Today, race car driver extraordinaire Danica Patrick has a legitimate shot to win the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s premiere event, in her GoDaddy green car. Patrick is the first woman to win the pole at Daytona, which means she’ll have the top starting spot in the race. This is a big deal.
I read an article about Patrick in yesterday’s newspaper that talked about how three of the best drivers in the game — Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson — brought their little girls to the race track to meet the female race car driver. When it comes to little girls and even big girls, Patrick is the rock star of this sport.
After reading the article, I found myself transported back to my childhood. It was 1976 and I was in the fourth grade. (This is my point of reference for anything having to do with my childhood.)
I wanted to be a boy instead of a girl.
It’s not that I was a boy trapped inside a girl’s body.
It’s that it was the middle of the 1970s and I saw my gender as one that came with roadblocks and limitations.
At the time, I wanted to grow up to be a professional baseball player or the President of the United States, I wasn’t sure which, and neither of those occupations was a possibility as long as I was a girl.
Back in the day, I was a miniature feminist. By sixth grade, I had read Betty Freidan’s feminist manifesto The Feminist Mystique multiple times. I still have the paper that I wrote about trailblazer Susan B. Anthony. I never understood why the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin never caught on. I was convinced that it would knock George Washington’s paper bill out of the currency game.
I was all about the National Organization for Women, the Equal Rights Amendment and Geraldine Ferraro.
Women belong in the House and the Senate. At the time, this sentiment was printed everywhere … on T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers and ironically aprons.
I had a Nike T-shirt that I wore thin that carried this message: Home or away, as long as we play.
And that’s the thing. I just wanted in the game. I wanted the opportunity to do anything and compete with everyone.
That’s what Danica Patrick will have the opportunity to do today.
Growing up, I found myself constantly searching for female role models. Women who could hold their own in typically male-dominated arenas. Here are some of my idols. I know that they are not necessarily the firsts in their respective fields, but they were my firsts and the role models that I glommed onto as I developed into a young woman.
- Charlie’s Angels — Female detectives who kicked ass and solved crimes without messing up their perfectly feathered hair.
- Wonder Woman — A warrior princess of the Amazons, this super superhero had mad pilot skills that allowed her to fly an invisible jet. She could nab the bad guys, too.
- Joan Jett and The Runaways — They were badass, and they rocked just like the best boy bands of the day. They were the self-proclaimed Queens of Noise. Come and get ’em boys.
- Sheila E. — Who said drums are just for guys. Sheila E. could make some serious noise, and look hot in lingerie, all at the same time. Now that was a modern woman.
- Joan Rivers — She broke into the boys’ club of comedy and dominated for years and years. Oh, and she was really funny.
- Chyna — A female wrestler in the World Wrestling Federation, Chyna, also known as the 8th Wonder of the World, was big and bad and strong and squared off against guys in the ring. Usually female wrestlers battled other women or posed as managers or girlfriends to boost backstage and ringside story lines.
- Xena — Television’s Xena was a skilled warrior princess who faced off against the dark elements found in a fantastical mythological world. She faced off against Ares, the God of War, and won. Talk about girl power.
- Jennie Finch — Arguably the greatest women’s softball player ever, Finch once struck out some of Major League Baseball’s greatest hitters such as Albert Pujols and Mike Piazza.
I’m sure Danica Patrick will find herself on similar lists compiled by young girls who have dreams to race cars and lead people and do whatever the guys do.
Certainly, things are much different today when it comes to equal rights. But there are still some remaining prejudices and hurdles.
Patrick will wipe out a few more when she races today.
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Who were some of your female heroes?