The novelty race

Everyone’s feminism is different. Just like every person is different. Some feminists want equal rights to men, some want greater rights than men. Some are pro-porn, some are anti-porn and some don’t have a strong opinion either way. I’m a small-l liberal (as if you didn’t know that already), and that small-l-ness influences my feminism. So when I see an article about women in bikinis running at the races, I don’t immediately saddle up my hobby horse of outrage. (Outrage is a good name for a horse. I could ride it with my fingernails that shine like justice. If I was into horse riding, which I’m not. On the other hand, who doesn’t like Cake?)

So, women in a horse race: Gold Coast bikini girls at the barrier:

THE Gold Coast Turf Club will lock bikini-clad women in barrier stalls and run them down the straight, to mirror a horse race, as part of a new novelty event.

The Australian first publicity masterstroke, which some believe will take the city to a tacky low, will become an annual event at the first race meeting of the summer season.

Under the plan up to 150 women, who must wear bikinis and running shoes, will compete through a knockout system for a first prize of $5000.

Masterstroke? Is that what the male audience will be doing while watching?

I’m not a fan of the way it’s written – women being locked into stalls, and run down the straight – but language is something I’ve blogged about many times. I think we can have a different discussion about this story.

The event is the brainchild of eccentric chairman Andrew Eggleston, and has been copied from America’s famed Hollywood Park racecourse which holds a similar event with success annually.

Um, how can it be his brainchild if he’s copying it?

Turf Club chief executive Grant Sheather acknowledged some may see the event as degrading, but declared it would become an annual race to spice up and promote the summer season of racing.

”It will be done in good taste and we are trying to attract some competitive runners, we want to see the sports stars, the surf lifesaving stars, it would be ideal if they took it out.”

Gold Coast based Women In Racing group last night said they would support anything which promotes racing, but conceded there could be better ways to market the industry.

”Any publicity is good publicity, but I feel using ladies jumping out of the barriers is akin to someone jumping out of a birthday cake,” said director Jennifer Bartels.

And this is why I started this post by talking about feminism being an individual thing. I’m not outraged by this, but I do think it’s dumb, and I certainly wouldn’t be running a race in a bikini top (ouch!). And it’s not just one race – the women will have to run heats before the final, so the club gets maximum perving value out of them. But no one is being forced to enter and I’m sure many women would think it was a bit of a hoot. (Yes, I know it gets into raunch culture, and women feeling they have to objectify themselves in order to be successful, but that’s a different post.)

However, I am shirty about one thing: Sheather says he wants female athletes to compete for the $5000. This is pretty much the only way that female athletes can get attention (and therefore media coverage and funding), and it’s a major problem. I don’t see male athletes having to parade their semi-naked bodies in front of drunken spectators in order to get funding and media attention. Now that is degrading.

Mel Campbell at the Dawn Chorus has a great definition of feminism:

Here’s how I define feminism. It’s the belief that nobody should be denied dignity, respect or opportunities – personal or professional, in public or at home, as a citizen or in relationships – solely because of their gender. If you believe this, and you don’t like seeing people disrespected or disempowered because of their gender, you’re a feminist. That’s it. That’s the only rule. The only qualifier.

Most of all, feminism is not about consensus. Feminism is a personal commitment, and it’s worth pursuing even though individual feminists, and groups of feminists, may have vastly differing beliefs and engage in robust debate. Put it this way: men are not deterred from having convictions simply because not all men agree with each other.

14 responses to “The novelty race

  1. No mention of running guys in speedos, for true equality shouldn’t we be fighting for a mans right to run for the $5k

  2. I’m from a horsey background and can I just say that bare legs and leather stirrups equals an enormous amount of chaffing and pinching – jodphurs are there for a reason! This is no easy ride for the ladies and its a far cry from Liz Taylor in National Velvet!

    Please no one mention speedos or Mr rabbit will be out there parading his again!

  3. “it will be done it good taste” – um *rigggghhht*

    look, I love flashing my tits as much as anyone else out there, as is well known. But this is a bit… um, degrading. But I would probably find it icky even if they were full clothed or men. It’s just very sneakily implying that the racers are comparable to their more equine counterparts (“riding”, “chomping at the bit” oh I could go on.). I think there is something else there bothering me too, but I’m not quite sure what it is.

    As a part of my own weird little personal brand of feminism, I tend to ignore this type of thing – at the most I’ll just scoff and roll my eyes, but that’s more about me being a elitist snob than anything else. However, this story is a bit more on the nose than usual.

    • Pants, I know what you mean. When viewed in context (ie, a culture that still believes women are meat, and a woman’s worth is in her appearance – particularly her appearance in a bikini), it makes me very uncomfortable.

  4. To me it is not so very different than the official requirement for women playing beach volley ball to be dressed like porn stars. I don’t like it but if the players are happy to dress that way for the perving male audience then that is their right.

  5. Gross. And “it will be done it good taste” – no it won’t. You can’t do women as decorations in good taste. If it wasn’t for the theme parks I would never go to the Gold Coast. *My* brand of feminism is to read articles like that one and feel nauseous. Then do nothing about it except say it makes me feel sick.

  6. My brand of feminism? If no one is being forced to do it, then good on them for suckering some dude out of $5K.

    And I reserve the right to mock. Pretty much everyone involved. Cos a girl on a horse in a bikini? Eeew. So tacky. So very Gold Coast.

  7. Yeah, I find this really ick too. Not only are they scantily dressed but they are pretending to be horsies. It’s sexual and infantile at the same time. I am on the fence about the whole “it’s okay if they’re okay with it” issue.

  8. Done “in good taste”…is that code for no Fat Chicks please?
    What I WANT to happen is for all the women participating to be plus sized girls. Because let’s face it, plus sized women are beautiful and sexual and sensual too. And how many men are going to get out there and support a race like that?

    This isn’t just sexism.

    But how many buxom ladies could we find willing to degrade themselves in this manner? To put themselves out for public ridicule?

  9. Touche!
    Brilliant post Kim, I found this article so ridiculous I thought I’d ignore it and hope it goes away. Torn between what is more off-putting – the boobs-inspired tourism-sleaze-campaign or the fact that boobs were considered offensive enough to cancel it. I’m so torn!

    On a pedantic note I think there’s a minor spelling mistake in the update. “Mel Campbell at the Dawn Chorus as” – shouldn’t there be an “h” in front of “as”? Feel free to delete this, as I’m sure there are plenty of spelling mistake in this comment alone. Yup – total hypocrit! 😛

    As usual – kudos on the terrific post.

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