Time Warp

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.

Make
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
intellectual.

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
application.

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
womenfolk.

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???????

7 Comments

Filed under Current Affairs

7 responses to “Time Warp

  1. Hi Francine,

    First time commenter.

    I am just disgusted by these types of “clubs” that still have by-laws like this. Come on, it’s 2007! do they segregate their parking lot too? urgh!

  2. I thought these by-laws must be illegal thirty years ago, but apparently the must be made illegal.

  3. lux

    Over in the Connecticut ‘Gold Coast’ of Fairfield county, there are still clubs that won’t accept Jews. It disgusts me, but it’s a fact of life.

  4. Francine – found your comments on Scobleizer’s critical trashing of the Kindle. since Robert mentioned you in his video diatribe, i thought I would find out about you.

    and what to my wondering eyes should appear but your great polemic on the country club and its old boy culture and how it affected yuur life.

    I was raised in a country club environment as a kid, and from that point of view had a very negative concept of “club life” – so when my wife cajoled me into joining the Sharon Heights Country Club on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park about 15 years ago, I was immmediately reminded of Groucho Marx comment: ” I wouldn’t want to join a club that would have me as a member!”

    But, rather than stay on the sidelines, I chose instead to get involved on the Board in order to push for the changes to the oldboy culture you mentioned, which were adopted over about a 15 year period after lots of heated arguments with the old boys –Result, women board members, women proprietary memberships, family-oriented values – all of which have been pushed through over almost continuous objection by the old guard.

    One of my pet peeves is the dress code rules – which still apply today – for example, I invited Robert Scoble to lunch with me at the club some time ago, and he came dressed in his usual geek outfit and he was asked to leave the clubhouse ( embarassing for me and him) so we compromised that day to have a table outside on the patio where no one could see us – really stupid.

    The next times Robert and I have had our pleasant lunch or coffee get togethers, it has NOT been at the club.

    So I am really in synch with your post, and perhaps when you are here in the Valley next, we could have lunch in the Mixed Grill at Sharon Heights (a facility specifically designed to serve both men and women) and arguably the best feature of our newly rebuilt facility.

    Just don’t wear your levis!

  5. Sure! Let’s go to lunch at the “Club.” I’d love to meet you and I’m sure I have the drag to ‘pass.”I’m up there for Venture Summit West next week, and then the week of Christmas/New Year’s.

  6. It’s interesting, though. You bemoan the well-known fact that there were and are no minorities allowed, but you wanted to go for the pool.

    Post-children, though, and you still want to belong to the club for business.

    Where’s the line, though? You hold your nose at prejudice and racism for the luxury of business connects?

  7. Very perceptive, Jeremy. As conflicted as they come. I wanted equality for myself in business, even though it meant looking past the racism and prejudice. Luckily (or karmicly), they wouldn’t let me back in and I had to do it on my own. Things always happen the way they should. I probably would have been a bigger asshole had I been allowed to stay 🙂

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