Sexism & Horse Racing: The Preakness

RAI’m watching the pre-race coverage of the Preakness horse race right now on NBC. I’ve been following the media coverage of this race all week. Drama and debate rage on “should fillies race with stallions” due to the recent success of filly Rachel Alexandra. What strikes me, is that nearly the same arguments arise when female athletes compete or encroach upon male sport…wait…I’m sorry horses are athletes (just look at ESPN’s Top 100 athletes of the century…where there are almost as many horses as female athletes).

Some, including RA’s former owner Harold McCormick, stated that “fillies should race with fillies, and stallions with stallions”. RA’s new owner Jess Jackson said today on NBC that “Champions should race with champions….the best should race against each other…and it isn’t a matter of female or male, she is a good horse.” Sport sociologists have pointed out that separating male and female athletes is arbitrary and serves to reinforce a gender binary that perpetuates male superiority, because if females are not allowed to compete with males, females can never beat males.

RA is bigger and weighs more than Mine That Bird who won the Kentucky Derby, but everyone is talking about how she is “at more risk for injury” (which is another reason why it is argued females should not compete with males, they are fragile and more susceptible for injury). But no commentators are saying that Mine That Bird should not race because he is smaller and weighs less.

Her new trainer just said that “she is a classy filly” and they have just been trying to keep her happy. Classy and happy? Would we say that about a male horse? (maybe we do, I don’t know horse racing well).

One commentator just said RA is a “man running against boys….she’s a freak!” and a former jockey commentator called her “a super filly” (when female athletes are really good and start beating males, they are often called “men” or labeled lesbian. Females are in essence regendered or classified as super-normal, to explain why they excel in sports). Only a “super” filly can beat a male horse! Well let’s see what happens!……

UPDATE: RACHEL ALEXANDRA WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE FIRST FILLY TO WIN THE PREAKNESS SINCE 1924 and the first horse to win it from the #13 position! Perhaps she IS a super filly. Her jockey Calvin Borel just said, “She is the best horse he’s ever ridden”. (he didn’t say best female horse…best horse). We can only hope the post-race coverage is less sexist and echos that of Borel…she is a great horse. Period.

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