Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"I want to say to everyone... women can do anything and we can beat the world."

Michelle Payne, winner of this year's Melbourne Cup, is not only the first woman ever to win the race, but only the fourth woman to ever compete in it since it began in 1861. Imagine how many would have won before - on those odds - if allowed to take part in the race and given equal opportunities for training and competition as men.

Women in Australia weren't allowed to compete in the Melbourne Cup or any other race with men until 1979 - 1977 in New Zealand, where the first female Melbourne Cup jockey (1987) came from. The first Australian woman to enter the race was not until 2003, suggesting that support for these rare women was not all it needed to be in that country. Indeed Payne confirmed this in her gutsy acceptance speech in which she described racing as a "chauvinistic sport" and told those men involved who make it difficult for women to "get stuffed''.

Tellingly, and amusingly, there was a woman jockey who fooled the authorities way back in the 1850-80s by competing in all the men-only races as a man. Her name was "Bill" (Wilhemena) Smith and she was pretty successful, no one discovering her sex until she died.

So yes, Michelle, women can beat (fool and save) the world from itself if given half the chance. We only need half the chance that men have had all these years of claiming they are better and brighter than us, whilst making sure that women were not allowed to prove them wrong by excluding us from competing on an equal footing with them and in the process creating a cheating, macho, bullying world that is far from bright for women, children, and those men who are disinclined to cheat, the only men worth having.

So cheers to you, Michelle, you have confirmed for our country and for the world at large that women are more than the equal of men. And better you than me, for I am allergic to horses, as I found out the hard way. But my grandmother was a keen horsewoman who regularly rode her horse through the waves of Bondi - side-saddle - which can't have been easy. She was also tiny and feisty (like you), qualities that might have made her a champion jockey too had the world woken up sooner. Of course, I would likely not have been born if that had been the case, but still, you can't have everything.

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