We’ve all had those moments when something finally becomes clear. I had one of those tonight while reading a NY Times article about the Obamas’ marriage. I’ve only read a couple of pages. It’s pretty good, so far. But, that’s not what I wanted to talk about.
One of my many blind spots is caused by my being who and what I am – a
middle-aged nearly-senior, middle-aged, white male. That blind spot makes it hard to see what all of the fuss is about when it comes to the whole gender bias issue.
That’s not to say that I don’t get gender bias. I know it is a male dominated world. I also know that automatically creates gender bias in many situations. I say I know, but what I really mean is that I know in a very hazy, never-happened-to-me kind of way. That may be why I missed the significance of what played out recently over the President’s choice of golfing and basketball partners.
When that story first hit the news cycle, I read a couple of articles about it and read a few comments and then tuned it out. As far as I was concerned, it was way over-blown.
That’s the last I thought about it until a few minutes ago when I read this sentence in that NY Times article I mentioned – “This summer, the first lady surprised her husband for his birthday by gathering his old basketball buddies for a weekend at Camp David.”
Reading that reminded me of golfing-gate (sorry, couldn’t resist). My first thought was a rather sardonic, “Guess they’ll blame that one on Michelle.”
My second thought was a more serious, “What was that all about?”
When first confronted with a complaint like this, most guys will react the same way I did. Something along the lines of, “What’s all the fuss about?” Very few sports are co-ed at any level. Boys play with and against other boys. Girls play against girls. There are a few girls who play on varsity boys’ teams, but the vast majority of boys and girls play on single-sex teams once they are out of grade school. Men and women don’t play against each other at a college or professional level. Why should the White House be any different?
That’s when it dawned on me that there is one very good reason why it matters.
The biggest obstacle women face on a professional level is the old boy network. Events like a basketball game or a golf outing give the participants a feeling of camaraderie. The President is going to look a little more fondly on the person who set him up for the winning shot than he is going to look at a person who he only sees during working hours.
Each person the President spends time with in some enjoyable pursuit is going to have an easier time selling his/her ideas. If my boss is asking for my opinion on something then I’d sure like to have him thinking of that putt I dropped yesterday to seal the win for our team.
There’s also the matter of status. Those who play sports with the President are part of a special group. They get to have a closer relationship with the President. That kind of sucks if you happen to be a woman and women never get invited.
That is enough to convince me that this wasn’t such a silly story, after all. I’m glad the story came out and I’m glad the White House acted on it. Women are the majority in this country. They are a larger majority of Democratic voters. We need more women involved in all levels of government. Practices like the ones that led to this story only serve to perpetuate the old boy network.
Now back to that ten-page article.