“What on earth are they doing in a racing car?”: Towards an Understanding of Women in Motorsport.
Motorsport is an under-researched area of socio-historical study. There is particularly limited academic understanding of female involvement in the social world of motorsports. Therefore, this paper focuses on the role of the media in presenting and establishing motorsport for women. In particular, a documentary analysis of articles published by a UK national newspaper group from 1890, and a case study of an all-female UK-based motor-racing championship are used to account for gendered processes that have influenced attitudes and behaviours towards women motor racers. The motor car emerged through technological progress in an overtly masculine-dominated industrial period. Traditional assumptions and biologically deterministic attitudes towards women were used by men to position motoring and motor-racing as a male preserve. Newspaper reporting throughout the 1930s suggests an era of heightened success for women motor racers as a result of gaining access to a key resource in the form of Brooklands motor-racing circuit. Following the Second World War, there was increasing commercialization and professionalization of male-dominated motorsport, as well as renewed marginalization and trivialization of female participants within the newspapers. These processes continue to influence perceptions of women in contemporary motorsport.