Column: No ‘EMILY’s List’ for me

As I was watching the Master’s the other day, one of my roommates reminded me of the recent controversy surrounding Augusta and their refusal to let women participate in the golf event. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Master’s Tournament every year, does not allow women to be in the tournament.

While I thought about the situation the other day, I realized that that was hardly the first area of society that segregates based on gender. As a matter of fact, gender segregation is even more pervasive than we realize – and it’s not always against women.

Roughly a week ago I was listening to a radio add for a new health club which was opening in the Champaign-Urbana area. On the commercial, the announcer stated that it was a club for women, where no “sweaty men” would take the machines. About a block from my house at home there is a workout place called Curves that has an exclusively female clientele. According to their Web site, they “are a fitness facility . dedicated for women.”

Health clubs are not the only example of gender segregation in today’s society. The political organization “EMILY’s List” touts proudly on its Web site that it “is committed to recruiting and funding viable women’s candidates,” (who must also be pro-choice and Democratic). On their list of recommended candidates, not a single male is featured, regardless of whether or not they may support the group’s agenda.

Yet another organization that actively participates in gender segregation is the Catholic Church. Women cannot become priests, bishops, cardinals, or any high-ranking official in the Church hierarchy. The Catholic Church is a group that only allows men to fill positions of rank.

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    Considering all of these examples, I thought at first that gender segregation was distinctly un-American. Everyone should be allowed to join whatever group they want, regardless of their gender. Men and women are equal citizens in this country, and no group should base their entrance criteria based on gender. Thinking about it further, however, I began to realize that not only are certain gender-segregated organizations good for America, but also distinctly American in their character.

    Crucial to the success and backbone of the American idea is the respect for private property and organizations. American democracy cannot function if groups or individuals cannot create, build, or advocate their priorities without the constant meddling and governmental interference.

    Looking at the Curves health club, for example, I see no problem letting women have a health club for themselves. If a group of women feels more comfortable exercising without men around, and a private organization is founded to support that goal, then all the power to them. Similarly, if a private political organization wishes to exclusively endorse women for elected office, like EMILY’s List, I hope they do well. Even though I receive zero benefits from any of these groups, their right to advocate a cause freely is something I will always support. Furthermore, even though I am not a Catholic, the rights of a private group must be considered. Separation of church and state prevents the government from requiring the Catholic Church to admit women to the priesthood, and if that group chooses to do so in the future, they may on their own accord.

    My response then to the feminist hordes who cry so foul over the lack of women at Augusta is the following: gender segregation is nothing unique in American society, and it goes both ways. I have never seen a feminist demonstration in favor of “equality” to let me join female-only health clubs or receive an endorsement from EMILY’s List. Just like Curves and EMILY’s List, however, Augusta deserves to be treated in the same fashion, recognizing their right as a private group to support and advocate what they please.

    Jeff Myczek is a junior in LAS. His column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at [email protected].