Sometimes you forget. You forget that things that YOU have accepted as non eventful outside of any normal context still have very powerful symbolic meaning above normal context for other people in other places. I kind of stumbled into that realization this Sunday.
Women racing in IndyCar has become dare I say commonplace? From Janet Guthrie to Sarah Fisher to Danica Patrick, many “Firsts” for women in IndyCar racing have been achieved. Only a 500 victory and Series Championships remain to be attained. Certainly there is work to be done, but with what has been accomplished by women in the IICS and the feeder series to it (race wins by Legge, Beatriz, DeSilverstro and Mann) women in our sport in our context has become common place and accepted. Gender is no more a differentiating factor than nationality or even hair color.
Ana Beatriz otherwise known by her birth name Bia Figueirido in Brazil won the second race of Felipe Massa’s “Star Challenge” celebrity Karting event this Sunday. This event has a big time guest list, Barichello, Massa, Meira, Kanaan, and Castroneves…Just to name a FEW.
The IndyCar blogosphere was happy to see Bia win and began twittering congratulations to her. Never being the one to do something simply – I decided to send my recognition of the accomplishment by referencing something that happened in IndyCar several years ago. A young Sarah Fisher had just passed Elisio Salazar for track position and his team owner, AJ Foyt, was heard screaming into the Radio “You just got passed by a GIRL”.
IndyCar fans laugh about this story now in the same way we laugh about the “We got screwed!” quote from Doug Boles. My Comment/congratulations to Bia referenced the AJ Foyt comment with the hope of being humorous “Attention @tonykanaan @vitormeira18 @Rubarrichello and massa, you all got beat by a GIRL!!! @biaracing”.
What didn’t occur to me was that while I am quite used to women in Nomex, significant portions of the rest of the racing world aren’t yet. What Bia is doing in Brazil, Simona and Pippa are doing relative to Europe really is the equivalent of what Janet Guthrie and Lynn St James accomplished in IndyCar all those years ago. When there are barriers like that being broken, there are people who do not want to see them broken. I got tweet backs from people who must have assumed I was in that backwards thinking community.
Rest assured I am not. I am simply a little forgetful of the challenges that women in this sport, who come from different backgrounds, still face. The main feeder series for F1, GP2 and GP3, have yet to feature female drivers. Even closer to home, as used to seeing women participate and win in IndyCar, NHRA and USAC as we are, the gender barrier has yet to been effectively breached in nascar's Cup level.
Anyway Congratulations BIA! I hope this victory brings you a step closer to a FULL season in the IndyCar series next year. You have earned and deserve it.
As for the rest of us, when you see Simona, Bia and Pippa whizzing by at the 500 next year, remember, You are witnessing barriers being broken and history being made. It may not be your history but it is for them.