IndyCar and Sexism: The day Danica Patrick slammed the door on women!
Yes I know, Danica is no longer with us. But what Danica, and IndyCar has done to women in racing in my opinion can’t go overlooked. I don’t think you will hear Elton John singing a new version of “Philadelphia Freedom” about Danica anytime soon. Or for that matter women going out and burning their bra’s for what Danica, or Indycar brought to the table in hope to liberate women in racing. In just a little over a week from now IndyCar will be racing at St. Petersburg Florida, and guess what? We will not be fielding one female driver that weekend. Hence my reason for writing this.
It hit me the other night as to what our very talented female drivers of IndyCar must think when they can’t find a ride for one race, for the season, or just for the Indy 500? The bottom line is sex sell’s, and you can’t pretend to be sexy. You either have it, or you don’t. And the one’s that don’t have it, are hard at work trying to find a sponsor, or a cache of money to bring to a team just so they can have a chance at doing what they have worked hard for, for so many years. You would think back in 2005, Danica would have opened up the flood gates for female driver’s, but in reality she did only for a short time. As I see it IndyCar and teams are no longer interested in hiring a woman because they feel they are equal to men, if they ever really felt that way in the first place? The bottom line is, they are more interested in finding a spokes model, who happens to know a thing or two about driving. Teams flocked to find the next Danica they could fit in a race seat. But lets face it, no one got the sponsorship, or attention like DP. IndyCar, and its sponsor’s needed another girl band face, and pin-up bodies and the proof is in the reality that not one driver starting the 2014 season has two “X” Chromosomes.
Although fan’s had booed her at the Indy 500, cringed when Danica got in Wheldons face, or laughed as she stopped her feet down pit lane. It was ok! That’s our Danica we would all say. And love to hate her, she was good for the sport, and she was made in “America” which didn’t hurt either. Having a friend of mine over at Andretti Autosport during Danicas tenure, I once asked him what he really thought about Danica: ” She isn’t as good a driver as the guys. She can handle the oval’s ok. But when it comes to road, and street courses, she just doesn’t have the upper body strength to last a whole race” (Note the upper bodies on drivers like Pippa Mann, and Simona compared to DP)
So that brings to question? As much as you would like to think Danica brought equal footing to IndyCar for women. Maybe the reality is that she brought out into the spotlight, the weaknesses in women competing in a male dominated sport. Teams wised up, and sponsor’s closed their bank accounts. And team owner’s, figured there are to many male driver’s out there that can not only drive, but could bring their own sponsorship, or money to a team. (Case in point: How many Indy Lights driver’s have never made it to IndyCars?)
It’s not a novelty the way it was back in the day with Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, or even Sarah Fisher who raced at the 500. Milka Duno, Simona de Silvestro, Ana Beatriz and Pippa Mann know all to well the harsh reality of not being able to sell themselves out as sex objects to men, or women. And it doesn’t help having never been seen here in the states doing Go-daddy commercials. Danica introduced many a boy to puberty, while little girls took to carting, and are now the 14-18 year old girls you see selling themselves for sponsorship on facebook.
Here is a little story to prove my point. At the 2011 Indy 500, I pretty much spent from Carb day, the Indy 500 parade, and race day with ex Playboy playmate, and IZOD spokes model Cameron Haven. On Carb day Cameron and I were walking up and down the front straight, and just about every 5 feet we were stopped because some guys wanted an autograph, or a photo taken with her. The funny thing is, no one had a clue she was the IZOD girl, but instead thought she was one of the actual IndyCar driver’s. (They asked by the way) We had 4 women in the race that weekend, and I saw no one swarm Silvestro, Pippa, or Beatrice the way they did Cameron. case in point. Sex sell’s! IZOD knew it, IndyCar knew it, and Rahal, Andretti, and NASCAR all knew it.
By now female drivers have become common place. The harsh reality is Danica Patrick turned off the lights, slammed the door, and stomped out almost any chance for the average woman to ever race in our series, or any other series for that matter. And IndyCar has done nothing to make sure that women keep competing in IndyCar’s future. Having said that maybe, that is the way it is mean’t to be? I have never been one for allowing quota’s, or affirmative action. I have always felt the best man, or woman for the job should get the job. So until the best woman comes around for an IndyCar seat, or as it seems in racing these days the driver with the biggest pocketbook. It is this guys feeling, that women in IndyCar will be in short supply, and low demand in the future of auto sports.