I wish I could pretend it’s because I’m getting older and have been under lockdown but that would be a bit of a lie – I’ve always been a bit of a dozy bugger, alert (isn’t that a word of the moment or has that moment passed?) sometimes but often enough lost in another world, not paying enough attention to what’s going on around me. Not really an ideal trait for a journalist but it takes all sorts. And congenital nosiness helped.
This is a roundabout way of saying that I didn’t really notice the Twitter hoo-ha set off by Mel Reid when she mentioned that a couple of women wouldn’t have gone amiss in the charity game at Seminole. Then it started to filter through that she’d been hammered for expressing the crass opinion that golf had missed a trick, going back to the same old, same old (men only). Where was the innovation, the forward thinking, the message that golf was a game for everyone?It seemed like perfectly reasonable musing to me, the sort of thing that might occur to someone sitting watching a welcome but rather dull event – at least it was live, more or less – but, blimey, it was like lighting the blue touch paper. Some of the comments were beyond vitriolic and reminded me that misogynistic numpties have not yet gone the way of the dinosaurs; they may not be well but they’re alive. Having once been excoriated on Facebook (admittedly only by one numpty but I suppose it only takes one) for a throwaway crack about a then-would-be-presidential candidate Donald Trump, I resisted the temptation to dive belatedly in to the debate.
One of the reasons I desisted was because, looking more closely at the tweets of the critics, it became apparent that reasoned debate wasn’t on the agenda. In fact their vocabulary didn’t seem to extend much beyond four letter words that began with ‘f’. I’m quite good at those sort of words (not a proud boast but a legacy of sharing an office with a talented Scot, an art editor with a way with words of a certain kind) but occasionally know when it’s unwise to use them.
It does get tiring to have to fight your corner all the time, to have to justify your existence, prove that you’re worth it and that females are people too, more than capable of quite a lot of things, including batting a little dimpled ball around quite effectively. It’s just the way things are though, a variation on “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”.
As James Thurber was well aware, the battle of the sexes, the war between men and women, is a force of nature, part of life, never-ending, unwinnable (except by us) and, if played properly, great fun…..If you’ve never read Thurber, seek him out. He was born in Columbus, Ohio, a few decades before Jack Nicklaus, another son of Columbus and the Thurber Museum is well worth a visit, once such excursions become possible again.
I sat in on a WIJ (Women In Journalism) Zoom discussion about regional journalism earlier this week and a young woman asked how you made yourself heard in a room full of men who were all talking loudly and, often, at once (I paraphrase but that was the gist of it). The answer is, in essence, practice. You get used to it. You pick your moments. You make sure you make your point. You learn. And, if you’re lucky, the person chairing the meeting will know what they’re doing, run it properly and make sure everyone is heard.
If you’re really lucky, you’ll be used to noisy, chaotic, opinionated family Sunday dinners where everyone talks over everyone else, taking positions they know will wind somebody up and relishing the challenges. You’ll then be able to practise the art of survival at the bar of the golf club – and bars everywhere else (this was in the olden days) – where you’ll be mangled if you can’t hold your own. You learn to cope in your own way and all that training will hold you in good stead in any number of situations.
Growing up it never occurred to me that some men thought it odd that women played golf, that it was a subject worthy of comment. Now I know – thanks to Hannah Holden, the equipment editor of National Club Golfer – that only 14 per cent of golfers in the UK are women, a shocking figure. She mentioned it in a recent podcast with Alex Perry, discussing the Reid rumpus and it’s well worth a listen, if only to be amazed at the antediluvian attitudes that still prevail in some quarters.
It’s completely daft when you think about it because golf’s the perfect game for families and if clubs don’t broaden their base, they’ll die. The game’ll survive in one form or another but if it’s to flourish, the future’s got to be mixed. There are lots of initiatives to that effect, so it’s just a question of making them work. Go to it girls – and boys. Nil desperandum.
My clearing photograph this week is of a formidable bunch of women, not all golfers but all wives of golf writers, a trade that was male-dominated – must have been all that heavy lifting; typewriters were weighty items. Glad to see I’ve been entrusted with a bottle.