The discussion over Grid Girls and the cessation of that service for Formula 1 races in 2018 has set off a firestorm on social media that some characterize as a mountain out of a molehill or one of the defining moments for F1’s new ownership and trajectory for the sport.
The reason given for the change was due to “societal norms” and one could argue very strongly that a sport long considered male-dominated should avoid including women for historic reasons of beauty and sex appeal for the series. Many folks on social media have argued that the #MeToo movement is a strong motivation for presenting women in a more positive light than simply being eye candy on a motorsport grid. The continuance of this tradition doesn’t reflect current societal norms about the view of women or their role in any form of society be it motorsport or the corporate office.
The objectification of women is simply something that has outlived its morally base purpose and is not only outdated but very debasing to women, the movement for women and the behavior of finding appeal in the presence of women on the grid.
The other voice
“Scantily clad furniture”, “sexualising women”, “provocative”, “Id never let my daughter wear a grid girl outfit”… just some of today’s comments, yet people clearly haven’t dont their research as these are my outfits from my 5 years in F1 #gridgirl #gridgirls pic.twitter.com/etbcCPnCC1
— Rebecca Cooper (@rebeccageldard) January 31, 2018
The change was also met with a counter argument from women who are current models and make a living and, in some cases, improve their ability and economic success through these weekend-only jobs via networking, resume building and exposure. These women have made strong cases on social media that the dress code has changed to reflect the societal norms, they don’t feel objectified and they choose, willingly, to accept and perform these jobs as a way of making a viable living in aggregate.
What has been lamentably expected, is that these women have been attacked on digital media for their position, shamed for what they do, told they are examples for parents of how their daughters should not be raised etc. etc. Their comments have been met by other women who also work in F1 in the press as journalists or team members that marginalize their importance, that their jobs are only one-gig deals and that the jobs are relatively meaningless when compared to the moral obligation to represent #MeToo or women’s causes.
A lot of derision I have read toward the comments of these grid girls seems to be from males who are championing women’s causes and yet the males who choose to disagree with the change are quickly discounted because they are male and “can’t know what it is like” or are “mainspalining”. It’s a difficult issue in any dialog when only one voice is accepted in a conversation.
The counter arguments to the change have been met with each pro-change person’s view on societal norms, morality or ethics presented in a voice that suggests that these set of ethical boundaries or societal norms have all arrived from the same point of origin. I’ve even seen defenders of the decision being hostile and denying that there is any other view.
This strikes me as very strange because if we cannot have a conversation between groups or individuals, then we are reduced to mere contests for dominance in a world of moral relevance derived from contextually-based origins.
It can be confusing at times given the #MeToo movement at the recent Grammy’s was a very high-profile cause while Rihanna nearly had one of those “wardrobe malfunctions” in a dress that is not unlike the style of dress a grid girl would wear. In fact, I would say that it may be more revealing than today’s grid girl attire.
It’s a complex issue to be sure and one that is deserving of a conversation between people from different sides of the change F1 has made. I get the impression that F1’s voice has been heard and other women who work in motorsport who support the change have been heard, but the grid girls themselves are being marginalized, ostracized or belittled when attempting to have their voice heard-and remember, these are women, not men of questionable behavior.
It’s a difficult topic, and one that perhaps is more about the actual behavior of finding sex appeal in beautiful women on the grid more so than the actual women’s livelihood, or the jobs it creates, or the opportunities it provides these grid girls for a career in modeling. I asked the question of whether the Monaco swimsuit fashion show should be canceled and the jobs for women who dress for sex appeal in the hospitality sector at F1 corporate events. I’m not trying to be difficult, it’s a legitimate question.
As we say, not as we do
In closing, the Grammy’s championed #MeToo and yet Rihanna had no reservations about dancing and singing for maximum sex appeal. If the “societal norm” is fully supportive of A-list celebrities continuing to present their sex appeal, is it out of the realm of logic to think some will find it very appealing and desire more? Would it be correct in stating that-without including all intersectional permutations here-that many men may always find appeal in the form of a beautiful woman, and even more so when she is presented in a manner that men find very alluring?
Offering mea culpa, I pay no attention to grid girls. They hold no allure for me as an older man who is married to a wonderful, beautiful wife who is my best friend. The only time I really noticed them was the Austrian Grand Prix a few years ago. The Austrian Grand Prix’s move toward fun, culturally traditional dress was all very Austrian and a nice touch and added an Austrian flair and levity to the grid. I was not moved by its sex appeal but by its Austrian culture and homage to the terrific women of Austria who wore/wear them.
While I pay little attention to them, I understand why F1 would change their policy and I understand the reason, but I also think we need to rise above debasing the women who work in this sector of motorsport when they are trying to have their voice heard by berating them as morally inferior or insignificant and a beacon of immorality and the encouragement of” toxic masculinity”.
These are people, for the love of all things good, and they are most likely wonderful women with families and are loved by many of their friends and family members.
I can’t believe some of the things people have said to these women. It would seem, by social media’s standard, that the morality of women on a grid trumps the morality of common decency toward another person, and I find that to be very base behavior and of questionable morality in its own right. This kind of crass, ruthless behavior stains F1’s decision and does little to champion whatever “societal norm” F1 was trying to support.