THE BLOG
05/05/2008 04:55 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Eight Belles' Death Not a Blow for Feminism

As a woman, and a feminist, I am appalled at my male "comedian" friends' implications that the tragic fall of Eight Belles at Saturday's Kentucky Derby is somehow indicative of a female inability to compete in sporting events, and general incompetence. In other words, women shouldn't play sports, they should just make guacamole for men who watch them on TV.

Yeah, sure, I know it's a "joke" -- but aren't all jokes rooted in some sincerity? Otherwise we wouldn't think of them. Jokes are how I get away with being a racist who loves cancer. Jokes are what allow us to say what we really think without getting castrated for it!

Because the euthanized Eight Belles was a female racehorse, it is her sex that indignant men have focused on. I'd prefer not to use the term "filly" as it is the language of the oppressor, so for our purposes, we will refer to Eight Belles as a "racewoman."

Now, I didn't watch the 2008 Derby because I was shopping online all day Saturday. Jcrew.com had 20% off and free shipping! But I digress. I didn't watch the Derby Saturday, and when I did see the replays I had to turn away because (ew!) it's yucky and terrifying! I'm sorry, but don't they know the entertainment rule? You never kill the dog or the horse. That's why I hated Braveheart so much.

What this enlightened Title IX discussion forgets, though, is that Eight Belles actually didn't fall until she had already crossed the finish line--in a close second place, assholes. So maybe this idea of "women not belonging in sports" is really rooted in insecurity that maybe we can almost be better than men at sports. Historically, marginalized peoples (aka underdogs) have dominated sporting events. Could it be that this is the white man's (aka ruling class) anxiety about getting pushed out of yet another historically "white" sport? First Tiger takes over golf, then Danica takes Indy racing, now a woman horse might ruin derby racing? We have to euthanize her! I almost wonder...if her death was even an accident at all?

Eight Belles was just starting to hit her stride; only 3 years old, she was already a four-time champion in the women's division. A big point of discussion about Saturday's race was whether Eight Belles should have opted to run instead in the all-women's race - the Kentucky Oaks, which none of you have ever heard of (the WNBA of Derby). But this speculation is only intended to scare women into reaching only as high as the all-women's league; Eight Belles had a real shot at becoming a legendary racehorse - not just among lady horses, but period (no pun intended).

Of course the real issue here is that Eight Belles is the second horse in 2 years to lose her life to injuries inflicted in the Derby. In 2006, Barbaro, a man, also suffered the same fate. So really, we all know the question is not whether women should be racing, but whether maybe women should be running this thing so we don't hurt the horses so much and watch them die. PETA wrote a plea to another scrappy racewoman, Hillary Clinton, to condemn the cruelty to Eight Belles in the sport (based on the assumption that Hillary would sympathize with a female spirit who'd do anything to beat the boys).

Had Eight Belles finished first, she would have been the fourth racewoman to take the Kentucky Derby Crown. She didn't win, but she did kick 18 other dudes' butts and ran a hell of a race. And maybe it's because I'm a girl, but to me, second place doesn't make you a loser. I still consider her race a victory. Eight Belles gave her life so that all women can live better. So that we can run with the boys, and, as Hillary Clinton knows, kill ourselves trying.

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