This weekend I was taken to a trout club in Vermont, and while I was able to get a little hiking and kayaking in, there was one big damper on the whole getaway, and it wasn't the rain: the club, in 2011, will not let women join. Well, let me clarify, some women have been able to join, but women aren't allowed to become voting members. Why? Oh, well same reason they don't allow electronics, they just want to maintain tradition.
Now, I get that it's a private club, and they don't HAVE to change their rules. They have a right to bar whoever they want from joining or voting, be those people women, Jewish people, African Americans, gay people, or atheists. But let's not kid ourselves, just because a club has a right to do something doesn't mean it's an okay thing to do. Discrimination is NEVER okay.
It also bothers me that the members are allowing this to happen. Too many of the voting members are conservative, I get that, but I was under the impression that even Republicans supported women's suffrage in this day and age. It baffles me how okay people are with that rule. According to my host, some people didn't like the rule, but I don't really get the sense that anyone's putting up a fuss about it, they're silent in their dissent. Silence. Gets. Us. Nowhere. And the men don't seem to be speaking up. I'd like to think that some men would refuse to join, or even go, to a club that would withhold power from their wives and daughters, but that doesn't seem to be the case. In fact, the atmosphere seemed fairly anti-woman. Not only were most of the people there die-hard Republicans, a party that routinely votes against women's rights, but a few of the guys I was with kept cracking crude, sexist jokes.
Yes, one of the few female members has a lot of "sway" over the men who can vote, but that's only a real-life example of the maddening sitcom stereotype of women having no "real" power, but getting what they want through nagging and annoying the hell out of the men who actually make decisions. And yes, women are allowed to be at the club, but only as long as they're affiliated with a member - usually their father, husband, uncle, or in my case a male friend. This may lessen the impact the rule has on women, but it keeps women in a somewhat dependent role.
If I'd known about the rule ahead of time, I wouldn't have gone, solely on principle. I would have gone on my school's outdoors club's trip to Acadia instead - a club that I'm assuming does allow women to join, vote, and hold office despite the fact that women supposedly "aren't into that sort of thing." OR I would have stayed on campus and studied for tomorrow's exam like a good student. But I didn't learn the sexist rule until Saturday night dinner where, upon discovering the rule, I was surprised I wasn't required to wear a skirt and gloves to the meal. At that point I was furious that my host hadn't told me - he figured I wouldn't like the rule but didn't anticipate me to get pissed off. I know I should have been gracious and grateful that I was even there, but it's hard to be grateful for a club that practices institutional discrimination against anyone.
Finally, let me clarify that this is not the same as having a women's only club, school, self-defense class, etc. Institutions set up exclusively for groups that have been routinely discriminated against in mainstream society aren't discriminatory themselves, they are as redemptive spaces, or safe havens. Such spaces are still necessary for women, members of the LGBT communities, and various religious and ethnic groups. Men-only clubs, however, are not.