The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

So Does This Make Every Other Single Pit-Lane Altercation Between Drivers A “Dick Fight”?

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 22, 2008

When I read in the paper about Indy drivers Danica Patrick and Milka Duno having a trackside argument, I rolled my eyes, because I could tell exactly what the media would brand it as: a bitch fight (or a cat fight, for the PG papers). Here’s the LA Times’ lamo description of the events (you can watch them here – and just a warning, don’t read the comments if you know what’s good for you):

It ain’t World Championship Wrestling, but it’s kinda fun to watch Danica Patrick confront Indy racing’s other female driver, Milka Duno, about being a slowpoke, old lady driver during Saturday’s Honda Indy 200 practice session.

According to reports, Patrick marched over to the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing pit stall after Saturday morning’s practice session to complain that Duno did not let faster cars – including Patrick’s – get past her.

Yeah, “kinda fun” – because gee whiz, aren’t those lady drivers a cute little novelty! And it’s not as though the LA Times was alone in their cringeworthy coverage of the two drivers having words; a sampling of headlines and blog titles includes “Cat fight in IndyCar pits“, “Danica Patrick fight with buxom Milka Duno” (yes, “buxom”), and “Who wants a Super Soaker fight between Danica Patrick and Milka Duno?

This pisses me off for a number of reasons, but number one is because of the rampant sexism (duh).

As a motorsport fan, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen drivers have it out with each other on pit straight, or after a crash, or anywhere, really. V8 SuperCar driver Mark Skaife, in particular, is never shy when it comes to giving another driver a piece of his mind. Drivers chuck tanties when they end up in the gravel, they whinge if their pit team doesn’t work fast enough, they sook when they don’t end up at pole position, etc etc. There is no such thing, really, as a laid back motorsports driver, no matter what sex!

In other words, there is nothing special or extraordinary about this “fight” in motorsports terms – but because it’s two female drivers arguing with each other, it’s “news”.

Furthermore, most of the coverage implies that Patrick was being over the top by complaining that Duno was “too slow”, but that’s a legitimate concern. I’m not totally au fait with Indy, but I know that in Formula One and the V8s/touring cars, a slow driver will be blue flagged (and then white-and-black or black flagged if necessary) if they don’t allow a faster driver to lap them. So, again, what happened between Patrick and Duno is not news.

There is no real reason why women can’t compete in motorsport; if they are astute drivers and can handle the effort involved in turning the wheel (and remember, most drivers are relatively small-framed; particularly in Formula One, where you must be short to avoid your head blocking the engine’s airflow), they’re part-way there already.

But the motor racing fraternity is a sexist world – look only at the continued (and, some would say – myself included – escalated) use of grid girls – and instances like this can only serve to turn more women away from the track. And it’s not as though drivers like Patrick and Duno don’t already face enough adversity in terms of gaining respect in their chosen field without crap like this derailing their efforts. Patrick is a talented and canny driver but the way the motorsport publications and blogs continue to bring up her win in Japan earlier in the year smacks awfully of, “Well, girlie, you tried, but you better leave the racing to the big boys now.”

Even apparently positive articles like this one have lame, single-entendre headlines like “Five of the fastest women you will ever meet”.

I know I’m not alone in my response to this whole debacle – Colorado sports blogger Jeff Casperson offers a male perspective (and finds a few more eye-roll-inducing sexist headlines) – but I would be interested to hear your perspective on all this. Do you watch motorsport? Do you think it’s inherently more sexist than any other largely male-dominated sport?

6 Responses to “So Does This Make Every Other Single Pit-Lane Altercation Between Drivers A “Dick Fight”?”

  1. Poppy said

    To be honest with you, I hate motorsports with a passion. I think it’s boring and a waste of petrol, but that’s not the point.

    Mostly, yeah, I do see it as an extremely sexist area of sport. I live in Canberra, and we all know what goes on here – Summernats. A weekend of hell! Its gotten a bit of a reputation for being the haunt of chauvinists and sex offenders, which is a shame because of course not all the people who attend are like that.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with it if I could step outside my door without being sexually harassed at every turn. It’s pretty awful stuff. I know I and several of my friends (both female and male) feel unsafe and wary during Summernats, and I definitely think there is an aura of sexism about the place. No idea if other motorsporting events are similar, however.

  2. Clem Bastow said

    Oh god yes, the Summer and Easter Nats are intensely horrible (not to mention barely “motor sports”, unless burnouts and sick circle work counts).

    Formula One was traditionally the “classy” sport but the grid girl stuff in F1 is getting to be worse than the apparently “lower-brow” other racing codes.

    It’s all pretty depressing, considering you can’t even focus on the race itself without the broadcast going to and from commercials by showing “hot” grid girls waving at the camera.

  3. Thomast said

    I think this could (and I say this with a note of “I’m not sure”) be a vote FOR women drivers as Danica was complaining about Milka for being slow and, in Danica’s view, dangerous.

    This undermines the traditional notion that the “sistas have to stick together” when in a male dominated arena. Danica was treating Milka as any other driver- and I might add Danica’s been known to have a go at anyone who pisses her off.

    So, maybe just maybe that’s a good sign?

    Maybe.

    I think Danica is a great driver, but occasionally undermines herself not through public displays of aggression, but rather through getting her gear off.

    If she wants to be taken seriously, then we need to get past the novelty of a girl racing and she needs to let her driving do more of the talking.

    Witness:
    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/2008_swimsuit/danica-patrick/08_danica-patrick_1.html

    Tom

  4. Clem Bastow said

    Tom – totally, at least on your first point. Whatever you think of Patrick’s ‘tude, it certainly doesn’t discriminate!

    On the second point, well, I wonder how much of that is pressures from the industry around her (i.e. that “hot”/semi-naked female athletes get more sponsorship/media attention), rather than something she necessarily wanted to cross of her lifetime ‘to do’ list?

  5. thomasr said

    she’s won a race (finally!) so she could give all the pictorial shite the arse if she so chooses.

    …but, one must ask, what if she does not so choose? She is undeniably attractive and has signed deals with many companies that probably makes her one of the highest paid sportswomen in the world.

    Perhaps it’s hard to make a stand for the wimmin when there is so many $$$ in nuding up.

    What say you ’bout that Grid Girl Gone Bad? ( you know that I love using that term)

    Tom

  6. glen said

    big business motorsport? really? how can anyone find it enjoyable?

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