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Column: Club Shouldn't Bend To Boy-like Tantrums

This story was written by Leah Finnegan, Daily Texan

If you're a woman who enjoys eggs and beer in the company of mixed genders, Arizona may not be the best place for you.

According to a June 28 article in the New York Times, Barbara Van Sittert and her husband decided that they wanted to start eating eggs together for breakfast at the Phoenix Country Club, where they paid thousands of dollars per year to belong. But there was a slight obstacle: The club has separate dining rooms for men and women. Women are not allowed in the men's grill room, which boasts flat-screen televisions, a full bar and panoramic views of the golf course. Instead, they are relegated to the women's grill room, which features a hot plate and a few card tables.

A country club may not be the best place for a sexism litmus test in the U.S. due to its deference to those with capital and their often antiquated values. But the men's grill room at the Phoenix Country Club is a nexus of power in a state which four top government posts - governor, chief justice, Senate minority leader and secretary of state - are held by women (the club itself enjoys a notable roster of male members, including Sen. John McCain's son, Andrew). Even though these woman have risen to the top of the government, they and their female contemporaries are still forbidden from entering the men's grill room to eat, drink or, as the Times describes, partake in the time-honored ritual of "sealing a deal over a beer with a client."

The Van Sitterts appealed the club's policy and were denied, so they filed a complaint with the state's attorney general's office, which just this month sided with the couple and advised that the club follow Arizona's antidiscrimination laws.

But perhaps most telling are the actions of the men who want to continue to savor their masculine alone-time in the grill room. As more and more club members have joined the Van Sittert's cause for gender desegregation, certain male members have been acting out their frustrations as if their treehouse was being stormed by a coup of doll-toting, cupcake-baking, glitter-throwing girls - they've called Barbara Van Sittert a whore, vandalized her husband's locker and peed on another dissenting member's pecan tree.

Who knows, maybe those members had just sealed one too many important deals in their holy dining room, gone out for a round and couldn't make it back to the club's bathroom in time (although one would think they'd relish using gender-divided bathrooms). With or without beer, the notion that there are men so drunk on power that they childishly marginalize their female peers in the name of tradition is sad and laughable.

The club is currently undergoing renovations, and the new facilities are said to have still separate male and female dining rooms but with "equivalent accomodations," according to Pasquale J. LaRocca, the club's general manager.

But the issue here is not whether Barbara Van Sittert and company can eat eggs and drink beer while watching TV on flat screens. It's that the club thinks the compromise is a satisfying option, giving the little boys exactly what they want.

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