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Is Women- or Men-Only Ever Okay?

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A couple weeks back, as I eyeballed the catalog for an upcoming auction held by the Christian school I graduated from, send my kids to, and serve as Alumni Board President of, a chill fell through my body, numbing it along the way. Feeling came back as I reread the chill-inducing words - which this time sparked a rage:

"Are you up to the challenge? [Club] member and [School] parent [Blankety Blank] invites you to go for it! Three gentlemen are invited to be [Blankety's] guests for 18 holes of incomparable golf at this famed all-men's course. After the game, enjoy refreshments in the traditional atmosphere of the clubhouse."

- Donated by Blankety and Blankette Blank

Anyone else see a problem here? Well, I did. An abomination, actually. I couldn't believe that this school - which I loved, which shaped me, made me think I could do anything God called me to do, and which now shaped my children - would accept money from this source that screams: "Women are a nuisance! Women aren't as good! Women don't belong!" I couldn't believe that this passed as something that supports the school's mission to develop academically prepared disciples to transform the world for Christ.

So I did what I always do when my body gets chills and my head gets hot: I wrote. In this case an angry letter to a school administrator and friend (and all-around great guy!) to express my horror. But while I waited for his reply, I started second-guessing my alarm. I mean, I do believe in this country private clubs have the right to allow or block anyone they please (case in point: I send my kids to a school for the children of Christian parents - only). And I myself have attended women-only Bible studies, exercise classes, self-defense classes, and often choose to do things with women only. For crying out loud, I just made reservations for me, my daughter, and my mom to have tea at the American Girl store! My three-year-old herself declared it was to be "ladies only," and I happily obliged.

So why did this "gentlemen" only for the "famed" all-men's course bug me so? How was it different, say, than this very blog for women leaders? Was it really that big of a deal that the school was offering this as a means to make money? Couldn't I just chill?

Well, I couldn't (still can't). So I put these questions out there to many of my friends and colleagues and got some great, insightful responses that both supported and challenged my feelings and position. While some responses gave me pause - like, "Is discriminating based on gender that different than discriminating based on ability to pay?" (since I'm not a Communist, that answer would be "yes!" Perhaps you disagree) - my objection to this as contrary to the mission of the school hasn't changed. However, I'm still trying to work out how I feel about this - and why. I want to make sure I've thought it through well - and considered it from a truly Christian perspective, and not just my hot-headed one.

April29, 2008 at 11:15 AM

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