Msnowe's Blog

who(r)se power?

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on May 18, 2009
Can a "princess" have real "power"?

Can a "princess" have real "power"? Wonder what the "secret of the sword" is...

Despite your feelings on horse racing* most people and the news media pick up on the major three races of the year. Usually, the racing industry and the larger media outlets try to add some sort of positive intrigue to the race–every year there is some new and exciting aspect of it all (potential triple crown winner, rags to riches owner story, etc.). That’s fine, they’re looking for publicity, kind of like we’re all looking for traffic and interest in our own pursuits (i.e. this blog, mayhaps?). But once that publicity whoring reaches the level of sensationalizing to the point of sexism, well, m.snowe takes it to task.

Of course, we’re referring to stories like this. “Girl power: Rachel Alexandra takes on critics and foes at Preakness”… Really, Sports Illustrated? m.snowe has no problem with you reporting something in the vein of “hey, a filly won–that’s cool.” But there is something decidedly patronizing about overexposing this underdog (or more accurately “underbitch”) story. Instead of commenting on the abilities of this one, singular horse, the racing industry and media have decided to make this a victory for all fillies (female horses), and praise it as this fluke event…and by extension, all ladies should be proud!

Fact: Yes, fillies do not usually win triple crown races.

Another Fact: more male horses are bred for racing, and the assumption has always been that they outperform fillies.

Disclosure: m.snowe is not an equine expert, and doesn’t know about the difference in abilities between male and female horses (but that’s beside the point).

Somehow, this lady-horse has managed one of the wreaths in the triple crown circuit, and m.snowe is supposed to swell with delight because one of her sex has actually beat a field of colts down the stretch? Right. m.snowe’s other “beef” with this mode of reportage is the rhetoric of “girl power.” There is nothing more representative of a lack of power than when men (predominantly, anyways) decide to call a grown-woman’s achievement a show of “girl power.” Okay, okay, so this horse is only 3 years old–but that’s adulthood in racing. And this isn’t the first time this has been used to outwardly praise female “ballsiness,” (and m.snowe also clearly sees the irony in that word too) while simultaneously asserting power above and beyond. Full grown women have even used this term to their advantage. There are hierarchies of power, and it can be assumed that “girl power” is trumped by “male” or “manly” power, or even just “power” by itself… funny how there’s no equivalent saying “boy power”… isn’t it?

Also, to make the whole hierarchy of power trope more transparent–here’s what m.snowe is talking about. “Princess” implies daughter of a king. The princess title taken alone means nothing, and there is no real power except associated by marriage. Sigh. When achievement by a single person, or in this case a single animal, is made into an entire group’s victory, it becomes fraught with problems. No longer can you be happy for that singular achievement, because in celebrating, you are also celebrating a cause. But the very fact that you are celebrating this unusual event is a recognition that parity is far from being achieved for the cause. How are we supposed to feel? we have to reconcile our excitement, and yet still be angered that we cannot look in the mirror and see only winners, and not “female winners”–as if that was a different class of winning (and most likely viewed as a lesser one?). Being a standout, come-from-behind winner (an underbitch) has it’s advantageous (i.e. the media whoopla), but the detriment is far too much to be ignored…

Sadly, once this lady horse has been feasted upon by the media frenzy and maybe earns a few more bucks for her owners, she’ll probably head to pasture to breed with some stallions. She will probably earn her owners similar coin by making super-fast racing horses for future races. Rode hard and put away wet.

*m.snowe thinks it’s kinda inhumane, to put it lightly… but inhumane implies that there is something inherent in humans that makes them compassionate and merciful most of the time–we’ll believe that when we see it!

2 Responses

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  1. Mares Rule! said, on May 18, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    I had been ranting to myself about the media coverage of Rachel Alexandra all weekend for these very reasons. The whole fact of there being a “girls'” version of the Kentucky Derby (the Kentucky Oaks) to me stems from the inherent sexism built into the entire horse racing industry (which also fascinates me, given that the horse world outside of racing is female-dominated). This is allegedly for the fillies’ own good: they would get hurt running with the boys. The fact of the matter is that the boys seem to get hurt for plenty of reasons other than the fact that they are running with other male horses — racing is dangerous for colts and fillies, and the way we humans treat race horses does them no good. The assumption is that female horses — like human women — aren’t up to serious competition. Look around the rest of the equine sporting world and this assumption is belied: there are mares competing at the top levels of grand prix jumping, dressage, etc. Like human athletes, only certain horses have that competitive fire to excel at the top of their sports, and that fire does not come from being male or female.

    By the by, just for more education on mares in general, in horse society, it is the dominant mare who makes all the key decisions for the herd (where and when to eat, when to run), helps discipline young horses and teach them to be good members of the herd. The stallion is there for protection and breeding, period. Get to know a mare and you will see strong, loyal, loving, and, yes, fiercely determined personality (sound like any human women you know?). There is a reason why the Arabs used mares as their war horses back in the days of the rise of Islam, and why they say “her back is a seat of honor.”

    (Also FYI, another saying attributed to Mohammed is ‘He who loves his mare and treats her kindly shall have God’s bounty, and he who ill-treats his mare shall be cursed by God.’ Just a heads-up to Jess Jackson (Rachel Alexandra’s owner)… 🙂 )

  2. msnowe said, on May 18, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Wow, thanks Sam! I never knew all that about mares being the dominant sex, and I completely agree with you re: competitive fire and inherent sexism in racing (and just about every other sport!).

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