…people are right to be pissed at Danica Patrick. She squandered the good will of a multitude of fans who wanted to see a woman win at what used to be a man’s game. Guthrie and the other woman drivers pushed one of the most sexist subcultures to respect women… and Patrick undermines it all. She’s become a harmless, hair-flipping mascot…
Well, alright then!
In a recent Slate article, Laura Helmuth argues that Danica Patrick isn’t just failing in her attempts to move the image of women in racing forward, she’s actually hurting matters and making things more difficult for young female racers who might be tempted to follow in her footsteps. It’s easy to see the merit of her arguments: throughout her career, Ms. Patrick has continually underperformed as a driver and has been singularly unlikable as a human being. Time and again she has managed to drive extremely competitive cars to lackluster finishes while simultaneously flaunting her boyish body in a variety of heavily-Photoshopped pictorials. Surely no male driver would continue to have the opportunities she’s had while delivering her typical results, unless he was sponsored by a Venezuelan oil syndicate or something like that.
Ms. Patrick is far from a Jackie Robinson. Stick-and-ball sports fans will recall that Mr. Robinson broke the color line in baseball by acting in almost superhuman fashion; on the diamond, he performed with the best while he endured the unendurable off it. Unlike Mr. Robinson, Ms. Patrick has seen all sorts of benefits come her way as a result of her minority status, but she continues to act in an ungracious fashion. Your author will never forget the careless manner in which Danica told Sports Illustrated that her husband proposed to her by “bringing the ring back to bed” or some such horrifying trashiness.
Still, one might reasonably wonder if, in 2013, Ms. Patrick should be required to act any differently than a male driver. Shouldn’t she be free to make as big a fool of herself, on-track and off, as any man? If she hasn’t exactly been a perfect lady… should she have to be? Isn’t it enough just to drive the car and do the best she can, even if that best isn’t as good as any number of other talented drivers could do in the same seat? Surely she’s tired of pretending to be pretty and sexy when the fact is that if your waitress at dinner looked like Danica you wouldn’t even bother to flirt. Perhaps she should just be left to drive the car. She neither broke new ground for women in racing nor significantly harmed the prospects of her successors. Who’s to say?