When a person like former Lotus Formula One development driver Carmen Jorda talks about how women are less capable as racing drivers than men—and she does, a lot—there’s an urge to treat it as an offhand comment with no merit. That’s particularly true when the person has a history of not helping the people they’re speaking about.
While what Jorda says is troubling and probably flat-out wrong, the biggest problem is that her voice is given a lot of weight in the racing press—so much so that it often drowns out other voices. Jorda isn’t barometer for how all, or even most, women think, yet her voice is treated as particularly important, even when she says it’s “not for [her] to decide what’s good for women.”
The latest example Jorda’s troubling comments came after she drove an electric FIA Formula E race car before the series’ race in Mexico City last weekend. After she got done, ESPN reports that she said it’s a series more women should focus on reaching.
According to ESPN, someone asked Jorda if she thought a Formula E car is easier to drive for women—which, it’s a story in itself who asked this why they thought it was an appropriate or beneficial question to ask, but we’ll save that for another day. Jorda said she thinks so, as quoted by ESPN.
That’s an expected answer from Jorda, who, despite having beaten men in her racing career, thinks women cannot compete with men in motorsports.
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She was also recently and controversially chosen to join the FIA women’s commission, a group within the governing body of dozens of international racing series like F1, intended to “promote the involvement of women at all levels of motorsport.”
Here’s what Jorda, who has said again and again that she thinks women “will never be the same” as men and that a female championship will give women a better shot at driving, said about women’s chances with a Formula E race car in comparison to F1, via ESPN:
“It’s a less physical car than in Formula One because of the downforce and because of the power steering as well. So yes, for sure. The challenge that we women have in Formula Two and Formula One is a physical issue and I think in Formula E, we won’t have it.
“It’s not for me to decide what’s good for women or not in the sport. But in my experience I can say Formula One — not all the other championships, karting, Formula Three, GT, I think women are capable of good results in all those series — in Formula One and Formula Two there is a barrier that is a physical issue. I think there is a big issue for women and that’s why there aren’t any in those championships.”
She added: “We have to consider Formula E as a very high level championship. You can see all the drivers who are here, the car that I tested is not a super-difficult car to drive, but there are so many different things that you have to learn how to manage. It’s a challenging championship. It’s a high level in motorsport. To have a woman here, Formula E has already had some women here, so why not to have more?”
Even worse than Jorda’s consistent narrative about women being lesser than men behind the wheel, while other women are out there trying to prove the exact opposite, is the idea that her regressive comments are newsworthy.
A Google search of “Carmen Jorda” leads to more than a page of news results about this one set of comments, in English, German, Hungarian, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, French, Spanish, Czech and more—all within the past day. A Google search of “Pippa Mann” brings up one result: A Daily Mail story that covered the IndyCar driver’s response on Twitter, in which she refuted Jorda’s claims by saying women succeed in IndyCar with no power steering and that she stands by the idea that women can “compete as equals in this sport.”
While a Google search doesn’t provide exact numerical data of how much a topic gets covered in the news, it’s clear that one woman’s opinion—a woman whose opinion is constantly rejected by other women in the sport—sets a bigger fire than the opinions of others: A female Indy 500 qualifier gets one hit on Google with her response to Jorda, while the exasperated responses of other women like two-time IMSA GT Daytona champion Christina Nielsen and Le Mans engineer Leena Gade are nowhere to be seen.
When it comes to talking about diversifying a sport or any field, one person’s opinion shouldn’t be covered exponentially more than the opinion of others in that same demographic. That’s particularly true of a person like Jorda, whose comments do more to hurt the potential of women in racing than they do to help. There are plenty of successful women who express concerns about Jorda’s comments publicly, and plenty who agree, yet Jorda often gets the spotlight.
Women, or any other underrepresented demographic in a field, shouldn’t be boiled down to the few women people can name. Not every young girl is the “next Danica Patrick,” just like Patrick is more than simply her yoga photos in bikinis. Not every female racer agrees with Jorda, and that’s a nice way of saying it, yet she’s one of those names that’s easy to tack onto a story and run with.
While it’s preferential as a woman to brush Jorda’s comments aside and move on, that can’t happen until others realize that women in general can’t be put in categories. It’s time to learn that there are plenty of successful women who participate in motorsports, and media outlets don’t have to keep going back to the women whose names they can remember for quotes.
Until outlets can learn to look harder—to ask Gade, Mann, Nielsen, Simona de Silvestro, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Susie Wolff, Claire Williams, Ashley Freiberg, Gosia Rdest, Brehanna Daniels, or countless other women in motorsports how they feel about the issue, or to treat their comments about women in racing (or any other issue) as just as important and newsworthy as Jorda’s, we’re stuck in this absurd, damaging loop that keeps certain people and opinions in the spotlight.
And, like Jorda, none of those women can speak for every woman, every time. Inclusiveness is a conversation, not a monologue. If every empowering, positive quote from every woman—even those with mediocre racing records, like Jorda’s—made the news like Jorda’s comments do, we’d have a lot more coverage of women in motorsports.
But we don’t, because Jorda’s made her name an easy one to remember. And thus, the lazy cycle of publishing her views as some sort of revelation continues.
Update, March 7 at 5:09 p.m. Jorda posted a statement about her comments on Twitter, which is as follows: