The Indy Racing League’s new rookie phenomenon, Danica Patrick, is breaking ground–and not just with her performance on the race track. Last month, Patrick finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500, the best finish by a woman in the history of the nearly century-old race. Her response to sexist remarks made by Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone, during a “congratulatory” phone call, deserves equally enthusiast applause.
When talking to Patrick, Ecclestone remarked that “women should be all dressed in white like all other domestic appliances.” He also repeated this bizarre sentiment in an interview. This wasn’t the first time Ecclestone has made offensive remarks. According to an Associated Press story written about the phone call, in 2000 Ecclestone told Autosport Racing magazine that for a woman to compete in Formula One, “she would have to be a woman who was blowing away the boys. … What I would really like to see happen is to find the right girl, perhaps a black girl with super looks, preferably Jewish or Muslim, who speaks Spanish.”
Patrick’s reaction to the weird, sexist comments? She shrugged them off: “I was a bit confused. …So I don’t really know what to think about it. I don’t know if he was talking about someone else or the majority or what, I’m not really sure. Or, maybe that’s his real feeling. If that’s the case, then you know, [it] doesn’t really matter because I’m racing in the Indy Racing League.”
It’s a refreshing change from the overreaction we have come to expect when someone is confronted with offensive behavior. Patrick could have called for Ecclestone’s resignation or fueled a media frenzy to investigate the “boys club” of auto racing. She could have demanded that Formula One create a nonprofit seeking to achieve greater gender balance in auto racing.
But she didn’t. She’s in the Indy Racing League, after all. Some jerk’s remarks are small potatoes.
Compare that reaction to the hysteria surrounding Harvard President Larry Summers’s comments about gender at an academic conference earlier this year. When Summers dared to suggest that it was worth exploring how innate differences between the genders contribute to the dearth of women in the upper echelons of science–a legitimate line of inquiry–female professors and their radical feminist sisters went berserk. They weren’t just offended, they were personally distraught. One wilting violet described nearly fainting after hearing Summers’s offensive words.
The Harvard controversy fueled weeks of media coverage and lead to numerous meetings on campus to determine how Harvard should punish its offending president. Ultimately, the faculty censured Summers with a vote of “no confidence.” The besieged president must have realized that endless apologizes weren’t going to satisfy Harvard’s gender warriors so he offered $50 million for initiatives to encourage “diversity” within the faculty.
What progress for the women! Feminists were able to once again claim victim status and get money toward their continuing indoctrination project: teaching young women how to employ similar tactics to successfully “make it” in a man’s world.
Danica Patrick’s achievements are an actual example of progress. It’s not just her skill on the race track that makes her worth celebrating, but her willingness to see beyond her gender. It’s a good road to be driving on.
–Carrie Lukas is the director of policy at the Independent Women’s Forum.