Tiger Woods (who had a nightmare round at The Open yesterday but who was back to his usual form today with a final round of 65) has recently said some interesting things about freedom of association. He has been defending the right of a men-only club to keep women out. (My thanks to Al Baron of the LA-F for the link to this story.)
Tiger’s line was that this was unfortunate, but that it was their prerogative. The right of people to do something unfortunate, on the grounds of “prerogative”. Impressive.
In this particular matter I’d go further. The right of men, and women, to spend some of their time only with other men, and other women, is something that should be permanently insisted upon, not just as something that is “unfortunate” but which ought to be legally tolerated on freedom of association grounds, but as something that for many can be positively liberating – essential for their peace of mind even. Human females and males are not the same, and at times (or at some times), they (or some of them) need a rest from each other and from all the stresses and strains of competing with their own gender for the attentions of the other one. (Gender and race are very different matters from this point of view, as Tiger Woods gets but as most of his interlocutors seem not to.)
Happily most people realise this, and gender segregation is a relentless feature of everyday life. Most people know that there are some occasions and institutions which are for the other gender only, and that their only contribution is to stay away and leave the boys, or the girls, to do their thing. But it now tends to be only the women whose right to keep the men out on some (or, if they want this, all) occasions is explicitly asserted in everyday “political” conversation.
This is not a blanket assertion that it is always wise for men to exclude women from everything they now control. In particular, it is surely most unwise to exclude the other gender from the administration of an activity, such as a sport, which the other gender has started to play in serious numbers. Here, it is the fact of male and female differentness which says that both points of view should be attended to in administrative decisions. I am glad, for example, that the Marylebone Cricket Club has recently decided to allow women to become members. And I dare say that Tiger Woods was right about the unfortunateness of the particular matter he was being asked to comment on.
But this only made his assertion of the principle of freedom of association all the more impressive. No way should the right to exclude particular people from your company ever be confused with an argument about whether exclusion in this or that case is wise, or necessary, or nice, or logical, or anything at all except the right of those doing the excluding.