Feminist's foes plan peachy protest

Martha Burk is ruining the Masters in Augusta, say her detractors

ConversationS

March 09, 2003|By Gary Dorsey | Gary Dorsey,Sun Staff

The first permit to stage a protest during this year's Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., was not issued to women's rights advocate Martha Burk, who has waged a vigorous national campaign against the males-only membership policy of Augusta National Golf Club. It went instead to Allison Greene, general manager of the Boll Weevil Cafe in Augusta, who has formed an opposition group called WAMB -- Women Against Martha Burk.

With the showdown in Augusta only a month away, Greene spoke with The Sun this past week about her organization and its aims.

When did you start WAMB?

It was about six weeks ago. I had been kind of passionate about the whole Martha Burk thing from the get-go. But when I realized she was really serious about coming to Augusta, I took it really personally. I don't want her in our town, I don't want her ruining this huge event for Augusta and I decided to do something about it.

What kind of response have you had?

Ever since this first came out, people have been calling saying where do I need to go, when do I need to be there? I haven't had anybody from out of town say that, but there's been a lot of support from Augusta.

Why is that?

Well, I don't know if we're just in a vacuum here, but I feel like this is Augusta against the rest of the nation right now. It's hard to defend ourselves against the rest of the world because people think whatever they think based on what they read in the media. But the majority of the people here hold Augusta National and the Masters to be sacred to them. We're directly affected by Martha Burk's crusade.

How so?

We're affected by the loss of tourism, and we're affected emotionally because Masters week is the week Augusta is on vacation. Everybody and his mother are working, but we have so much fun doing it. And you know that everybody you come into contact with are all these people who we would never meet. You are hanging out with people from the other side of the world! It's just so great for us. So the financial aspect of it is a burden, but it's more emotionally disturbing.

What's your message?

It's really hard trying to get across this point to people who don't live here, but on any given day, there are women out on that golf course playing golf. They're allowed to play golf. Yeah, you have to be with a member. But you know that's the norm everywhere. Nobody's allowed to just go and play at any golf course unless it's putt-putt. And Martha Burk wants to open the membership to women, but it's really not even open to all men. They invite people to become members there. And I believe that if they had found a woman they were excited about having and who was qualified, they would have invited her. I'm telling you what -- it's so unfair.

You're 28 years old?

I am. I'm going to turn 29 Monday of Masters week [April 7].

Some people might wonder how a woman your age would take this position. You don't hold any feminist viewpoints?

No, I don't. Absolutely not. I'm an individual. I believe what I believe because I go with the flow and I go with what people around me are feeling. But I don't have feminist views at all. Society dictates that gender boundaries are healthy. And what about feminist clubs? How many men belong to feminist clubs? There are feminist clubs for a reason.

What do you mean?

Well, you know, there's a workout club -- a gym -- here, and it's all female. And it's that way because, you know, sometimes women are so self-conscious, especially around men. So, it's nice to go to a gym and work out with other women because you don't have to worry about looking good because there are men there. You know? There's nothing wrong with feminist views. But I tell you what, there are times I just want to be with other women and there are times I just want to be with men.

So you run a restaurant, but you don't think that has anything to do with feminism?

No, not at all.

You have two men in your organization, right?

I wouldn't consider them necessarily members, but supporters. So maybe by default they are members. One is the owner of the restaurant, and the other one is my husband, of course.

What sort of protest are you going to have?

It's going to be a lighthearted protest. And the reason is I don't want to seem like an bunch of angry feminists. There will be men and children there. We are not going to be marching around the block with signs saying, "Go Home Martha!" -- your typical angry protest. We're a little bit mad, but we're not in the least bit mean-spirited. People who come to this town to have mean, angry protests, they are not part of Augusta. The people who live in Augusta are nice people. We don't have mean, angry protests.

Did you grow up in Augusta?

I sure did, I was born and raised here. I tell you, I grew up in a strict Catholic household, and on Sundays, we always went to church except during football season, and then we went on Saturdays. That's the way the Masters is. It's a football Sunday for a whole week.

If you could talk to Ms. Burk, what would you say to her?

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