Blogroll Me! How This Old Brit Sees It ...: Historic Win Exposes Rampant Sexism in Racing World

22 April 2008

Historic Win Exposes Rampant Sexism in Racing World

Danica Patrick wins her first Indy car race

When Danica Patrick won the Japan 300, she became the fist woman to take the checkered flag at a major Indy car race. Most of the coverage of the event was as positive as you'd expect, but there were a few cases in which sportswriters went to bizarre lengths to find fault with Patrick's win.

For example, veteran race commentator Bob Margolis said that Patrick's win "was more a triumph in public relations than auto racing", because it was a "fuel mileage race", rather than a "wheel-to-wheel battle". Just a week before, Margolis
wrote this:

Are you a fan who likes fuel mileage races? I think it separates the men from the boys and shows which team can best make use of their resources.
When the Trailer Park Feminist pointed that out, I thought it was probably an aberration. Even in this day and age, I could imagine sportswriters muttering amongst themselves that Patrick's win was unremarkable, but I thought that they'd be smart enough to be publicly magnanimous. If not for the sake of decency, then at least to avoid reinforcing the stereotype of the Neanderthal racing fan. But I was about as wrong as I could be.

Jamie Samuelsen of the Detroit Free Press said that the win was
too long in coming. Forget the fact that most drivers on the circuit don't win a race during their first four seasons, and forget the fact that Patrick has consistently been one of the top drivers on the circuit. Unless Patrick won her first race within her first couple of seasons, any of her racing achievements would become meaningless. Can anyone imagine Samuelson holding a man to that standard?

Meanwhile, Robert Weintraub of Slate said that it
wasn't any big deal, since the talent pool of Indy car racers has become so diluted. But I don't remember him or anyone else at Slate denigrating the achievements of Alex Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia because of the dilution of talent in Major League Baseball.

The treatment that Patrick got from some sportswriters mirrored the sexism that
other drivers have aimed at her:

I just don't think it's a sport for women, and so far, it's proved out. It's really not. It's good for them to come in. It gives us a lot of publicity, it gives them publicity. But as far as being a real true racer, making a living out of it, it's kind of tough.
--Richard Petty

I think Danica's pretty aggressive in our cars. I mean, you know especially if you catch her at the right time of the month, she might be trading plenty of paint out there.
--Ed Carpenter

A girl with big boobs would never be comfortable in the car. And the mechanics wouldn't concentrate. Can you imagine strapping her in?
--Jenson Button
And over at Alaska Report, the editors found a more subtle way to throw a dash of sexism into their coverage. They featured a terse report, and illustrated it with this photo:


Seriously, what's wrong with these people? How hard is it to congratulate a woman for winning an auto race?

(cross posted at Liberal Avenger and appletree)



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