August 26: Oohrah! It’s Women’s Equality Day! (Yes, in Horse Racing, Too!) :)
Thanks to a Facebook post by Joanne Dittes Yepsen, Mayor of Saratoga Springs, New York–I have just been reminded that August 26th–every year–is Women’s Equality Day here in the United States. With the Travers happening on this particular August 26th, this historic fact had plum seeped out of my mind. Thank you for the reminder, Your Honor. This day, we celebrate the formal addition of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States–the collection of words that stated on August 26, 1920, that women had the right to vote. (This, a far cry from just two decades before, when women were considered to be property of the men who owned them. In the same category as a plow, a house or acre of land. YES, here in the United States.)
So Her Honor’s proclamation early this morning, started the synapses to firing in my head…and I’ve decided that something is missing…
What’s missing? Actually, not a declaration, but rather a spirit of genuine equality is missing in American Thoroughbred horse racing, all the way down to the bones–to the very structure of the thing. (I specify, Thoroughbred–because in the Arabian horse racing community, everywhere on Earth–women have full play, in fact, running much of The Show.) It seems to be endemic in Thoroughbred racing–in the United States–that sexism still lingers, and in fact, holds back 51% of the fanbase and potential professionals in the sport. More than being merely, a pity, it causes our sport, here, to lose so much. All the while looking for all the world like it’s 1952, where women knew their place–and they kept that place clean for The Boss. (i.e., “Hubby.”)
Do not put word in my mouth–or onto my screen–that I am not saying or writing. I am not suggesting that the fact that women are equal to men (i.e., by GOD, and all the Laws of Nature)–should be a Thing–it shouldn’t have to BE a Thing. Shouldn’t be a cause for rituals and parades. It should just be, Business as Usual, which right now–it is not.
I am stating that women in American Thoroughbred horse racing do not hold the positions that they/we should hold–that our contributions are not valued to the point that we populate, say, 51% of the Boards of Directors. Only in the realm of horse rescue/retirement/rehoming do women hold positions such as, President. Or are the majority of Board members.
Equality in our sport should not be formally enforced–or even celebrated on a particular day of the year: au contraire, mon frère. Emotions, as they say, cannot be legislated.
All I ask is that you consider these points, and see where this situation is in desperate need of fixing. Here’s a basic, not-even-imaginative list of What Should Be, and What Should Not Be:
Women in Horse Racing Should Not:
* Be paraded in bikinis in an outfield, in a contest reminiscent of Katy Perry’s video, “Bon Appetit.” Women are not part of the banquet, to be enjoyed–sampled–savored–by drunken boyz who wear beer hats, and wouldn’t know a horse’s rear-end from, well, their own acne-d faces. Blatant misogyny has no place in horse racing. It just doesn’t, and anyone who thinks it’s a Good Marketing Idea–doesn’t really think it’s a Good Marketing Idea. That’s a big-old lie: they just want to see almost-naked young women in the infield.
* Be pressured into thinking that their value in at the track comes from being pretty, young and stylish. This kind of pressure makes young grrlz—who could grow up to become great trainers, jockeys or owners–think that, unless they’re “cute,” too–they should just give up. There’s nothing like good, old-fashioned societal discouragement to keep someone from pursuing her dreams.
* Be excluded from Boards of Directors. No, having one or two females on your Board of 14 does not tout, “equality.” It does scream, “tokenism,” however.
* Be referred to as, “female jockey,” “female trainer,” “female owner,” etc. You get the drift. We can tell her gender by looking at her. Language is far-more powerful than you may realize: all writers know the power of language. When you refer to Julie, Diane, Donna or Jacky as a “female jockey,” you separate her and her immense talents from all the other jockeys. You know, “male jockeys.” If you wouldn’t refer to Johnny V or Rajiv as being a “male jockey”–ask yourself, Why would you say, “female jockey” about Diane?
* Speaking of the overwhelming authority of language: don’t refer to professional females in horse racing by describing their physical attributes, or personality traits. Again, if you wouldn’t talk about Johnny V. or Rajiv as being “diminutive”–you should not use words like that to describe a jockey who happens to be packin’ female parts. Of course they’re diminutive–they’re jockeys. But if you’re going to say it for the females–because it is true–then you must say the same about males. Words like, “perky,” “cute,” “adorable,” “precious,” “beautiful”–all describe something about a woman that has absolutely nothing to do with her professionalism, regardless of her vocation. Rule of Thumb: if you wouldn’t call Bobby Flay, “hot” in a serious journalistic piece–don’t say it about any female owner, either.
Women in Horse Racing Should:
* Comprise at least 51% of Boards of Directors, in every organization. We are 51% of the population of Earth. We are the majority of the fanbase of horse racing. These numbers should be reflected in our representation on Boards, in every corner of the sport–not just in rescue/ retirement/ rehoming 501(c)(3)s.
* See more opportunities open to us as professionals, across-the-board. I know, many women currently hold terrific jobs as administrators, in many racing organizations and companies. This is wonderful, and it’s As It Should Be.
But there are some areas of this sport where sexism just oozes, including racing media. Women, regardless of age or relative cuteness should be given equal play, equal pay, equal screen time in racing media. (Television, radio, publishing.) (Believe-it-or-not, it’s not necessary to be 5″-nothin’, blonde, and under 30 in order to know how to hold a microphone and talk intelligently about a horse race.) Much of the faces of horse racing media currently reflect the general media’s bias against women of age, and of color. Interesting to note, how many “adorable” young media women share screenspace or desk duties–with middle-aged, balding men. Men, who aren’t judged by their ages, or the lack of follicle density on their pates–but are given opportunities to shine in media because they know the sport, cold. (Over the years I’ve reported often that, the men who’ve had the nerve to tell me that I’m somehow obligated to look like Cindy Crawford–all look like Danny DeVito…)
Double standards, whether in racing media, the jocks’ rooms or as corporate managers’ suites–has no place in our sport. Not in THIS century, anyway.
* Be addressed respectfully, at all times. I’ve heard horror stories, still–yes, in 2017–of young women who are jockeys, looking for mounts–who are verbally abused. Told to Go Away. Refused mounts, because of their gender. This is not me, suggesting that we go back to a formal, unnatural way of interacting with each other. I mean merely to pose a question: if you’re a man in horse racing, please ask yourself: would you speak in a harsh, mean or sexist manner to your daughter? Mother? Wife? If the answer is, No–then why might you think it’s OK to speak that way to a jockey who’s looking for a job? (If, however, the answer is Yes, that you DO speak in a demeaning way to the women in your Life–then you need therapy, my friend.)
Horse racing in the United States has come a long way from the days when jockeys all were Black males because they were born into slavery (or the children of slaves). But to this day, minorities still strive to be brought fully into the fold, across-the-board. In the Clubhouse, as well as the backstretch.
I look with hope to the day when the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle is filled with the beautiful, Black faces of all the women who brought a horse to that place: trainer, owner, jockey, assistants. Until that day, I’ll continue to beat my little drum for us womenfolk of every age, color and size–to be brought into Boardrooms, media companies and corporate Presidential suites in this beautiful sport of Thoroughbred horse racing, in America.
Toward that end, and because I am an Alpha Mare and thereby, share that authority with my Alpha Mare sisters– I declare hereby, that today, August 26, 2017, is Women’s Equality Day in American Thoroughbred Horse Racing! Send up a flare! Toast your own bad self! Party, like it actually IS the 21st Century!
Today, bet on a jockey, a trainer or an owner who happen to be female: let’s celebrate each other and our strengths, until the day when the entire sport in America embraces the Wisdom, Love and Intelligence brought to the table by We, the 51%.