Danica Patrick made her Daytona 500 debut on Monday, wrapping up a disappointingly crash-filled week with a wreck in the second lap that had her–after 62 laps’ worth of repairs–finishing 38th after starting at 29. While certainly not one of the top drivers on the NASCAR circuit, she’s at least a solid average, and improving as she becomes more accustomed to stock cars after years on the Indy circuit. Patrick was the third woman ever to start the Daytona 500 (after total badass Janet Guthrie and Shawna Robinson)
But more important, she’s a “pretty girl,” “sexy and she knows it,” and a b… something. A b-something, says Fox5 San Diego sports anchor Ross Shimabuku, who for some reason thought it was perfectly acceptable to pretty much call a woman a bitch on the air.
ROSS SHIMABUKU. All right, Danica Patrick is a… pretty girl, and she makes lots of money in sponsorships because of it. But what’s not attractive is that she’s sexy and she knows it.
DANICA PATRICK (in clip). I don’t quite understand why when you’re referring to a girl, a female athlete in particular, that you have to use the word “sexy.” Is there any other word that you can use to describe me?
SHIMABUKU. Oh, I got a few words. Starts with a B. And it’s not “beautiful.” Danica will be making her Spring Cup debut this Sunday, the Daytona 500, a race that you can see right here on Fox5 as Patrick will be making her transition from IndyCar to NASCAR. She always has a chip on her shoulder, trying to prove something, but…
KATHLEEN BADE. Well, she’s a woman trying to break in in a man’s world. That cannot be easy. Being a pioneer is never easy.
SHIMABUKU. She has to have that edge, which is good for her, and so hopefully–Jimmie Johnson actually gotta get back on track, too, because he had his five cup–Spring Cup championship streak slapped. Plus, he got caught for cheating this weekend. A little part of his car was altered. So his crew chief, Chad Knaus, probably will be getting a suspension.
LOREN NANCARROW. Hey, back to Danica Patrick for a second. If she’s trying to lose the sexy image, the GoDaddy commercials don’t exactly further that cause.
SHIMABUKU. [laughing] What she says and what she does, two totally different things.
Right off the top: I wish I could defend all those GoDaddy ads, because I like Danica Patrick, but I can’t. They’re objectifying and creatively lazy, and I wish she wasn’t in them. I wish she had a sponsor who didn’t explicitly include nekkidness at the top of their marketing strategy. I also wish I had a pony.
I have no idea why Ross Shimabuku chose that particular clip to include on the show that night; I guess he saw it and found it mockable and wanted to proudly flaunt his douchebaggery. But here’s another quote on the subject from that same press conference:
It’s like if there is a pretty girl, they don’t know how to describe a pretty girl other than being sexy, and it has such a negative connotation to it. You don’t say those kinds of things to frame it like that for a guy, or even sometimes talk about it. But it seems like with female athletes if they are pretty, they only know how to describe them in a sexual way. I don’t care, but I just wonder why we can’t talk about it in a different way. Why can’t there be other words for it? Why does it have to be somewhat negatively twisted?
It’s a perfectly reasonable comment and one that she’s generalizing to all female athletes, whether they choose to wear GoDaddy catsuits or not. But God forbid she should call into question sports media’s sexist coverage of female athletes–that makes her a bitch. (Or a b-something.) In the context of her GoDaddy ads, yes, she’s presented as sexy, in a leather suit and a big Breck Girl blowout. In the context of her races, she’s in neck-to-toes Nomex and a ponytail. Now, this isn’t to say that no one would see that as sexy, but it’s incidental to her job as an athlete, just as Serena Williams’s miniskirt is about tennis rather than sex appeal.
This year, Patrick’s usual sexy Super Bowl ad was accompanied by an equally (if not more) sexy ad featuring David Beckham, David Beckham’s tattoos, and not much else. Conventional wisdom is that he’s a handsome man, and he’s certainly referred to that way–in the gossip press. ESPN manages to cover him without calling him a sexpot or a stud. In that vein, when Patrick is wearing stilettos and painting logos on a naked woman, mentioning her sexiness would be understandable–and when she’s walking out to her car, unless you’re also going to comment on how perky Juan Pablo Montoya’s butt looks in that fire suit (answer: very), commenting on her appearance would be out of place.
But because she wants to be taken seriously on the track–regardless of how she’s perceived off the track–she’s just a pretty girl and sexy (and she knows it) and a bitch. And she has a chip on her shoulder and feels like she has something to prove. Golly, wonder why?
(If you’re in the mood, the Bleacher Report has a cursory overview of some of the women in auto racing who aren’t Danica Patrick.)