‘A good girl is worth their weight in gold’: Gender relations in British horseracing
journal contributionposted on 16.04.2020, 14:52 by John Williams, Gavin Hall
The culture of horseracing is rather under researched by social scientists. It may seem a highly progressive site for gender equality in sport because, unusually, men and women compete directly against each other as owners, trainers and jockeys. But gender inequalities are deeply rooted and persistent in British racing. Our interview-based study suggests that ingrained patterns of sexism, chauvinism and paternalism reproduce patriarchal assumptions among both males and females in racing which act as key barriers, especially for ambitious female jockeys. Conventional ideas about women’s embodiment and their intuitively caring and ‘loving’ nature towards horses may open up prospects for females as junior stable staff, but they also dialectically reduce opportunities elsewhere. Obstacles to advancement on merit mean that family connections and influential networks shape female prospects in racing rather more than is the case for men. New equality strategies pursued from within British racing are welcome, but they are unlikely to challenge existing structures and ideologies or challenge core gender inequalities.