Busting up Obama's Boys Club

Posted on 26. Oct, 2009 by in Uncategorized

For the first time this past Sunday, President Obama golfed with a member of my sex.   I’m supposed to be thrilled.  Score one for equality and all that.

Over the last few weeks, Obama’s gotten grief for his frequent and frequently all-male basketball games. Boys’ games, the argument goes, are where deal making occurs. All-male playing fields exclude women from critical information sharing and decision-making.  While I agree with the “boys’ club” thesis, homing in on Obama’s playmate choices makes the “thought police” look less like fairness champs and more like the Stasi.  Forcing boys to literally play with girls is an invasion of privacy that bothers me more than the actual boys club.

I won’t deny a complicated problem: that sports are the male bonding activity and that work-leisure relationships are often interchangeable.  It’s not like when Obama’s on the court he won’t pick an aide’s brain on a new policy proposal or share his own opinion.  In fact, it’s likely that Obama’s more candid on the court than in cabinet meetings–which disadvantages women in his administration. Or, does it?

All-male games among workers seem unfair when looked at alone.  But add real-world context.  Consider all the other opportunities Obama has to interact with female employees–sharing breakfast, lunch or dinner; kids attending the same school; befriending Obama’s wife; attending the same church; sharing an alma mater—and the fact that she’s not pickin’-and-rollin’ with Obama and the boys matters less and less.

Still, even if all-male hoops freeze out White House women, dictating anyone’s leisure time raises thornier problems that, in a country that values choice and privacy above all else just aren’t worth the jaunt through the bramble.

Plus, it’s an easy pick between maintaining Obama’s privacy (and extension, my own) and applauding fake bonding.  Of all the worthy goals yet to be achieved by equality advocates–equal pay, fair value for care labor–enforcing leisure-time relationships should not be one of them.  I mean, really, if UN Ambassador Susan Rice, a formidable athlete, wanted to shoot hoops with the boys, does anyone really think she’d be too shy to just ask?

Here’s one radical possibility: maybe the White House women don’t want to play with the boys.

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