IN JULY the Supreme Court ruled that the Jaycees, an all-male organization of young community leaders, could not be allowed to exclude women as full members. In mid-September, a Maryland state judge stripped a prominent all-male country club its tax exemption.
Thousands cheered Finally, it would seem, the courts are beginning to accept the notion that discriminates cannot hide behind the right of association. And that might make Harvard's nine final clubs--those bastions of all-male exclusivity--vulnerable to legal action.
But don't hold your breath. Examining the logic behind the two decisions shows that the final clubs are far from sue-ability.
Discrimination his never been accorded affirmative constitutional protection," notes Judge lrma S. Raker of the Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court in taking away the Burning Tree Country club's $186,000-a-year real estate tax exemption. However, Raker also writes that "Private discrimination may be characterized s a Torm of exercising freedom of expression." In other words, discrimination is okay--so long at the state doesn't subsidize it.
The Supreme Court's Jaycees ruling would seem to go farther, since the businessmen's group does not receive state subsidies. But don't mistake the current High Court as progressive, Consider this statement by Associate Justice William Rehnquist during oral arguments: "If you have an organization of all male stockbrokers (who) are solely concerned with the business of stockbrokering, it seems to me that the great focus on stockbrokering may be very little different between men and women.
"But if you have an organization of male chauvinists that says, "We're tired of this affirmative action in favor of women," it seems to me you get a different thing. But you haven't really shown that the Jaycees are in this latter category at all..."
In other words, chauvinist groups are exempted from the Court's anti-discriminations machinations at last in Rehnquist's mind.
THE PLACE is designed as a place for guys to get rowdy," a D.U. officer said of his club last year. D.U. members "watch NFL football on Monday nights and get blasted. That's something women couldn't appreciate."
"It's just the same as a team. There's something sacred about the team locker room," said a Delphic Club member.
"It's nice to have a place where you can just go and hang out with the boys," said a Spee Club member.
There's nothing hard about proving that the final clubs are sexist. And ironically, that's exactly what the clubs would have to do to save themselves if threatened with a lawsuit. The clubs would rush to declare their opposition to "women's issues" and thus show that the admission of women would change their organizational character. Otherwise, the final clubs--like the Jaycees--would flunk the Supreme Court's litmus test for discrimination.
In this sense the Pi Eta Speakers Club--which is not one of the 10 final clubs--has a lead on its more exclusive brothers, having expressed its sexism in no uncertain terms in a newsletter last year that referred to women as "meaty but grateful heffers" (sic) and "slobbering bovines fresh for the slaughter."
Still, the great thing about a suit against the final clubs is that it would force them to show their true colors. To avoid having to comply with a consent decree and go co-ed, they would have to hire attorneys to show how sexist they really are. There would be no middle path.
It's about time somebody forced the final clubs into dropping the fiction that they're just a few fun-loving naive guys who don't even know what sexism means. A lawsuit wouldn't necessarily succeed in opening up the final clubs to women. But under Roberts v. U.S. Jaycees, it would force the clubbies to be honest and choose which is the lesser evil--admitting women or admitting how they feel about women.