ways in which they are treated on the golf course. The questions vary from how strangers treat them, when they are paired for a game to how often they garner unsolicited golfing advice by men.

The March 2012 issue was certainly interesting, but I don’t see myself taking up golf anytime soon. But, to students who are thinking of going into business, government or the non-profit sector, lots of people golf, so you might want to take some lessons.

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