This week, Formula 1 released a statement announcing that they will no longer be featuring “grid girls” at their races. Those are the women who can most often be seen in spandex outfits that are low-cut and high-cut in all the right places holding flags, signs and the like. In the wake of the Me Too movement and, you know, just the general idea that we shouldn’t objectify 50 per cent of the population, the company has decided that the grid girls are not “in tune with [their] vision for this great sport.”
F1 to stop using grid girls
“Custom does not resonate with our brand values” https://t.co/zKqSwM8EUU
— Formula 1 (@F1) January 31, 2018
“While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms, ” communications director Sean Bratches said in the statement, “We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world.”
With workplace sexual harassment (and worse) in the spotlight as of late, it seems counterproductive to our social progress to employ women just to be ogled at by the male spectators at races. Many women applauded F1 for their decision to basically allow women some common decency. Women are so often belittled, objectified and made to feel inferior in sports even when they are the ones competing. The degradation becomes that much worse when the women are put there for the sole purpose of being a sex object.
Thank you @F1 for deciding to stop using grid girls. Another sport making a clear choice about what they want to stand for:
“We feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.” https://t.co/Rrwxf5VcjY
— Women’s Sport Trust (@WomenSportTrust) January 31, 2018
You see, this is how things change. First the darts, now F1. ‘Walk-on grid girls’ will no longer be used before Formula One races. Quite right. It’s 2018.
— Matthew Stadlen (@MatthewStadlen) January 31, 2018
So, Formula One is dropping grid girls. You never know, they might one day let women regularly take part in races
— Joel Taylor (@JoelTaylorhack) January 31, 2018
I personally think it’s about the message that it sends to young girls who might want to be involved in racing some day. At the moment the message seems to be “The men do the racing, you do this.” There is zero wrong with modelling and glamour, but it’s the bigger picture here.
— Yeah, you? (@JarydCorny) February 1, 2018
There’s been quite a bit of backlash to the decision, and not just from who you might think. Yes, there was the classic “look at those crazy feminists taking away our fun” response from some men, but a lot of the girls themselves don’t want to lose their jobs. Many came out to say that they actually enjoy the work and to push back against the idea that grid girls are always “scantily clad.” The decision does beg the question: what happens to all the women who are currently employed as grid girls? Are they going to be losing their jobs? The idea of eliminating this sexist practice is great, but should it be done at the expense of women’s employment?
“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
— 👑 M 👑 (@queen_m_xo) February 1, 2018
Re: #f1 #gridgirls. As a feminist, I want to see women treated with respect & dignity. I oppose mandatory heels at the office & the groping of waitresses. I want sex workers legalised, unionised, protected. I’m 100% on the grid girls’ side.
— Iona Italia (@IonaItalia) February 2, 2018
I am a grid girl, I LOVE my job and I CHOOSE to do it! The issue at the moment is there are too many people being offended on behalf of people who are not offended at all!
— Hannah Louise (@Hannah_James_6) January 31, 2018
This brings us back to a common debate among feminists: is it okay to be sexualized if you’ve chosen to be viewed that way? For some it is empowering and not problematic as long as they hold the power themselves. For others, sexualization is always degrading because men will always hold the power, but that view is restrictive in its own way. The problem with Formula 1 is that the employers and spectators (therefore, the people in power) are predominantly male, making an unfair power structure where the women may make the choice to participate, but not the choice of what they wear.
Unfortunately, like everything else, it looks like this one doesn’t have an easy answer.