Friday, May 26, 2006

Women on Wheels

I am not a NASCAR aficionado. As a kid, I'd occasionally watch a race for about ten minutes, and if no cars crashed, I changed the channel. My father used to race cars, but more of the F1 type. I'm not saying NASCAR fans are solely rednecks-- my uncle like to go and watch races. However, I take issue with a fellow named Richard Petty, who believes that women should not be in car racing.

"I just don't think it's a sport for women,'' Petty said in an interview with The Associated Press. "And so far, it's proved out. It's really not. It's good for them to come in. It gives us a lot of publicity, it gives them publicity.

"But as far as being a real true racer, making a living out of it, it's kind of tough.''

I must give this guy some props, since he seems to be waffling on the degree of out-and-out sexism he should use in this interview. "Not good for women" makes him sound like a jackass. "Kind of tough" makes him sound like he's somewhat sympathetic to the fact that women may like to give it a shot. I can't pin him as an out-and-out mysoginist, but his views are at best antiquated.

Richard Petty first made his opinion known thirty years ago when a woman named Janet Guthrie tried to qualify for a professional car race. In her autobiography, she writes:
"When I shook hands with Richard Petty I thought I'd get frostbite,'' Guthrie wrote. "Later, he would be quoted as saying of me: 'She's no lady. If she was she'd be at home. There's a lot of differences in being a lady and being a woman.'''

Nice. Maybe thirty years ago women were concerned with being perceived as "ladies." Perhaps thirty years ago women were at home since that's where they "belonged." I think now we're past the point where we should be quibbling about where women should be. If she's qualified and can play by the same rules as men, why can't a woman race a car? If she wants to stay at home and be a "lady," she can do that too. I'd much rather be a woman, which I perceive as a lady with a spine who goes out and does what she wants, than some "lady" who sits around and makes dainty sandwiches without crusts and just waits for her man to come home. Remind me to send Mr. Petty a copy of The Feminine Mystique. That shit will blow his mind.

Even if Richard Petty's own granddaughter were to one day want to race in NASCAR, her grandfather wouldn't support her. Richard's son Kyle says:

But he said his father will never budge on his belief that women don't belong behind the wheel -- even if Kyle Petty's daughter one day decides she wants to be a racer.

"His position is not going to change because that is who he is, that is part of who he is,'' Kyle Petty said. "That's just a fact of life. That's how he was raised, when he was raised, the era he was raised in. And that's just the way it is.''

This is the entire problem with our society. We just let shit roll because, oh, it was different era or oh, he's just a sexist guy, too bad. "Just the way it is" never got anybody anywhere. Gays can't get married because they've never been able to get legally married before. Just the way it is. Women still make less money than men do? Well, we tried. Just the way it is. Shrugging things off as unfixable is the problem. If I were a girl's father and some clown was saying my daughter were unable to do something just because she's a woman, I'd be ripshit. I like to think that if my father were alive and I wanted to race cars, he wouldn't tell me I couldn't because it would be "unladylike." If I could qualify, I should get the same respect as the men who can qualify, as should any woman who works her way into the boy's club at NASCAR.

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