This is what I know about the Kentucky Derby. It’s a horse race that happens in Kentucky. Women attending the race wear ridiculous hats. Now I know that a filly named Eight Belles ran the race today, finished second, collapsed, and was euthanized on the track. The female horse was an unlikely contender running against 19 strong males, and yet she finished and finished well.
At the end of the race, she collapsed breaking both ankles on her front legs. Horses have difficulty recovering from leg injuries, despite what the movie Seabiscuit tells you, so she was put down. Just like that (full story).
As a woman, there’s a lot to be said for a filly running in a historically stallion race–is she strong enough? Does she have what it takes to be competitive? Will the other horses sexually harass her? (Oh, wait, that’s corporate America, my bad!) Her owners wanted to make history since a only a handful of fillies have taken first before (and female horses are largely underrepresented in the Kentucky Derby). Was she weaker than her competitors? Was she run too hard? Just what went wrong to make a perfectly healthy horse, the runner-up, take a tragic fall leading to her eventual death?
No one knows…yet.
But that’s not what interests me. What interests me in Eight Belles’ story is the fact she ran at all. As a woman, I love that filly taking on the stallions. I’m sure many women agree. It wasn’t just Eight Belles out there on the track–it was a representative of the female race trying to break the traditions of the old boys club. It was all of us on that track running against all the strong guys that told us we couldn’t because we’re girls.
The men who told us that we couldn’t use power tools.
The guys who laughed at us when we told them we wanted them to talk to our faces, not our chests.
The boys who threw dirt in our faces and told us we cried like girls.
The old men who muttered disgusting innuendos under their breath.
The males who told us we couldn’t do something simply because we are women.
That’s who we–Eight Belles–ran against today. Even though she didn’t “win” and she ended up wounded from the fight, she is still our champion. Because for women it’s not about winning and it’s not about how you play the game, it’s about showing up and running the race. It’s about starting and finishing. It’s about running with the boys and making it to the end, even if it costs everything. That’s how hard we fight just to finish, like an epic heroine or a equine athlete. Thank you, Eight Belles, for running in the Kentucky Derby and reminding us what it means to be a woman (or a filly)!