Nothing like an unintentionally sexist comment to spur a blog post. It’s Black Friday. I decided to opt outside. The golf course is very much the great outdoors, in my opinion. As usual when I’m sitting around thinking about “things I’d rather be doing,” I walk on as a single at my local course…unafraid, undeterred by the likely possibility of getting paired alongside three grown men with preconceived notions of what it’s like to have a lady in their group. “Oh wow…how did you manage to break away and be out here?” This is one guy’s idea of greeting me on the first tee. “Well, I actually get to make my own decisions so here I am!” He chuckled nervously and tried to rephrase the question but there was no way of retracting what was clearly assumed: that I should have family duties or shopping commitments…unlike all the other men on the course. Sadly, I’m accustomed to this type of reception whenever I choose to tee it up without my golf buddies. Even more disappointing is the fact that women, if they double dare to go out there on their own, must tolerate the male-centric culture that accepts all the things that most women generally find gross or offensive. How does that help the game?
Lately there’s been a litany of allegations in the news about sexual harassment and general misconduct by men. I feel bad for the good guys. Women are coming out of the woodwork to declare themselves past or present victims. It’s not new news if you ask me. The spotlight is just finally casting a faint light upon a very pervasive shadow and the burden of proof, unfortunately, is shouldered by the victims…most of whom feel too small and incapable of impacting change. Voices may only be amplified in numbers and if mine is the only one bellowing from the not-so-fairway, so be it. I can only hope others will eventually speak up because I’m certain that my experiences aren’t unique.
Sexism in golf is ubiquitous. Who hasn’t heard the phrase “Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden?” Why are the forward tees frequently called “ladies tees” and when is that designation going to die? Perhaps when the USGA finally decides to rate all the tee boxes for men and women? How many penile euphemisms can you name? How is it OK for guys to blatantly dismiss the restrooms and piss anywhere they want??
Today’s comment didn’t necessarily upset me but it somehow triggered memories of offensive incidents that I’ve quietly endured over the years. From unsolicited swing tips to inappropriate ass taps and everything in between…if I allowed these encounters to keep me from getting back out there, I wouldn’t be fighting the fight.
I wouldn’t consider myself a victim today because I’m choosing to continuously stand up against the preconceived notions of women in golf. We’re not all the same. I take great pride in picking up this game on my own accord and figuring out how to enjoy it casually and competitively. I strive to be mindful of my conduct and keep my emotions in check. In my tumultuous twenties, it was difficult to keep a level head. As I’ve grown to realize that I can be the change I want to see in this game, I’ve taken on another level of responsibility that precedes me as an individual. Every time I get to tee it up with people I’ve never met, I consider it an opportunity to change their perception for the better. Kindness and respect are the key ingredients. At the end of our round today, I noticed a difference in my playing partners’ handshakes. It felt more sincere. There was a genuine nod of recognition as we smiled and exchanged salutations. The final comment mattered more to me than the first: “It was a real pleasure to play with you!”