Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What do Danica Patrick, Michelle Wie, and Rachel Alexandra Have in Common?

I found this item, posted by StuntDouble, quite interesting.

Apparently, Fox Sports put out a list of women athletes that are good enough to compete with the men. The first woman on their list is Rachel Alexandra.

This is a picture of Rachel:

In case there is any confusion here, Rachel is the horse. Here is the description on the the Fox Sports website:

Girl power

Rachel Alexandra struck a blow for females everywhere when she became the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924. But she isn't the only female athlete to prove she can hang with the boys.

More from StuntDouble:

Which female athletes had the good fortune of an equine comparison? Well, there's Katie Hnida, first woman to score in a NCAA football game, but she was entangled in a rape-allegation scandal, Fox notes. There's Michelle Wie, but of course she faced "substantial criticism" when she only qualified for one of 14 PGA events. Legendary athletic phenomenon Babe Didrikson Zaharias is also mentioned, plus that one time she didn't qualify for that one event.

So yes, including a horse on a list of female athletes who can "compete with the boys" is stupid and condescending to female athletes, but I am in agreement with a point that StuntDouble makes. The fact that this list exists at all is a problem:

It seems to be common practice that when women reach elite levels in their individual sports, society insists on juxtaposing them to their male counterparts. Sure, she's good — but is she as good as a Tiger Woods/LeBron James/Patrick Rafter?

While athleticism in men has been encouraged since forever, it's only been in the last couple hundred years that women have been allowed to participate in athletics. Americans didn't even begin recording women's sports results until the early 1960s. Since that time, the gap seems to be closing. The men's marathon record each year is usually broken by an increment of about 60 seconds, whereas the women's marathon record decreases by about two-and-a-half minutes.

But does it really matter? Do women need to compete against men to be considered great athletes? My answer, obviously, is no.

Why, then, do you think it is that society insists on comparing them?

No comments: