As someone who’s grown up around racing, though not been a huge fan, I’ll admit I find Danica Patrick something of a figure of fun and cannot bring myself to defend her against ‘sexist’ attacks from people within the sport. I know that there are lots of people who genuinely believe that Danica Patrick is a great race car driver and is somehow important because she’s a woman in a sport that’s almost monolithically dominated by men. I’ve even heard her referred to as ” Danica Patrick: Racing Superstar”, which to me is as funny as “Olivier Panis: Racing Superstar”. Don’t know who Olivier Panis is? Look him up. I’ll give you a minute. I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of him. He and Danica have won the same number of races, though arguably, his win at the Monaco Grand Prix (one of the most impressive road courses in the world) has a bit more glamour and cache than the Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 (a fairly run of the mill Indy Oval). The difference is Danica is a woman. But she’s not JUST a woman. She’s marketed herself as a woman and as a sex object. You’ve probably never heard of or maybe forgot about Lyn St. James, who retired with two wins at Daytona and a win at Sebring. Probably because she hasn’t appeared in superbowl ads that foreshadow the prospect of her having sex with another woman. There’s also Sarah Fisher, who had a fairly long, if not highly successful IRL career; while she never won any races, she had two podium finishes. Again, you probably don’t know about her because she didn’t get sold to you as some kind of sex object.
My, and many other people’s, problem with Danica Patrick it’s not that she’s a woman; it’s that she’s a mediocre driver who has sold herself on sex appeal rather than the ability to win races. You can be a fan of Danica, you can cheer for her at races, you can be mad when the top performers in her sport say that she’s not competitive. Just don’t pretend that Danica is somehow good for women because she’s in racing. There have been women before her and there will be women after her. I, for one, am hoping that Danica can someday be knocked off her perch by a woman driver who’s made a name for herself because she can win races, not because she’ll take off her clothes for advertisers.
Quick fun fact: according to wordpress, I’m the only person talking about Lyn St. James, one of only two people talking about Sarah Fisher, and possibly the only person in english blogging about Olivier Panis!
Also, Olympic medalist Hilary Knight’s “Knight’s Blog” makes a good point about the “Sexy Double Standard”.