In 1971, at the end of the turbulent 60’s, I suddenly found myself a
member of the elite Phoenix Country Club, a low ranch building with a
great golf course right in the middle of downtown Phoenix, Arizona.
no mistake; I didn’t choose to join. The membership came with my
marriage to John Hardaway. John was an avid tennis player, and when we
got married and I got pregnant I was in no mood for country club life.
I was a college professor and a film reviewer. I was an activist and an
But the Club had an Olympic-size pool, and I had a need to
exercise my pregnant body, so I swallowed my distaste for the Club’s
morals and values (it had no women members except widows and wives, one
black member, and you could count the Jews on the fingers of one hand),
and on the advice of my new husband, began working out at the Club.
Fast forward six or seven years, two children, and one woman’s
movement later, I was down at the Club one Saturday afternoon, and had
just taken a shower with my daughters in the Ladies’ Locker Room
(prohibited, because they were under age). I was ready to go home, but
I had to find John.
John had also taken a shower, and was seated in the Men’s
Grill, adjacent to the Men’s Locker Room. I couldn’t get his attention,
so I crossed the threshhold and walked to the table at which he sat. I
said, "we’re ready." Quite an inflammatory remark.
Who knew that the sky would fall? The men freaked out, as if
something terrible had happened. The waitress (yes, there were
waitresses) asked my politely to leave. Something told me to stay, and
I began asking questions. What’s wrong with coming in here to find my
husband? Why do we have waitresses if we don’t allow women?
Sylvester, the black locker room attendant, rolled his eyes (I am not
making this up).
Fast forward to the divorce, which occurred soon after I
started my business. Many men at "The Club" became my clients, because
they knew me. That’s how it’s done at "The Club.’ Especially if you
are a man, you don’t have to be smart or good at what you do. They
only have to know you.
In a divorce, under the Club’s bylaws, the woman loses her
membership. Since by this time I was in business and actually "needed"
the Club, I wanted the membership more than John Hardaway did. He
tried to give it to me. The Club Board said no.
Another fast forward, as a good friend and client of mine, a
member of the Club Board, tried to put me up for membership again. By
this time, I’m successful, everyone knows it, and we’re in the mid-80s.
Other women have been put up and allowed to join on their own.
But not me. My friend and mentor is told that because I did
things like shower my kids in the Ladies Locker Room in defiance of the
rules, and cross the threshhold of the Men’s Grill, I am dangerous.
Many women in the Club don’t want me there. The men are afraid to
blackball me, because they think I will sue the Club. My mentor and I
have a discussion, and after I cry a lot, I agree to withdraw my
Last fast forward. The present. There is still a Men’s Grill,
and I get a call from a woman I have known for thirty-five years saying
she is finally going to challenge the existence of a Men’s Grill. There
are many issues. It’s a private club. It’s a County island in the
middle of the City. The men have ways of silencing their activist
When they call me, I volunteer to help. My business career has
been affected in a weird way by the Men’s Grill. The intimate business
relationships men have with each other at "The Club" are now
permanently lost to me. I have lost something that cannot be
quantified, and I am not alone.
I have two daughters who are very successful and choose not to
live in Phoenix. They grew up at "The Club" and left for better
opportunities. To them it is a quirky place where they stole the mints
when they were kids. To me, it was a defining moment.
For the sake of the future of all women, could we please finally get rid of the Men’s Grill???????