Who is it?
I thought this was a pretty simple question. It feels like the kind of thing that if you punch it into a google search, you’d get a card which mentions this person moved at this speed at this time and they had these genders and you’d have to dig to page 2 to get a good result that wasn’t just mimicking that.
Man, search engines have gotten bad.
Anyway, no, I didn’t get a good answer punching it in, but I did wind up finding a bunch of interesting questions, thinking about it!
Fast On Her Feet: Footrace Speed
Surely this is easy, right? Let’s just go see what woman holds the world record for fastest Olympic result.
Turns out the woman who owns the world record for 100m and 200m sprints. Her name was Florence Griffith Joyner, or ‘Flojo,’ and she was a big deal in the 80s. I feel a bit embarrassed that I had no idea who this woman was, but I do know that beating one of her records was really impressive. Of course, when a woman broke one of her records, it didn’t make her the world record holder, because Flojo was previously the holder of the top four fastest times of all time in her sport.
I’m not an Olympics guy, I know I don’t care that much about footracing, but looking into this lady, who ran the fastest of all women of all time, it seems that people don’t believe she really did it. I’m not gunna spend a whole time here, but turns out that this black woman’s accomplishments have an * against them, so despite her setting four of the top records for decades, y’know, it doesn’t count. You see, the argument goes, she wasn’t really able to be that fast, it was a faulty device. Or drugs.
They did scan her body, and she died at 38 of a unique rare congenital condition, but remember, it’s entirely believable that she had a unique genetic makeup that makes her die young, but not that she had a unique genetic makeup that made her run fast. I don’t know, I honestly don’t care, because I also don’t think that there was one person at any Olympics doing performance-enhancing drugs.
Thing is, I don’t find this kind of thing satisfying. We know paleontologically, there were pre-civilisation humans whose fossil remains (the things they left behind, not necessarily their bones) indicate that they were capable of moving extremely fast, and the filter of these international competitions aren’t necessarily finding the fastest people. They’re finding the fastest people who can comply with the demands of the competition. Plus, they have a whole weird way of looking at trans women, or even women who seem too trans-ish. Or, if you pick the right time, women who are too good while being Black.
The Device Knows No Pronoun: Land Speed Records
Oh hey, what about bikes and races and you know, that kind of turbo-speed weirdoes who do things to try and make vehicles move as fast as they possibly can? Those things aren’t gendered the same way, so surely, there’s probably about as many women as there are men in this space, right –
Oh yeah, no, of course not.
Jessi Combs, who died in 2019, is officially the woman holding the highest record for land speed racing in women’s racing. She died setting the record she has, and the record wasn’t recognised until 2020. This side of the conversation is frustrating, though, because when you look for ‘women’s land speed record,’ you get a lot of people talking about how that isn’t something they track, and it’s not something they should track, but maybe they should, or maybe it’s a kind of novelty.
And I get it: If you’re the kind of person heavily invested in land speed records, it sure seems like you probably don’t talk to many women that often.
First Off The Mark: Record-Setting Aviators
I mean, thing is, it’s kind of hard to own your own plane. Oh sure, some people own planes, but a lot of people who own planes own companies that own planes, and the fastest planes, the most impressively fast planes, are owned not by people, but by corporations or by governments.
And those governments, typically, don’t recruit women. Certainly the peak period of ‘can we make a plane go fast,’ which wound up being less important once we were putting satellites up into the air, and when the planes didn’t have to outrun things. It’s been a long slow journey from there to now, where planes are not used for going very fast and photographing things very far away, but are now instead used to shoot balloons.
The fastest plane I could find that had a pilot was a thing called the X-15, which flies over 100 kilometers from the surface of the planet, and hits speeds of like, Mach 9 or something like it. It was made and flew in the 1960s, which means that the fastest planes made, in the period of the fastest flying, was also y’know, around the same time as the Civil Rights act got signed.
I did find one particularly noteworthy woman pilot, though: Jacqueline Cochran, who was the first woman to break the sound barrier, in 1953, six years after Chuck Yeager pulled it off. Marta Bohn-Meyer flew in the SR-71 Blackbird, which was capable of getting to Mach 3, which is fast.
Of course, if you want to get really fast, probably you gotta slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of god. When you start moving around in space, if you’re doing much of anything, speed gets really silly. The International Space Station has a permanent crew of 7 people, and right now, four of them are women. Those women are scudding along at a rate of ‘five miles per second,’ which a mathematical calculator informs me converts to Mach 23.
Thing is, there’s a problem that flows from that, where it’s challenging to describe ‘speed’ at all when you start working in terms of celestial objects. It’s not like they’re all feeling out the rate they’re booming along at, because for their reference frame, it’s more that the thing out the window is spinning around below them.
The Fastest Girl In Games
Alright. I give up. This is really hard and I had to do math. Let’s round it out with a fast game about a fast girl. And when I started on that I thought I’d get some interesting question looking for a game where you have to play a girl, assuming the game with the most people actively running it is the game that’s going to be changing the fastest.
At least as far as I can easily sort.
If you open it to games where you can optionally play a girl, there’s Minecraft. But if you want to limit it to just games where the protagonist definitively is a girl, let’s go find what that is. Okay, time to go to a website and check a list and…
Oh, it’s Celeste.
There you go. A bunch of answers about the fastest women in the world, and how finding this answer was really annoying and involved reading a lot of people being weird shitheads about women accomplishing things.