I had originally planned a different post for today, and that one will still be up later this week. However, several things have happened over the last few days that I wanted to talk about today. First, Saturday was the 92nd anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the American constitution, which guaranteed all American women the right to vote. Second, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that for the first time in twenty years, a woman would be moderating one of the debates. Finally, today the Augusta National Golf Club announced that they were admitting to membership the first women in the history of the club.
At first glance these things may not seem to have much to do with one another: an American history item that most people wouldn’t even be able to identify without consulting their history book from school, a decision about which news media personages will be moderating a debate that a large percentage of people won’t be tuning in to watch, a group of (please pardon the expression, but the description is accurate) mostly older white men in Georgia decide to finally let two women into their club house. However, all three of these things reveal something about how we see women.
In the case of the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote, during the decades that it took to get the amendment ratified, the majority of people could not imagine women voting. There were concerns that allowing women to vote would undermine the family structure and threaten traditional male and female roles. People struggled to imagine women voting partially because they’d never seen it before. And, frankly, the critics were right. Allowing women to vote has contributed to changes in how we see the roles of men and women. I believe those changes have been good, for society at large and for individual men and women.
The fact that it’s been twenty years since a women moderated a presidential debate is not the result of having too few qualified candidates. There are many competent, talented female journalists who are capable of performing well in the role. However, it’s far too easy to continue to do things the way we’ve always done them. It’s far too easy to fall back on the “usual suspects,” so to speak, when it comes time to choose someone for a role. In the case of Candy Crowley being identified to moderate one of the debates, this isn’t the result of creative thinking on the part of the Commission. Instead it’s the result of the creative thinking of three female high school students who started a campaign on change.org. If you’ve never heard of change.org, I encourage you to go take a look. I think you’ll see that it is possible to make a difference. (There is an additional conversation to be had about the lack of racial diversity represented by the chosen moderators. Perhaps there are more high school students out there who are ready to start that campaign?)
Finally, the news today that Augusta National had finally admitted women to their membership. I’ve heard all the arguments about how the club is private and should be allowed to set their own membership requirements. I respect the desire to determine one’s own rules for the organizations we belong to. However, Augusta National isn’t just a private organization. As an institution, it holds a tremendous amount of influence in a sport that generates a large amount of money. The club hosts The Masters tournament each year. The members have apparently had trouble imagining what it would look like to have female members. Again, I think this is at least partially because it’s easier to just keep doing things the way we’ve always done them.
Today, I wanted to take a few minutes and celebrate each of these events. To be thankful for the few tenacious (some might say annoyingly stubborn) individuals who had the ability to see things in a way that hadn’t existed before and push to see them happen. As a woman who is benefiting from these changes, I am incredibly grateful.