Throwdown: ’cause American Horse Racing’s Dinosaurs–and Boars–are Not Extinct.

Horse racing, dinosaurs and pigs.  This would be funny, were it not tragic.

In fact, I AM tempted to laugh at the raging misogynist who inspired this article, because, really–as I read his poisonous words, I thought that surely–this guy’s joking.  Then I realized that he was not.   And my emotions ran immediately from “maybe, mildly amused” to “enraged, and loaded for bear.”

The new permissions–for bigots to crawl out from under their rocks–wipe the slime off their faces and curl their hideous lips as they sneer anti-SOMEone sentiments–have brought out The Just-Plain-Ugly in so many corners of American society.

At first I almost laughed.  But then I didn’t.   For a while now, I’d allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of optimism:  I’ve been considering for some time now, hanging up my spurs and riding off into the proverbial sunset.  Of giving up my rants and writings, because (Thoroughbred) horse racing in America now has produced enough evidence of egalitarianism, that the need for alarms is o’er.

I’ve been told by many people now–most notably, by very young women, some of whom are clueless about the struggles of females in American culture in general–and especially in Thoroughbred racing–I’ve been told that old Broads like me no longer are necessary, ’cause They Got This.  Everything’s Fine.  Call Off the Dogs, Marion.  Move along, there’s nothing to see.

From what these youngin’s indicate, American racing no longer is the misogynist sport that it once was.   And I almost believed them, almost saw the sport through their cheery, big-hat-wearing, Oh.My.God. World–I almost drank the Kool-Aid, and accepted that there’s no more need for anyone of the female OR male sort to sound any alarms.  No Loose Horse here–turn off the siren.  Women are fully integrated, and accepted, into the Sport of Kings.

But we are not.  As long as one big-mouthed dinosaur still is out there in the rainforest, whining and sneering about females in the sport–the need for vigilance, rage (yes, rage) and shedding-of-light exists, still.

Just yesterday, I’d decided to leave this stage…I’m not needed or wanted here, so sliding away slowly would be the gracious thing to do.

But then, a  dinosaur of monumental proportions showed his hideous face last night, and slapped me upside the head.  That dinosaur wrote something that COULD have been intended in jest.  But, from a writerly perspective, it just wasn’t good enough or clear enough to be a joke…

So I’m forced to put my gloves back on and head into the ring.  (If only for today.)  If it’s a battle of wits that Tarzan wants, it’s a battle of wits he’ll get.  But unfortunately, it’s an unfair fight for HIM, because, well…clearly, chauvinist piggy is unarmed.

Last night, I read a Paulick Report piece, about Travis Stone leaving NYRA to stay put in Louisville, at his regular Churchill Downs gig.  An innocuous-enough article, on its face:  I read it because I was sad, I like Travis.  I think he was a nice addition to our New York racing community.  No big ego, not a jerk–just a very nice man, who knows and loves horses and racing.  From this writer’s corner, at least, he’ll be sorely missed.

So the discussion by Commenters commenced, and, of course someone posed suggestions, re. Trevor’s replacement in the job of setting morning-line odds.  I tossed in three names, myself:  Jeff Carle, Tom Amello and John Pricci.  All three gentlemen would be spectacular in the job, all three are fabulous and entertaining handicappers.

Then it came to me:  why had I not thought first of a woman?  True, not many announcer’s nests at race tracks on this planet are filled by womyn, but–why not?  Why not here, why not NYRA?

So I commented again, and posed a very simple question:   how ’bout a woman?  I suggested that NYRA might court Victoria Shaw, a brilliant Australian horsewoman who’s known internationally in both Thoroughbred and Arabian horse racing circles.  Victoria would bring something very special to American horse racing, something that’s sorely lacking right now.

Shortly, I received notice, that someone had replied to my comment.  This is that which at first I’d hoped was a joke, but clearly, was not, posted by a (man?) who goes by the username, Insider Trading:

 “Last thing we need is a woman announcer. It has already ruined football games. Let the pretty girls wear their sun dresses and look hot in the paddock.”

I dashed off a response:  because, really, I couldn’t let a chauvinist pig just toss out something so incendiary, and not take the verbal reins of that loose horse:

“Insider trading: how’s the weather there, in the 19th Century? Ring-ring-ring! It’s the Stone age calling, Insider, it’s for you–they want their misogyny back.”

…and wonderfully-enough, I saw that Insider Trading had other detractors, as well:  a fellow named, Paul, wrote

“…hope your knuckles aren’t too scratched up from scraping the pavement.”  This made me laugh aloud.

A gentleman named, Greg, noted,

“…as he types from mom’s basement…”  

<– Me:  Snort.  (S)nicker.

Then I read something with which I could not agree more, posted by Monrovia Damon:

“If you can call a good race, I don’t care if you’re man, woman, canine, or martian 🙂  “

Word, Monrovia.  Word.

ZING!  Excellent, Greg:  short, sweet, succinct and stings like a bee.

A few others in the queue agreed with Insider Trading, however, and commented on a “disaster” at Golden Gate Fields.  Because they all wrote with the assumption that all readers knew the particulars, no details were filled in, except that it appears that the announcer was a female.

Let’s assume that the Golden Gate Fields thing was an actual disaster:  the gender of the announcer had nothing, whatsoever, to do with the way in which the race played out.  Jockeys aren’t really listening to announcers during a race, now, are they?  The horses–they’re not listening, either.  Both horse and rider are rather preoccupied, and focused during races.  If either of the athletes are listening to the announcer and taking cues from her/him–they have far-bigger problems than that of being distracted.

It was lovely to see men like Greg, Paul and others coming to the fore, and putting down Insider Trading‘s sexist remark.  Still, I had to leave my own mark on Insider’s wall.

So this little drama played out on the Paulick Report, and I’m grateful for Freedom of Speech. (Love that First Amendment:  when executed well, and respected, it provides ample room for both idiotic, archaic statements and enlightened ones, all on the same page.)

And, while I appreciate truly all the people–most notably, the men–who both “liked” my comment, and who fired their own rounds of anti-misogyny ammo–we need to acknowledge here, that this is a wake-up call. 

A reminder that, while the woods may look safe to enter–they are not.

As long as anyone in American Thoroughbred racing continues to think that females make lousy race announcers simply because they are females–Houston, we have a problem.    Brains are brains are brains.  Reproductive organs and their conspiratorial hormones have nothing to do with whether or not someone can do her/his job well.  Yet, apparently there does exist, still, a sentiment in America, that women’s place at a race track is as arm candy.  Dressed prettily, tottering on high heels.  Clutching to the arm of a powerful man.

Funny, how all the men who’ve ever had the nerve to tell me that I “should” look like Cindy Crawford–look like Danny DeVito.  So it may well be that the majority of those males who harp that females don’t belong in the announcer’s box, but on a caketop, instead–indeed are trolls, living in their Mommies’ basements.

But what if the misguided, culturally-ignorant, chauvinistic shooting-off-of-mouths isn’t strictly the domain of social lepers who drag their knuckles on their way to the voucher machines?

What if, let’s posit here…what if those ignorant views of women’s roles in American racing are shared by–say it ain’t SO, Maude!–by well-heeled, impeccably-dressed and -mannered gentlemen who hold the majority of seats on horse racing Boards?  By those who have the money, the power–and The Right Gender?

Say it ain’t so, I repeat:  might it be that Tarzan’s oafish opinions of females in racing are shared by old, White men who hold power in the sport?

This may very well be the case, Buckos, because let’s face it:  Insider Trading and his league hold no sway.  They don’t get to hire and fire.  They don’t bring Board members into their respective folds.

They don’t plan the misogynistic bikini contests in the infield every Preakness Day.

No, the buffoons like Insider Trading have no authority, to make any decisions that actually affect womyn in our quest for full equality in American Thoroughbred racing.  Buffoons like Insider Trading have no power, in their own lives–or they wouldn’t be so worried about MY power, or yours.

But they ARE a reflection of the Status Quo.  The boyz in the Hugo Boss suits in the mahogany Board rooms know enough, not to shoot off their mouths if they’re misogynists.  

Get off my case:  I did not, at any time in this article, state that ALL old, White men in expensive suits who sit in positions of power in the sport are sexist. I didn’t suggest that, not for a single moment.

But I am stating, strongly, that the big mouths of The Poor and Powerless, like Insider Trading, is the fuel that continues to stoke archaic, outmoded concepts of females in American Thoroughbred racing–and that which allows for no change in that Status Quo.  No actual, upward movement for womyn, whatsoever, as long as the few who are misogynists in the ivory towers can outvote their colleagues who are egalitarian-minded.

Without the support of little guys like Insiderthe big guys who DO agree with him would have no foundation on which to base their blatant exclusion of women in horse racing Board rooms; announcer’s boxes and Presidential suites.

 I thought that stupidity and blatant hatred of womyn on THIS level was on the wane.  Apparently, horse racing really IS one of the last places in society where those who hold outright hateful views of females can always find, well, an idiot who agrees. 

So  apparently, the battle is not done, still we wage on.  Until females in the announcer’s box are accepted as being a Non-Thing–until American racing Board rooms are populated by 51% females–American horse racing will continue to be a hostile environment for womyn like Victoria Shaw.  And me.  And you, if you have dreams for wild success in this sport.

So, thanks for the wake-up, slap upside the gourd, Insider Trading:  you certainly did not intend to, but you did us all a favor.

You can dress up a pig and slap lipstick on him, but he’s still a pig.  In drag.