This weekend, the FIA is learning that no good deed goes unpunished. On Friday, it cracked opened a fat can of worms by announcing Carmen Jorda as the voice for women in motorsport.
Ignoring the fact that the century old organisation only got round to thinking about equality in 2009, have they chosen the right spokesperson almost a decade later? They’ve ticked a few boxes in their choice. Carmen Jorda does indeed race cars and has ambitions to race in an F1 championship. However, they’ve fallen into the trap of appointing someone who looks good in lingerie but not on their timesheet. Jorda was also quoted in 2015 as saying that women have a “natural disadvantage” to men when asked whether a separate championship for women for F1 would help women’s lot in motorsport (reading between the lines, yes). Oh dear.
Maybe it’s something in the news cycle, but a similar fuck up happened exactly a year ago when the UN announced Wonder Woman as the embodiment of female awesomeness and future ambassador for equality for women. It went down like a cup of cold sperm. After a silent petition by UN staff and a much louder retaliation from the world’s media, the scantily clad fictional cartoon character was removed while the UN looked for a real ambassador. But who on earth would you choose? More importantly, who would I choose?
Much like trying to find one person of an ethnic minority to represent all ethnic minorities, one person to be the patron saint of all miracles or one candy bar to represent all confectionary - the exercise is pointless. In many ways, a fictional character to represent all women fairly is probably the best way because it’s make believe that one woman can represent all. Come to think of it, I think that's what feminism is all about - 50% of the population getting sick of being forced to be all things to everyone.
Let’s look at Carmen Jorda again and reassess. Why not Susie Wolff? As a former development driver for Williams Formula One and founder of Dare to be Different, an organisation that encourages young girls into go-karting with the aim of fostering the next generation of female F1 drivers - Susie fits the bill quite nicely. She also thinks that the female only F1 championship is a load of bull as she knows full well that women can compete on track with the boys, unlike Jorda. Fine. But hang on a minute.
According to Wolff, the emphasis for getting women into F1 right now isn’t by focusing on women who are currently racing, but on prepubescent girls, ripe for moulding and training into the ultimate racing goddesses of F1. That solution rather pisses on current drivers, such as Beitske Visser (22, BMW junior driver programme) and Simona de Silvestro (29, Nissan Motorsport in the Australian Supercars Championship and first female driver to score point in Formula E with a 9th place finish). It doesn’t bring much hope for me either, beginning in historic motorsports at the grand old age of 29. At least with Jorda, we know that she’s trying to do something she doesn’t quite believe she can do. If she legitimately feels that women can’t compete with men on the grid in an F1 race then she’s really stretching herself. That’s the kind of I’m-going-to-do-it-anyway-just-to-see-what-happens attitude I want representing me.
Jorda's been quoted several times as saying that a female only championship is the only way to get women competing at an F1 standard. This shows a solid understanding of how business works. If you can't beat them - go over there and do your thing. I believe that Jorda's sentiments are being twisted: of course she knows that women can be as fast as men on the track. We've got empirical data to support that. We've also got evidence to show that men outcompete women in terms of pay and access to opportunities. Jorda's point is that a women's only championship removes all of the political bullshit that men bring with them. She doesn't care who she's on track with - she just wants to drive the cars really fast around a track. And that I can sympathise with.
At the end of the day, the FIA's gimmicky plot to show that they care won’t damage women’s reputation in motorsport. Not to industry insiders anyway. The only person it will damage will be Carmen Jorda. Why? Because we're not listening to her properly - because she's a women.
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Click here for the FIA's site for Commission for Women in Motorsport