Bridge Tournaments Enshrine Gender Double Standard

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Events for women only remain very popular throughout the bridge tournament world, one not as lucrative perhaps as golf, but still very much an elite insiders’ game.

Recently, Asya Kamsky of Monterey, Calif., has declared she will no longer play in tournaments that include separate events for women, reported The New York Times. Kamsky switched her schedule from playing in a New York City competition this weekend to play at a similar event in Las Vegas.

Kamsky is only the most recent top bridge player to protest the women-only games. Late last year, Rose Meltzer became the first female to win an international championship in an “open” field–that is, one that allows either sex to play. By winning the Bermuda Bowl in Paris, described by bridge aficionados as the Wimbledon, Super Bowl and World Series combined, Meltzer became the queen of bridge.

“People really believe that women don’t play as well as men,” Meltzer, 59, said in an interview with The Chicago Tribune. A graduate of The Juilliard School (piano) and Columbia University (chemistry), the mother of two adult sons, and the wife of a Silicon Valley executive, Meltzer decided to hone her bridge game in 1997. That was the year that she and her husband moved from New York to California. There she had just one friend, Rita Shugart, also the wife of a Silicon Valley executive, also a bridge fiend and one of the few women playing in the “open” leagues with success. Meltzer immediately understood that the open events were considered “the real, top-quality events,” while the female ones were dismissed as “only women playing women.”

In fact, in the rarefied world of competitive duplicate bridge, the conventional wisdom seems to be that there are only four reasons why a man plays with a woman:

  1. He is married to her.

  2. He is dating her, or having some personal relationship with her.

  3. The rules require him to play with her, as in a “mixed pairs” event, which is by definition an event of men and women.

  4. She is paying him.

Once, the Tribune reported, when Meltzer was playing with Peter Weichsel, her coach, mentor, and one of her five male teammates, she so aggressively bid the game that he gave her zesty praise indeed, saying, “God, Rose, you bid that just like a man!”

Steve Garner, a 46-year-old Northfield, Ill., stock options trader and a member of the all-male bridge team that won the prestigious national event, in Las Vegas, told the Tribune: “Women have always been acknowledged as second-class citizens in the bridge world.”

He added, “People don’t look down on you if you play with a girl, but most people think, ‘It’s nice he’s going to play with her.’ Like you’re doing her a favor.”

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