Monday, February 18, 2013

Danica Patrick – Making History at Daytona – First Women to pull a Pole position - From the Feminist Perspective





Danica Patrick - a first - image from usa today

From U.S.A. Today: Danica Patrick, became the first woman in the 65 year history of NASCAR racing to pull a pole position for what is considered the premier auto racing event in the U.S. – the Daytona 500 Patrick, is no stranger to firsts for women, in 2005, she finished 4th at the Indianapolis 500, being the first woman in the race, and the first to finish at that high a placement. (Biography.com).

Although this blogger is not a huge fan of NASCAR, or U.S. racing (preferring the Grand Prix with its pomp, circumstance, et.al), the image of a woman leading in any male-centered field, especially since Patrick did not take anything away from her personality as a result of “playing with the boys”, is a rather important for women in general. It was not uncommon in the 1970’s for one to want to work in any position (even something so mundane as sales) only to find that as a woman, one was expected to mimic the boys – in the manner of dress, (grey suit, white press shirt, pumps), to the beverage of choice, (“get rid of the girly drink – have a scotch!”). Therefore, it’s a bit refreshing when one sees a woman, competing at the predominant level in a male centered career, “doing it her way” (to steal part of a phrase from Sinatra).

Just a side: Although in President John F. Kennedy, signed the “Equal Pay Act” in 1963 noting at that time, women earned only .60 cents on a dollar, for work comparable to their male counterparts, (Read JFK's Statement here fifty years forward, women now manage to earn 10 cents more. Therefore, what may seem to some, a trivial event, at a NASCAR (of all things) race, where a woman garners another first, to those who have experienced, and waited and watched for the last fifty years, for improvement, a little satisfaction is in order.

Although a believer that the most qualified political candidate, regardless of gender, should be given the nod by “we the people”, it remains a rather steep climb for any woman to break the glass ceiling, in government and politics in general. Understanding that Sarah Palin (love her or no), was the first woman to be nominated to a V.P. slot on a national ticket since Geraldine Ferraro ran as the V.P. nominee n 1984 – with the same amount of disrespect, speaks volumes. It was not the win or the loss (as those are determined by the front-runner and the mood of the nation); it was the way in which both women were measured – 30 years apart. Moreover, as Hillary Clinton was vying for the top slot in 2008 – qualified, and competent, (although one may or may not agree with her political ideology), what the general public heard was “pantsuits”, hair, etc.” rather than the fact that she had solid ideas as to health care, voted on a bi-partisan manner –and was every inch a suitable candidate. (She was the most qualified of the bunch, in this opinion.) – Although strides have been made, since the 1920’s (The first decade a woman could cast a vote!), there is still much to be done. (Obviously, Equal Pay Acts, and the newly re-minted Obama Administration version) did and most likely will do little more than perhaps, another 10% in pay equity and opportunities.

In looking at candidates, what political strategists look to is the candidate that will appeal to “women” - in a recent scramble to find appropriate candidates for a MA special election, one such individual suggested that Ben Affleck would make a perfect Senate candidate – his appeal to “woman” being one of the main reasons. Apparently, in the male mind, a vote for a pretty face would be a trump card for women. No offense to Mr. Affleck, who is passionate about politics, and as a citizen, more likely just as capable if not more so than those now in D.C. – it was the though process behind the choice, that rankles. Somewhat sadly, it is true, that for some the trees are obscured by the forest, which may go a long way towards explaining the state of the Union as it stands. It is not that a woman should be chosen based solely on the fact that she may be the only alternative to a male, but on competence. Whether that woman is running for the Presidency, or a Congressional Seat, or the same position in the accounting department of what-ever firm, the measure should be competency, and if competent, she should be hired, at the same salary as her male counterpart.

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