AP nominates two horses for “Female Athlete of the Year”

It’s the end of the year, aka the merry season of top ten lists. The Associated Press recently published the vote tallies for its Female Athlete of the Year, in which 158 sports editors around the country weigh in on which of these ten female athletes deserves the title.

Serena Williams 66
Zenyatta 18
Kim Clijsters 16
Lindsey Vonn 15
Diana Taurasi 14
Maya Moore 13
Rachel Alexandra 10
Bridget Sloan 3
Jiyai Shin 2
Erin Hamlin 1

We love Serena, too! One minor problem withe the award, though: Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra are horses. Was it really so hard to find ten athletes who are women? Writes Mark Goldberg,

That’s right. We live in a world in which animals are eligable to win “Female Athlete of the Year” from one of the most important global news agencies. That’s some shameful stuff. And for the record, none of the male atheltes of the year were anything but human.

Sports fans: Which other (human) female athletes should have been on the AP’s list?
On a related note, check out Anna Clark’s series on the Bitch Blog about being a feminist sports fan.

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41 Comments

  1. pinko
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    what about caster semenya? for all the shit she’s been through this year, i think it’s only right (to correct the media’s rampant speculation about her sex/gender and consequent ruining of her achievement, if not her life).

  2. blue
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Mia Hamm

  3. DeafBrownTrash
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Were they trying to be funny? What the fuck.
    Major FAIL.

  4. daveNYC
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Secretariat won Male Athlete of the Year in 1973.

  5. Toongrrl
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    This sounds like a joke, and
    it’s been getting old a LONG
    TIME AGO.

  6. Nurse_PhD
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Caster Semenya. For helping us examine gender and achievement.

  7. daveNYC
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    It’s for this year, not 2004. As far as I can tell, the only sports event she did this year was a celebrity golf tournament.

  8. dangerfield
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m not offended by this. Its happened to male horses before. Secretariat regularly finds his place on “best athletes of all time” lists…its hard to find that insulting. Horse racing is minor but still very significant sport in the US, and horses are still athletes.
    Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra’s achievements, within their sport, were monumental and extraordinary. They deserve their spots.

  9. Unequivocal
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    http://www.google.com/dictionary?aq=f&langpair=en|en&hl=en&q=athlete
    While I don’t disagree that Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra are extraordinary animals, they have no place on list of athletes, since athletes are, by definition, people.
    The inclusion of an animal in a list of “best athletes of all time” or “best male athletes” could be seen as whimsical. The inclusion of animals in a “female athlete of the year” list carries an entirely different connotation and implication.

  10. siberianlocust
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m a horse racing lover, and a feminist. And believe it or not, tons of sexism occurs in the horse racing world as well (for both horses and female jockeys). I think this is awesome personally. Zenyatta is an AMAZING horse and I’m in awe of her every time I’ve seen her.
    And yes, Secretariat won male athlete of the year in 1978.

  11. Teresa
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    So why not then include the jockey’s?

  12. Honeybee
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    This certainly seems horrible at first… but now that I know male horses have been nominated and even won before, and know more about the accomplishments of these particular horses, I don’t find this offensive.

  13. Posted December 23, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    I heard Tegan & Sara are brown belts.

  14. kandela
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Well actually it depends on which dictionary’s definition of athlete you take; some say ‘people,’ some say ‘individual,’ and a more British definition has it that an athlete is a ‘competitor’ in a track or field event.
    And the word history actually goes something like: athletes “contestant in the games,” agent noun from athlein “to contest for a prize,” which is related to athlos “a contest” and athlon “a prize.”
    But for me the defining point is that it is ‘female’ athlete of the year, not ‘woman’ athlete of the year. I’ve seen on this very forum before women take offence at simply being referred to as females rather than women (and in one case the equivalent offence for males/men) because the term females groups them in with the animals, whereas women is exclusively human.

  15. kandela
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    The jockeys aren’t as important as the horses in winning a horse race. That’s why it’s not called a jockey race.

  16. daveNYC
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure you’re familiar with the distribution of the workload between the horse and the jockey.

  17. dangerfield
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Debating the semantics of “athlete” isn’t going to be informative (right now there is controversy raging about whether or not a race car driver is an athlete, since Jimmie Johnson won the male category). As far as the media is concerned an athlete is a participant in a sporting activity, which is an acceptable definition.
    I also think that merely describing the inclusion of a horse as “whimsical” underestimates how serious some people take the sport of horse racing–it is consumed by many as a sport in the same manner that tennis or soccer are. The AP is dead serious here and believes Zenyatta and RA to be that noteworthy. (I realize I’m a little biased because I’ve written posts about gender, horse racing and Rachel Alexandra on this blog before.)
    Normally I’m fairly receptive to an argument about how treating a minority the same way as a majority can even subtly reinforce prejudices, but in this case, I don’t see it–mostly because I don’t see these selections as “whimsical”. This was the most successful year for fillies in horse racing history, and the AP is celebrating that.

  18. dangerfield
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    The answer to that is that jockeys are secondary in horse racing. Their accomplishments are generally judged apart from those of the horses, since they switch horses regularly and in a given campaign a horse may be ridden by many jockeys. The emphasis in horse racing is placed on the horse before the jockey–there is a higher threshold (especially in triple crown racing) for a jockey to be considered extrodinary than for a horse. Zenyatta and RA’s achievements are noteworthy because they were female horses beating male horses in the sport’s premier races, not because of the jockeys’ performances.
    That said I have written here about the need to increase access and recognition for female jockeys, who arguably get a raw deal in the sport (Chantal Sutherland, etc.)

  19. allegra
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    … Don’t need much more evidence that people think female athletes are some kind of joke. The AP never would have pulled this funny-funny-ha-ha crap with the men’s list – because men’s sports is VERY SERIOUS AND IMPORTANT (TM).

  20. Lisa
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Yeah… I think it’s one thing to toss a horse on a top 100 list, it’s another to place two horses on a list of ten. When you think of how little attention women’s sports receive in the media, it’s a bit insulting.

  21. Unequivocal
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Fair enough. You obviously have a greater depth of knowledge on this subject than I, and I admit that my reaction may have been more of a knee jerk than a fair consideration.

  22. nobody
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Cris Cyborg.

  23. VerrucaVulgaris
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    It’s sad that in all this bickering about the definition of athlete there has been only 1 or 2 viable suggestions of human female athletes.

  24. --bill
    Posted December 24, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I looked on Wikipedia for a list of AP Athlete of the Year . Secretariat is not listed as having won in 1978 (that was Ron Guidry) nor in 1973 (that was OJ Simpson; Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973–if he was to be called Athlete of the Year in any year, it would be 1973, not 1978). Do you have a source for Secretariat winning the AP Athlete of the Year?

  25. joy-mari.com
    Posted December 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    At first I was offended, and then I realised that the category is ‘female athlete’, not ‘woman athlete’.

  26. aleks
    Posted December 24, 2009 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    What About Teh Menz?

  27. janet3kc
    Posted December 24, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Danica Patrick!

  28. janet3kc
    Posted December 24, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Danica Patrick!

  29. pinko
    Posted December 24, 2009 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    HELL. YES. cyborg is an incredible athlete.
    a side note on sexism in MMA:
    cris santos (cyborg) totally beat the shit out of gina cerano in that highly publicized fight- cyborg is a FAR SUPERIOR athlete- yet she received ONE FIFTH of the salary of cerano ($25,000 versus $125,000), simply because cerano is “the pretty one.” that’s effed up. here’s the article:
    http://mmafrenzy.com/11305/gina-carano-tops-strikeforce-carano-vs-cyborg-fighter-salaries/

  30. kandela
    Posted December 24, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    If Michelle Moulon wasn’t the winner in 1979 (?) for being runner up in the World Rally Championship, or Yotta Kleindschmidt when she won the Paris-Dakka rally, then I don’t think Danica Patrick whould win for coming 5th in the Indy Car Championship.

  31. Devoted_Toucan
    Posted December 24, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Or for her sporting achievements?

  32. LalaReina
    Posted December 24, 2009 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Serena is great but Maya Moore led U Conn an undefeated season and she is spectacular. She would be my pick.

  33. aleks
    Posted December 25, 2009 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    Secretariat was Sports Illustrated’s Athlete OTY in 1973. Also “Secretariat, the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 25 years, was voted No. 35 among North American athletes of the 20th century by SportsCentury’s distinguished 48-person panel.*”
    *http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016467.html

  34. https://me.yahoo.com/a/9PrbPRkkzt2ec2SNH.fJ1eC0uzaskQkVxA--#759a7
    Posted December 25, 2009 at 4:43 am | Permalink

    I’m personally nominating biathlete Helena Jonsson, for winning one World Championship gold, a silver, and a bronze, and by a hair’s breadth winning the World Cup against Kati Wilhelm (also a good pick, certainly!) last season, and has followed up with several World Cup victories this season, as well as winning one of Sweden’s top sports awards.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/Helena_Jonsson_Ostersund_2008.jpg
    http://www.india-server.com/news/helena-jonsson-wins-prestigious-swedish-17231.html
    The Brazilian football player Marta is always a good pick, of course, though there hasn’t been that much football competition this year.
    No great stand-out in the LPGA this year and tennis is well taken care of by the AP.
    Really, though, Lindsey Vonn should win it.

  35. justkate
    Posted December 25, 2009 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Exactly. One should be so honored to be in the same category as a graceful, peaceful horse or any other animal. I wish people would get over their bio-dominance and their tender humanoid egos.
    However, I consider horse racing slavery. These animals were born into a situation they did not choose. They were unwillingly bred, broken, saddled, beaten, and run to an inch of their life… all for the profit and amusement of humans. So while Zenyatta and Rachel have my applause and respect, they also have my sympathy.
    And Feministing, this is kind of reporting is no more forgiven than various ableist posts and comments. Holding one’s self above ANY creature is not cool, and certainly not what feminism is about.

  36. kandela
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Ok, how about England Women’s cricket captain Claire Taylor. She lead her team to World Cup wins in T20 and ODI World Cups, as well as an Ashes series Test win, in a year where women’s cricket received more viewership on TV than ever before (partly thanks to the ICC double billing the women’s and men’s T20 World Cup).
    Jenny Roesler on cricinfo had this to say of her in a recent article: “Taylor, the World No. 1 batsman [yes that is the correct term], was named [Wisden Cricketer of the year] for topping the runs table at the World Cup as well as her exploits the previous year. Apparently indifferent to the pressure of the title, she then outscored everyone at the World Twenty20, before walking away with the ICC Female International of the Year. It’s a safe bet that the votes were unanimous.”

  37. aurora2828
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the link to Anna Clark’s series! As an avid sports fan, she hits on many of my reasons for liking sports as a feminist.
    And I agree with LalaReina — Maya Moore and the whole UCONN team were amazing!

  38. DylanW
    Posted December 28, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    It does carry different connotations, sort of, but I don’t think that Secretariat’s win was considered whimsical.
    For whatever reason, horses have regularly appeared on Best Athlete lists throughout the years.
    Athletes of both genders know about animal-metaphors. NFL players (male) are regularly referred to as “studs” or “horses” or “beasts”. Considering the the number of black athletes in professional sports (NFL and NBA, especially), the animal metaphors have always been a little troubling. Creepy at the very least, that commentators, journalists, and fans can, without batting an eye, refer to a 6’2″, 250 black man as a beast.
    Pretty universal stuff here.

  39. DylanW
    Posted December 28, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    It’s going to be a while before women’s MMA get the respect they deserve (although I think ALL MMA fighting is a LITTLE gross). Considering the majority of MMAs fan base is… well… basically beer drinking college age men (who also happen to enjoy seeing people get choked out and have their limbs and faces broken), it’s no surprise that “hot” women fighters command larger purses.
    Notice I didn’t say “female” fighters.

  40. --bill
    Posted December 28, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    According to Wikipedia , Jackie Stewart, not Secretariat, was Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 1973.

  41. Maxa
    Posted December 28, 2009 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    The most recent colt to make national headlines, Barbaro, actually won Deadspin’s “Sports Human of the Year” award in 2006. Barbaro was also nominated for Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year” award, and was nominated for several ESPY awards.

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