Grid girls

Recently the WEC announced that they were getting rid of gridgirls, and this served to reveal the fact that, sadly, a lot of F1 fans have really outdated views about gender equality. A lot of them have really bizarre arguments which they claim justify the existence of this frankly disgusting custom which dates back to when women were still regarded as inferior to men. Let’s take a look at some of them:

1) Being a grid girl is a job and by abolishing this, you’re taking away girls’ source of income 

Most grid girls are probably aspiring models whose agencies are subcontracted to the race organizers to supply girls for every race. It’s not like people are exclusively grid girls. And let’s not pretend that they get paid whopping sums of money. Being a grid girl is probably just one of many jobs that these women take up. Abolishing grid girls isn’t going to create droves of unemployed, beautiful women because there are so many other jobs for them out there

2) Grid girls are fans and they want to get close to their favourite drivers and teams

Okay, but why do they have to do it by wearing skimpy clothes while being ogled at by old billionaires? And why do only pretty girls get this chance? People who are fans want to be taken seriously and are passionate about their sport, and by using them as decorations- literally- you are basically telling them that as fans, their only value to F1 is acting as showpieces. Worse than holding signs on the grid is when they line the corridor leading to the race room and clap mindlessly as drivers walk past them. Think about the image that projects- the men, triumphant after victory, surrounded by women whose only job it is to applaud them. What are young girls who watch the sport going to think? In a sport which is already so heavily dominated by men, it’s especially dangerous when the only place you can see women is when they are basically being treated as decorations- again- while the men are the star of the show.

The only thing that matters when selecting grid girls is their looks. So it doesn’t matter if they know the name of every world champion since 1950 or if they’re just doing this for some extra cash, people are just going to reduce their value to how pretty they are and how much skin they’re showing. This just reinforces the age old perception that the worth of women can be reduced to their looks, and I don’t need to tell you how dangerous a perception that is for people to have.

3) It adds glamour to the sport.

Oh please. A sport which earns in excess of a billion dollars a year and has races in countries like Monaco, Spain and Japan doesn’t really need any more glamour. In fact it could be argued that F1 needs a little less glamour and a little more common sense. And there’s no need to objectify women to get glamour when you have half a dozen celebrities wandering around at every race.

4) It keeps the drivers happy

This is actually a comment I saw on badgergp’s Facebook page. First of all, women don’t exist to make men happy. Second, given that they’re about to drive around in sweltering heat and lose 3kg of their bodyweight, I rather think they have other things on their mind. And if staring at skimpily clad women like pervs make drivers ‘happy’, that’s frankly quite disgusting and shouldn’t be encouraged.

5) Grid girls know what they are getting themselves into so it’s okay.

This just completely misses the point. The practice of having grid girls objectifies women- plain and simple. Women shouldn’t have to do this in the first place. Just because you accept that you are gonna be leered at for an hour doesn’t make it okay, it shows us that the fact that this heinous tradition still exists is really a black mark on our sport.

For young girls who watch F1, or any kind of motorsport, the fact that the only women they see are grid girls is just going to tell them that that’s the only kind of role they can play in motorsport. Young boys are going to think the same, and this will just stop them taking women seriously when girls do in fact try to do something actually meaningful in motorsport. When women are-albeit slowly- starting to play a bigger part in motorsport, this custom is just going to slow them down because people will have difficulty reconciling a female racing driver, something new and good, with the marginal role women have played in motorsport for such a long time.

As a girl, I want there to be more women in positions of power in motorsports. I want women to be seen as equally capable drivers, engineers and team principals as men. And the first step to that is getting rid of the grid girls. A sexist custom of 50 years ago has no place in today’s world where women are starting to be seen as so much more than such a pretty face.

Inspired in part by this article


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