May 16, 2008
There’s much in the news these days about presidential politics, specifically about a race between a black man and a white woman. The media has exhausted television air time with discussions of race, less so of sex and gender.
It’s fitting to start my feminist blog in a time when it appears as though the woman’s movement is hibernating – at least, I hope it’s asleep and not dead. The post-feminists are having their day, I guess.
So let’s not talk politics then. Let’s talk about horseracing.
“Whoa!” “Wait a minute,” you say. “Horseracing IS political.”
True, true. I do not dispute. Whenever there is at stake a modicum of power, money or sex, politics come into play. Somebody is in charge, making the rules, and others who are not want the power to change those rules.
Even the person who bids $2 on a horse to place third falls victim to the political machinations that go on behind the scenes.
The horses themselves have been politically manipulated, victims of unscrupulous breeders who forget the laws of physics that would foresee the collapse of 1200 pounds on four skinny legs. The trainers race them too young, some say. Other critics of thoroughbred racing question the appropriateness of dirt track surfaces. (Apparently, synthetic tracks are softer.)
Whatever the cause, on May 3 at the Kentucky Derby, three-year-old filly Eight Belles fell to the ground having fractured both of her front ankles at the conclusion of the race. She was euthanized on the track.
Note the pronoun: “she.” All the while, her creators and sponsors schemed to use the horse for profit, another factor presented itself: she was a girl in a boy’s world.
Analysts say it’s rare to see a girl run in the boy races. Their femininity (i.e. “passivity” or “physical weakness” or whatever else is the en vogue gender debasement) often makes them unsuitable for tough racing.
But after listening to all of the political commentary on the (horse)race, it’s refreshing to hear what an average Joe thinks of this brave girl: “She was one of the best fillies around,” said James Clemons, 58, a machine operator, according to Joe Drape and his May 4 article in The New York Times. “She showed she could run with the boys.”
The machinist choked up. The idea was just too tragic to believe: 1200 pounds of beautiful horse, lying by the trackside, dead…never to run again.
“She went out in glory,” said her trainer Larry Jones of her second place victory, according to the same article. “She went out a champion to us.”
Take a lesson from the life of a lowly female racehorse: she could run with the boys and she could beat ‘em.
Now we turn from politics in sports back to the Democratic politics of the moment. It’s almost time to have a vote in the final five remaining states – or 10 percent – between frontrunner Barack Obama and prematurely eulogized Hillary Clinton. The finish line is close but the race is not over.
Still, political analysts question the validity of Clinton’s campaign. If she can’t win, then why is she running?
Though the glimmer of hope for a win is fading, it has not expired, and the political racehorse keeps running. With a recent slaughter in West Virginia and an overall close number both in votes and delegates, Clinton will finish a champion – like Eight Belles – whether she is the Democratic nominee or not. It’s old-fashioned to keep a promise to fight when the odds are against you. And afterall, Obama is winning on a political platform of “change.”
Her campaign has fallen and picked itself up many times. Even while struggling to raise funds and win undecided voters, she can still pull a win in a state where, like everywhere else, people do watch television. With critics dismissing Clinton and calling her chances slim to none, voters still came out and cast their ballots for the person they think should be President.
Obama, on the other hand, looks worn and tired. His rallies have lost a bit of their fanatical spark. Will he be strong enough to carry the Democratic Party over the White House threshold in November?
He will if he can muster the stamina that Clinton has shown. He will if he can tough it out with, dare I say “feminine,” strength and tenacity.
The question to be answered has thus become: can Barack Obama run like a girl?