A Woman Visible

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Women in the Driver's Seat at Indy, or We Can Drive as Fast as You, Boys!

I have loved racing and Richard Petty for as long as I've been aware of racing, meaning, most of my life. As a kid, my uncle worked on and played with cars of all sorts. I became enamoured with the sport because, well, most of my family was. Richard Petty was the coolest because he drove a huge Dodge Charger (remember when they were that big?), and he always seemed to be in control of his car, his career, and well, the entire sport of racing.

Last week, Richard broke this little girl's heart, and said, "I just don't think this is a sport for women." See, in spite of the fact that I'm probably better off not getting on a track with anything faster than a bicycle (some would question this as well), I've always harbored this dream of sitting behind the wheel of a race car and dusting everyone in my path. I play racing video games (this is one of those things that lifts my status with my son, Stuart. He thinks it's cool that I often win these games) in an attempt to fufill those dreams. These dreams are actually connected to my deceased grandmother. See she also dreamed of racing. She wanted my uncle to build her a race car so she could go down to the local speedway and race against the boys. If she had survived cancer, I believe she would have driven to victory.

NASCAR, and racing in general has not been extremely open to women racers. Apparently, Petty's views go back some thirty years or more. I guess I should have known he'd take this position, but being a fan doesn't always open you to grasping the intricacies of your favorite celebrities position. His target in the past was Janet Guthrie, the first female racer to earn a starting position in the Indy 500. Today, his target is Danica Patrick, a twenty-four year old who has managed to place in the top ten in the last two Indy 500s. THE TOP TEN! I'm not sure that Petty's argument holds much water against such accomplishment.

Petty is correct--racing is a difficult sport. He says that "being a racer, making a living out of it, it's kind of tough." Well, duh. It's tough for the men as well, but that doesn't seem to stop them from continuing to succeed at the sport. It doesn't seem to stop them from working harder and harder to go faster and faster. If a woman wants to get out there and push herself to the same degree, why can't she and why can't her competitors welcome her?

Perhaps, Petty is not truly reflective of today's racing circuit. Perhaps, he's just reflecting the views of his generation, and not the racers of today. As a fan of racing, I can only hope that is the case. If it is not, then it looks as though the men of the circuit are going to learn a lesson the hard way. Girls like Danica aren't going to go away. They will keep coming, and they will continue to win. It may take a while for a woman to actually go to the winner's circle.

I think Sheila Scarborough of FastMachines has the right idea:

Ya wanna spout off like that, go ahead. It's America. But don't expect many
people to take you seriously.
Still, the attitude does break my heart. You'd think his mama would have taught him better manners. You'd think an old coot like Petty would know better than spouting off to the press about such nonsense. I guess this is what happens when an old racer gets bored.


  • At 5:43 PM, Blogger H.E.Eigler said…

    Hello - just thought I would come by and check out your place...love the way you've decorated, and the writings not bad either ;)

    I'll be back to snoop more thoroughly soon!

  • At 5:03 PM, Blogger Bill, the Wildcat said…

    The sad thing... his mother probably would agree. Frankly, I'll admit that I'm not much of a racing fan. The sport bores the heck out of me, but I do respect that not just anyone can do it. Why someone would think the sex of the driver or mechanic makes a bit of different confounds me.

    I don't know why the older generation is typically so slow to embrace change. My attitudes have certainly changed as I've gotten older, and I wouldn't think those attitudes would simply become static in the decades ahead.

    When I was growing up, my sister was a tomboy and she was the one who taught me how to play most sports--not my father. Anytime I saw a girl in P.E. wimp out just because she was a girl, I was disgusted. Of course, a rant on that very topic somewhat got me in trouble with my wife back in high school... but that's a story for another day. hahaha


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