Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shut Up and Drive

Danica Patrick:  Men cannot seem to discern whether she's a driver or a hood ornament. After doing some research I can't say that I blame them for their confusion. It's hard to take this seriously:

Not that I have anything against women glorifying their feminine aspect, but in some arenas it just causes more trouble than it's worth, especially if that arena is historically  a "No Girls Allowed" venue.  Besides, photos like this aren't about glorifying the Beauty That is Woman; photos (like this) are about selling your body for acceptance in the Mens' Club. And once you've done that you've nullified any attempt at being taken seriously by men.

That being said, please don't assume that I'm victim blaming. Nothing can be further from the truth. It's just frustrating to see women set themselves up for the label.

The victim blaming I'm alluding to is connected to an incident that happened within the last month where Danica was forced off the track by another (over-zealous) driver. I don't typically watch NASCAR but my husband watches it from time to time and on the morning after the afore-mentioned event he happened to be watching a sports report while I was still asleep. What woke me up was hearing the words (something to the effect of), "That's not ladylike behavior." I perked up instantly. What? What did she do? To my amazement her unladylike gaff was committed when she stood at the side of the track, while all the other drivers blew by, raising her hands in supplication and frustration at the driver who had knocked her off the track. Really? She didn't flip him the bird? She didn't moon him? She didn't scream and yell and toss out curse words with the linguistic dexterity of a sailor? Exhibiting frustration through arms extended is now considered unladylike.

At this point I want to take you back several years to my childhood. Despite what my children will say, we will not go back to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The year is 1982 and I am [omitted for my vanity] years old. I am riding around the neighborhood on my brand new ten speed. A group of five teenage boys block my path and start verbally harassing me. I give back as good as I get. Apparently I say something pretty stimulating because all five boys jump me, knock me to the ground, kick me around a bit, and steal my bike. I limp on home in a fit of rage. Immediately my parents ask where my bike has gone. I tell them my story, not withholding my responses to the boys' verbal insults. My parents call the police. Witnesses are able to identify the boys and soon the police arrive at the "lead" boy's house. About forty-five minutes elapse before a police officer returns to our house. He says to my parents, "We have her bike but we're not willing to give it back until she apologizes to those boys. Apparently she used some very unladylike language with them and they say that if she had kept her mouth shut they wouldn't have attacked her and taken her bike." There is more to this story, but it's all peripheral after that, so you get the point. (I would, however, like to use this moment to give an accolade to my mother, who demonstrated to the police officer where I received my education in "unladylike langauge".)

Victim blaming: If I had remained "ladylike" in the face of ungentlemanly behavior I wouldn't have been assaulted and my bike taken from me. 
So when Danica Patrick does this: 

. . . it's difficult for men to remember that she also does this:

. . . and having proven thus, is justified in her behavior when she does this:

Never mind that Truex admitted he'd screwed up and it was his fault. Never mind that he apologized. None of that matters. Because Danica Patrick is this in the minds of NASCAR fans:

So instead of sympathy she gets this:  Danica Patrick Complains Too Much. And no one likes a woman who complains. Ahem.

I found a plethora of articles about male NASCAR drivers who act like complete buffoons. For example: Boys Will Be Boys. Maybe if Danica had done like Busch, and claimed First Amendment Rights, she wouldn't have created such a scandal . . . Okay, who am I kidding?

This whole debacle brings to mind Immanuel Kant (who makes me want to barf at the mere mention of his name): 
If vanity is a fault that in a woman much merits excuse, a haughty bearing is not only as reproachable in her as in people in general, but completely  disfigures the character of her sex. For this quality is exceedingly stupid and ugly, and is set completely in opposition to her captivating, modest charms.
To Kant's way of thinking, women are meant to be a pretty diversion for men, who require to be distracted from the burden of serious thought and responsibility. If a woman tries to be anything other or more than vacuous and pretty she is haughty and therefore must be rejected. Patrick bought into it by posing like this:  
. . . and is now seen as haughty and unbearable. She complains too much. She is not being agreeable or charming. And now she's paying the price by not being taken seriously. 

Please remember, I'm not victim blaming. Consider the words of Simone de Beauvoir: 
Woman is determined not by her hormones or by mysterious instincts, but by the manner in which her body and her relation to the world are modified through the action of others than herself.
I'm not necessarily suggesting that Patrick was wrong to show off her "assets". She should be allowed to express herself in any way she sees fit. I guess what I'm inferring is that our social system is so damned screwed up that most people just can't look past the bikini to see the complex being that exists within it's teeny-tiny strings. 

And to all those men who vilified Patrick as "unladylike", who feel that she has no business in a "man's sport": 
No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility. ~Simone de Beauvoir

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