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July 27, 2006

IRL News!

TV and Movies

Danica Patrick is going to Andretti Green! I am very excited about this. When I first started watching CART a few years ago, Michael Andretti was my favorite driver, although at the moment I can't really remember why. Dario Franchitti quickly joined him in my affections, perhaps mostly because he's Scottish (no really) and cute. And I've liked Danica from the beginning, admittedly partially just because I like the idea of women being successful in the sport. So now Michael owns an IRL team that includes his son Marco (a new favorite), Dario... and soon Danica! Whee!

Interesting thread on Danica's "Strong enough for a girly girl" Secret deodorant ads here. The basic debate is over whether she should play up her "girly-girl"ness and sponsor things like beauty products. My comments from over there, slightly edited:

I've watched most of Patrick's IRL races, and my impression is that what she wants above all, like any driver, is to win races. From interviews, my impression is that she is aware of the fact that in some situations, she can use her looks/feminity/etc. to her advantage, and she is willing to do this - partially to counteract the inherent disadvantage of being female in such a male-dominated sport.

Frankly, I think the bigger issue is how she is treated by the race announcers and others on the periphery. There's definitely something of the "dancing bear" problem - during every single race, they make Patrick one of the "storylines" they follow, regardless of whether she's actually doing anything interesting. The announcers make the whole range of expected sexist comments. And the various notables they have kicking off the races have to figure out what to do about their traditional line: "Gentlemen, start your engines!" They tend to go with "LAAAAY-DEEEEE and gentlemen," which seems to make way too much of a point of it - almost making fun of her while seeming "inclusive." Once or twice, they've said "Racers, start your engines," which I thought was much better. Last Sunday, A.J. Foyt said "Boys and girl" and I almost threw something at the TV.

In response to comments along the lines of "She's just a mediocre driver; she hasn't accomplished anything:"
There are many drivers who have not won races but are considered to be good drivers, so Patrick is hardly alone there. It can be helpful to keep in mind that the IRL is the top tier of a multilevel system - practically any driver who makes it there through the various other leagues is better than "mediocre" almost by definition. It's true that she's not the best in the series, but it seems dangerous to imply that women should only compete in male-dominated sports if they're better than the men, rather than as good as most of them (as Patrick almost certainly is, at least based on current rankings).

Posted by Kat at July 27, 2006 04:40 PM

Did you meet her when she showed up at PCC? She's a sweetheart.

Posted by: Ali at July 28, 2006 10:19 AM

ahhh racing. When I was home my dad requested that I do a little father-daughter bonding and watch a NASCAR race with him (I know that Danica is IRL- but your comment on her made me think about this incident). Anyway, I got about half of a little fair-isle purse knitted while watching the race with him. I have to say, you can get a LOT of knitting done while watching a race.....

Posted by: Angel at July 28, 2006 11:59 AM
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