1. the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes
Still considered a dirty word amongst the most ignorant of us, feminism is not about men hating banshees or women making a personal protest by growing out their body hair. No, it is as defined above, all about equality... but are women seen and treated as equal yet? Not in racing.
Eve Johnson Houghton recently became the first woman to train a Group 1 winner at Royal Ascot for 25 years. She was recently interviewed by Peter Thomas of the Racing Post, and despite saying she does not think of herself 'as a feminist at all', she does concede that perhaps women don't get the same opportunities as men, saying "it would be nice to see more women getting the horses to show how good they can be. I think everyone's equal and I can't understand why it matters what sex, colour or religion you are. Everyone should be given an equal chance."
If feminism really is all about equality, then surely we should all consider ourselves to be feminists and be proud to say so?
I'm sure as women we have all experienced sexism and inequality to some degree, whether it be someone solely addressing your husband/partner whilst you stand alongside them seemingly invisible, or going up for a job and losing out to a man sometimes worse qualified. So just how difficult is it being a woman in a man's world?
It did not go unnoticed that the report of Ann's first runner and winner in a group race, Melody Of Love, was confined to a meagre sentence or two on some obscure page of our industry newspaper, while the similar story of Hugo Palmer made the front page. As leading journalist, Alistair Downs joked, 'but, your Daddy doesn't have a silver staircase!" He was, of course, kidding but there's often 'many a true word said in jest' and there's no doubt impeccable family connections and a large bank balance helps markedly.
In the June edition of Owner Breeder, Ann was disheartened to read an article titled 'Magical Moments', where a former owners Barbara and Alick Richmond opted to forgo mentioning that it was she who trained dual two-year-old winner 'Yorkshire Icon', the horse they credited with encouraging them to delve further into racehorse ownership. It would not have been so obvious that Ann's name was left out, had it not been for the numerous male name checks that featured in the rest of the article; Tom Dascombe, Michael Owen, Mark and Charlie Johnston. It must be said that they were lovely people and good owners, and it may well have been the journalist that did not mention Ann as the trainer of Yorkshire Icon. Either way, the result was the same and the exclusion was evident.
One chap who owned a horse in training with Ann, had enjoyed first time out success with a particularly tricky filly. This filly was temperamental, a thinker, and as they saying goes, 'you can tell a colt but you must ask a filly'. When talking to said owner, Ann advised that she needed to 'get into the fillies head', that her brain needed training as much, if not more so, than her body. Mr Owner scoffed and said 'what rubbish!' only to call six weeks later with an apology...having heard Willie Carson say the same thing on TV! It may have taken a man’s word to convince him, but that was not the most disappointing part. He moved the very exciting prospect to a male trainer, to a much larger yard where he felt she would do better. Unfortunately for him, she did not.
Training is a taxing game for both male and female trainers, they all work hard and we take nothing away from the male counterparts. This is not about bashing them, this is merely highlighting that, though things have changed immensely over the past 60 years, there is still a way to go before women in racing (all areas) are totally and unequivocally considered equal. As I have said before, hopefully soon we will not be calling Lucinda Russell a leading lady trainer, we won't refer to Bryony Frost and Nicola Currie as talented female jockeys, we will be commending them for being at the top of their game in their chosen field, with no mention or hint of their gender, for why should their sex matter when they can so clearly do the job?
Answers on a postcard.