Par for the Course

Ladies’ night! All women admitted free! Reverse discrimination? Or just an attempt to attract the fairer sex to frequent places women might be less likely than men to frequent?

How about haircuts? Why do women usually pay so much more than men? Because they have more hair? Not since the Beatles took the pop world by storm.

And what about dry cleaning? Does it really cost more to clean a woman’s blouse than a man’s shirt?

Let’s not even talk about bathing suits. Less is more (and costs more)—literally!!!

Most of us don’t think twice about these disparities. They are just a fact of life; something that we are so used to that we don’t stop to think twice about it.

Which is why this week’s decision by the First Circuit of Appeals in Joyce v Town of Dennis raised a stink among duffers everywhere worse than my golf shoes (which my family have banned from the home and vehicle).

The facts in Joyce were, to say the least, pedestrian. Dennis, a tony town on Cape Cod, operates the Dennis Pines Golf Course, a municipal course. Like most courses, the Dennis links holds a series of tournaments for its members—some for men, others for women, and some mixed doubles.

But Elaine Joyce did not want to play just with the girls. She wanted to play with her father—and with the boys—in an early May 2007 tourney. When she tried to do so, the town’s fathers turned her away. They said it would “not be fair” to the members “who may either desire or not desire to play in such a tournament.” What were the members afraid of? That they might be beaten by a girl?

So what did Elaine Joyce do? She filed a charge of discrimination. The town then tried to assuage her, scheduling more women’s tournaments. But Joyce was not deterred. She sued—and won.

Echoing language from the Supreme Court’s famous decisions in Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, the First Circuit declared that such there was no such thing as “separate but equal” public accommodations. Rather, because the golf course was operated by the Town of Dennis, the Town was obligated to “integrate” the tournaments and let the women engage in match play with the men.

What’s remarkable to this 20-plus handicapper is not the First Circuit’s decision, but rather how readily we (or at least I) take the status quo for granted. It never (well almost never) would have occurred to me that there was anything wrong about separate tournaments for men and women. That’s the way it’s always been. Which maybe explains why whether at work or play, some times what’s par for the course is really a triple bogey.

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