In the spirit of Hortense's Faceoffs, here goes:
Danica McKellar played Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years, then went on to study math at UCLA, help prove the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem, become the only undergraduate to speak at a statistics conference, and write two books, Math Doesn't Suck and Kiss My Math. She also continues to act.
Advantage: McKellar, for renaissance-womanness.
Danica McKellar posed in lingerie for Stuff, and a swimsuit for Details.
Advantage: Tough to call, but Stuff folded, so you can only find McKellar's underwear photos at places like Guns, Girls, and Other Things and, um, GolfHos.com. So, advantage goes to Patrick, I guess.
Danica McKellar did a Volkswagen commercial once, but she also did public service announcements for a Math-A-Thon to fight childhood cancer
and spoke before Congress about getting more women and minorities involved in math.
Advantage: Hmm, taking a shower vs. doing math while fighting cancer. McKellar wins.
On girliness, Danica McKellar says,
I think that being girly, and playing with glamorous make-up and fashion is fun. I don't see anything wrong with it, as long as you don't think that it's the most important thing. [...] To all those who'd say or argue are you dumbing down math for girls?' I'd say, 'only if you think there's something inherently dumb about being girly.'
And Danica Patrick says,
There's nothing I can't do in a race car because I'm a girl. These days I love being a girl.
Advantage: Both seem comfortable with both their sexuality and their chosen career. Draw.
On intelligence, Danica McKellar says,
I certainly want to do my part to show girls that the more you develop your intelligence, the better equipped you're going to be able to handle the decisions you'll be making in your life. And hopefully you'll make better decisions, and not think that you need to be reckless and irresponsible in order to be glamorous.
To all those who'd say or argue are you dumbing down math for girls?' I'd say, 'only if you think there's something inherently dumb about being girly.'
But Danica Patrick says,
I've never claimed to be a handy person. [...] I used to be able to do a lot of stuff. I'm sure I still could, but I play dumb and say I don't know how. It's easier when you don't have to do it.
The verdict: While McKellar's Stuff spread crosses the line between being comfortable with your body and using it to further your brand, her brand still has a lot more substance than Patrick's. Both women inhabit sort of uncomfortable territory — by being sexy and successful, are they showing girls merely that it's possible to be both, or that they must be both? McKellar is more firmly in the former camp, spending a lot more time telling girls they can achieve — and achieving herself — than she does posing, showering on television, or talking to Sports Illustrated about not wearing underwear. And while Patrick's image may have something to do with the sexist nature of sports culture (Sports Illustrated asked her about underwear, after all), she seems to be buying into this culture wholeheartedly. McKellar's not perfect, but of the two Danicas, we'd still rather see her on a teen girl's wall.
What Danica Patrick Could Do for Nascar, Sponsors [AdAge]
Danica McKellar [Official Site]
Danica Patrick's Q&A [Sports Illustrated]
Danica Patrick 20Q Interview [Playboy]
Danica McKellar [Wikipedia]
Danica McKellar Interview [UGO.com]
Danica Patrick Shower Commercial For The SuperBowl 2009 [YouTube]
Speeding - Internet Only [Commercial, GoDaddy.com]