Sunday, February 05, 2017

Another bad idea

I suppose that we ought to touch upon the French plan to give female jockeys a 2kg allowance for being a member of the inferior sex.  (This will be in addition to any allowances claimed for inexperience, up to a maximum claim of 4.5kg).  This really is too silly for words, but we might just run through it, lest there be any misunderstanding.  And misunderstanding there seems to have been, as we know because we keep seeing people say things along the lines of, "A bonus 2kg claim - what's not to like?" or words to that effect.  Well, there's plenty not to like.  (And I should add that I will be talking about Britain; and I do acknowledge that the situation is different in France as female jockeys have made very few inroads there, which is strange as, when one watches French racing, it is easy to conclude that one doesn't have to be very good at either riding or race-riding to be successful there).

Basically, females have been facing a battle against chauvinist prejudice throughout history.  All societies and all religions have been based to a greater or lesser extent on sexual discrimination.  Happily, it is a battle which, in Britain anyway, the fairer sex, as one might say, has been winning.  Just in my lifetime society has changed so much in this respect.  When I was born there were no female vicars, no female bishops, no female trainers, no female jockeys, no female fighting troops ...  All that has changed.  Just within our own little racing world, we're within sight of female trainers and female jockeys being on an even footing with their male counterparts.  In fact, I think that female trainers are already there.

If the BHA introduced a similar allowance, all this progress towards equality, certainly as regards female jockeys and apprentices are concerned, would be blown out of the water.  There would be official validation of the (mistaken) prejudice that female riders aren't as good.  (And if you are still one of the benighted minority/majority - delete as applicable - who believe that they aren't as good, then watch Josephine Gordon riding on the Flat or Lucy Alexander riding over jumps; go to any three-day event; go to New Zealand; or just log on to Youtube and watch Prince of Penzance's Melbourne Cup, or go to the ATR website and watch the replay of this afternoon's Grand National Trial at Punchestown.)  Of course the female riders would not refuse to claim the allowance, but they would do so knowing that their cause was being hugely set back, and arguably forever; that the battle to prove that they are as good as males, which was within sight of being won, had been lost.

If the allowance were brought in and then repealed, it would be worse than if it had never been brought in, because all that would have happened would have been that we had ended up where we had begun, but with the exception that we'd all have had it drummed into us that female riders aren't as good.  And what this allowance would mean (and will mean in France) is that it virtually guarantees that the one breakthrough which really still needs to be made (ie female jockeys picking up rides in Group or Listed races) will never happen, as the allowance would/will not be claimable in such races, so the female jockeys would be in the same boat as claiming apprentices as regards races in which allowances cannot be claimed, ie people would view it as the horse putting up overweight if they were booked for the ride.

Anyway, enough of that.  We'll be going to Wolverhampton tomorrow with Hymn For The Dudes (whose rear end can be seen in this paragraph, yesterday, through So Much Water's ears).  I'd like to think that he might prove to have come on a bit for his resumption there 14 days previously; if so, he ought to run well.  He won't have a female rider on board (Adam Kirby will ride) but I hope that we'll be using one later in the week.  Kilim is entered at Lingfield on Thursday in a race slightly longer than the one which she contested eight days ago.  If she gets into the race (which isn't certain) and if Josephine is available (which isn't certain) then she'll ride her.  I hope that she does - in fact, I'd almost say that I'd want her on board even if she came with a 2kg penalty, rather than this hopefully-never-happening 2kg allowance.

Oh yes, going back to the gender-based riding allowance, is it legal?  It's hard to see that it is.  Bringing in a rule which means that male jockeys are disadvantaged, as far as getting rides goes, against their female counterparts simply on account of their gender is surely sexual discrimination, and I would imagine that there has to be a law which prevents that.  Even if it doesn't break any British laws, it surely breaks an EC sexual equality law; and we (unlike the French) tend to obey those.  For now anyway, but obviously that's going to change at some point in the future if the current Brexit impasse is ever resolved.


neil kearns said...

cant disagree with the sentiment and the reasoning in here but I can also see the other side of the coin as you correctly say there is a definite prejudice against female riders in France (although I think your comment about French race riding is way way off the mark - but that is for another day) I agree that bringing in an allowance here would just reinforce this sort of prejudice and that it is totally unnecessary .
However if one is honest it is only down the efforts of a few very skilled and hard working female jockeys that this prejudice which was undoubtedly here has been overcome and now the ladies are playing on a relatively level playing field particularly on the flat - a trail blazer is still required in Britain over the jumps most of the stars have been Irish based (and yes Katy Walsh's ride on Baie des Isles was out of the absolute top drawer and if anyone could tell me Rachel Blackmore didn't look every inch a jockey in defeat on Sutton Manor then I would say that the prejudice is still there )
But if one turns the clock back say twenty years then putting this sort of allowance in place vitally only for a limited period of time may have brought about quicker change which could only have been a good thing and as such maybe the French authorities have taken a decision which ultimately may benefit their racing and as such perhaps giving this allowance a chance over a short period of time may not be a total disaster for them

Slightly related point - being as i am getting on a bit and losing a few grey cells who was the brilliant lady jockey who you used a lot first name Lisa (I think) went to Hong Kong or somewhere - she was brilliant but didn't fully make it here because in my opinion the prejudice against females was still around at the time - and any idea how she is getting on ?

glenn.pennington said...

Was it Lisa Jones ?

neil kearns said...

yes Glenn it was - thanks , John any idea if she is still riding ?