Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

The Impact of American Politics on Perceptions of Women's Golfing Abilities

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

The Impact of American Politics on Perceptions of Women's Golfing Abilities

Article excerpt



ORGANIZATIONAL SOCIOLOGISTS have long been interested in the effects of the social environment on organizational form and structure. Institutional scholars have examined the legal environment and the processes of organizational adaptation (i.e., Edelman 1990). The underlying concept is that organizations conform to societal expectations of the taken-for-granted way of operating (DiMaggio and Powell 1983; Meyer and Rowan 1977). In doing so, structural conformity provides organizational legitimacy and is rewarded by constituents (DiMaggio and Powell 1983; Meyer and Rowan 1977). Consistent with the legal environment, we suggest, using institutional theory, that the political environment will also have an effect on organizational structures.

Institutional theory (DiMaggio and Powell 1983; Meyer and Rowan 1977) provides a theoretical underpinning between political ideology and the behaviors of nonpolitical institutions. Nonpolitical institutions embedded in communities--like legislative districts--that elect political candidates whose gender ideologies focus on differences between men and women, and the need to "protect" women--might then face mimetic, normative, and coercive isomorphic pressures to structure golf-related relationships between men and women in highly gender-differentiated ways. A golf course, for example, in a highly conservative legislative district might therefore reflect in its physical layout significant perceived differences in the abilities of men and women. In short, the political environment influences perceptions of women's physical abilities.

In this article, we engage in an empirical exploration of the relationship between political variables and the perceptions of the relative physical abilities of men and women. Drawing on a sample of approximately 500 golf courses in the United States, we look at the distance between the men's and women's starting tees and whether political differences specific to the locale of a golf course predict when tees are closer together or further apart. We find that political orientation--expressed in terms of whether a state voted Republican or Democratic in the 2004 presidential election and the political conservatism or liberalism of the political representatives for the district in which a golf course is located--is positively and robustly associated with distance differences between men's and women's golf tees. We conclude that the more conservative the political representation of a golf course's locale, the further men's and women's tees are from each other and the closer the women's tees are on average to the hole.

We begin this article with a discussion of the placement of men's and women's starting tees. Second, we examine Republican and Democratic political ideologies with respect to gender. Next, we discuss institutional theory as it relates to the political environment and the pressures exerted on golf course owners to conform to social expectations of gendered physical abilities. Following, we present the hypotheses, methods, and results. We finish with a discussion that presents the limitations and implications of our article.


Golf Course Architecture

FIGURE 1 illustrates a typical golf course hole with the men's and women's starting tees identified. The illustration is a par 4 hole with a distance of 350 yards. The flag represents the hole. The shaded area represents the fairway with a dogleg or curve left at 230 yards. Consistent with the mean of our data, we identified the distance between the men's and women's starting tees at 47.8 yards. To better understand the political pressures affecting the layout of a golf course and the positioning of the men's and women's starting tees, it is reasonable to discuss the key considerations in the development of golf courses.

A potential developer must employ a committee of experts to contribute financial, legal, construction, and operational knowledge to the project (Pinch 1989). …

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