Formula One hit the headlines in a big way yesterday following its announcement grid girls will no longer be used in the championship from this season.
This prompted a huge response on F1 Fanatic from readers variously challenging, supporting and debating the decision.
As always I’ve tried to read and respond to as many of your comments as possible. As that tends to involve a lot of repetition, instead I’ve attempted to tackle as many of your different points of view on the subject as possible in one go.
Thanks to everyone who’s responded so far. Whether you agree or disagree with any of my responses below I hope you find them a useful addition to this hotly-debated talking point and I look forward to reading more of your replies.
I don’t think there is anything negative in having grid girls.
I think the negative aspects of having grid girls in F1 have been clear for a long time. In 2015 the World Endurance Championship ended the practice of having grid girls and I argued for F1 to do the same:
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If a women chooses to flaunt themselves in a way that plays on their attractive looks and are happy doing it that is not exploitation.
This is an important part of the debate: If someone doesn’t agree or hasn’t considered that they’re being exploited, then are they being exploited?
I think the question comes down to who’s doing the (alleged) exploiting and why. In this case, F1 has been (largely) employing women ostensibly to perform a function which could be done by either gender (holding up a grid board) but whose true purpose was to serve as decoration.
Put 10 attractive women and 10 attractive men on the grid and it wouldn’t be an issue. But by limiting it to just women F1 was sending an unmistakable message about its view of the role of the two genders: Men participate, women decorate.
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Costing grid girls their jobs
Quit the smug back-slapping for a moment and look at what you’ve actually achieved here: you’ve reduced the earning opportunities for women. Yes, only in a tiny, trifling way, but it won’t stop here, and that’s the point: grid girls isn’t the hill on which I’d choose to take a stand, but a stand will have to be taken sometime.
First, note F1 hasn’t announced what, if anything, may replace grid girls. Perhaps some other new promotional role will be created which will mean the same number of employment opportunities remains.
No doubt some of the concern for the future prospects of current grid girls is sincere. But on social media there is also a lot of (equally smug) sneering about ‘feminists costing women their jobs’.
In both cases, it’s striking that we never previously heard complaints about grid girls ‘reducing the earning opportunities for men’ who weren’t allowed to do their jobs (for the most part – see picture). You can draw your own conclusions about why no one was clamouring for men to be given the same chance to be objectified as women.
Removing grid girls allows Formula One to claim with greater conviction that it is truly a sport in which both genders can participate equally; that women are expected to perform the same tasks as men and not just stand there passively applauding and looking pretty.
As noted yesterday, female participation at grassroots level in motor racing is very low. If not having grid girls encourages more women to believe the sport is for them and participate in it, this must be a change for the better.
Would be great to see some kids get the chance to be a mascot for a driver every race now.
There have already been some great suggestions for how Formula One can replace grid girls with something more positive. At a time when it’s struggling to increase popularity with a younger audience, this seems like a great way forward.
Let circuits decide
I think the FIA should stay out of this and let the circuit owners decide if they want grid girls, grid boys, and the row of clapping people for the podium if they want it.
Michael Brown (@mbr-9)
The decision was taken by Formula One Management – who promote F1 – not the FIA who write the rules. And it’s FOM’s show, not the circuits’.
However it’s worth noting at least one race promoter has already spoken out in favour of not having grid girls any more.
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What a politically correct world we live in, strange times indeed, what shall next?
I don’t think it can be disputed that this is an example of political correctness.
The World Endurance Championship got rid of grid girls in 2015, the world hasn’t fallen off its axis and you all still watch it.
Many other championships don’t have grid girls and yet haven’t attracted anything like the sort of attention F1 has over the past 24 hours. As usual, Formula One gets more attention because it’s the most well-known form of motorsport.
Non-issue or catastrophe?
Let’s be honest. Nobody will care in a few days/weeks.
This is probably true. Especially if you compare it to something like Halo, which I think a lot of people have misgivings about and is going to fundamentally change the appearance of the cars.
This is a decline of Western civilisation. Decline of Europe and its values.
I doubt it, if only because F1 is an American-owned sport which mostly races outside Europe.
Cheerleaders and darts
That cheerleader hype fest at the United States Grand Prix last year was obviously the nail in the coffin of grid girls in F1.
It is striking that in a short space of time F1’s new owners went from experimenting with a new driver introduction format which incorporated grid girls to deciding they wouldn’t use grid girls any more.
Particularly when, just a few weeks ago, F1’s head of global sponsorship and commercial partnerships Murray Barnett said F1 intended to make grid girls “fully integrated into the programme and change the perception of what their involvement in the sport is” – rather than simply dropping them.
Why the sudden change of heart?
How disappointing that F1 didn’t take a lead on this. People have been calling for it for ages, and now it looks as though it has happened because the Professional Darts Corporation did it last week, rather than because it is the right thing to do.
The PDC’s decision to stop using ‘walk on girls’ was a big story in the UK last week. I’m not sure if it was noticed much beyond our shores, but it was another sign of the changing times, and one which will have further heaped pressure on F1 to halt its similar practice.
I wish F1 management acted as quickly on fan complaints – engine noise, penalty system, DRS overtaking (abolish it!), etc…
We probably all have our lists of things we’d like to change about F1 (DRS is top of mine). But not all of these have solutions which are as straightforward as this one. Dropping engine grid penalties, for example, is fraught with problems.
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