Bigger spuds: Feminist outrage at gender inequality of ‘world pinnacle in potato racing’

Bigger spuds: Feminist outrage at gender inequality of ‘world pinnacle in potato racing’
Australian journalist and feminist Melanie Tait has begun a crowdfunding page in protest at the unequal prize money in the potato race at an annual local agricultural show in Robertson, New South Wales.

The Robertson Potato Race is held every year in the quaint farming town known as ‘Robbo’ to its denizens and nestled into the New South Wales Southern Highlands. It is described as “the world pinnacle in potato racing” and features competitors scrambling 400 meters around an oval track with a sack of spuds on each of their backs.

The race is part of the town’s Australian Championship Potato Races, founded in 1969 and all part of the festivities at the yearly Robbo Agricultural Show.

However, this year’s race has been clouded by controversy regarding its unequal prizemoney. First place in the men’s event – in which runners lug a hefty 50kg bag of potatoes – would see the winner net a cool AU$1,000 (US$794), with $300 going to the first local over the line.

The prizemoney for the women’s race – in which competitors carry around a significantly-lighter 12.5kg bag – stands at $200, with no such incentive for the first local finisher.

Concerned over the "disappointing" gender pay gap in the potato race, Tait, a Robbo local and journalist for national broadcaster ABC, set out to balance the prizemoney for men and women before the race date on March 3 through a GoFundMe account.

“Okay, so the Robertson Show Women's Potato Race Prize is $800 less than the men's prize. I'm pledging $100 towards making it equal. Does anyone else want to kick in? No donation to [sic] small or big!” Tait tweeted after establishing the crowdfunding page.

“People of Australia LET'S UNITE and make the Robertson Potato Race equal in prize money for the women legends hauling a bag of potatoes around a show ground oval. WE CAN DO THIS,” she added.

Her social media campaign quickly gathered steam and at the time of writing donations had far surpassed its $1,450 goal and stood at $1,765 – nearly nine times the original prizemoney.

“That the prizemoney is so unequal makes me so disappointed. Disappointed for the woman who wins. Disappointed for the young girls watching a huge deal being made of the men’s race. Disappointed for the fans of the race who would love to see the women’s race valued as much as the men’s,” Tait said in an interview with the Guardian.

Robertson Show Committee member and former President Rosemary Turner explained that the committee was unhappy with the fundraiser. She said the women and junior races were introduced some years ago to allow participants to carry fewer potatoes than the 50kg load, and the prizemoney was then set according to weight, according to the ABC.

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