Grid Girls: Formula One change up a gear and kick start the race towards equality within sport

F1 have publicly announced the end of ‘grid girls’, effective from the start of the next world championship in March.

The organisation announced that the change was to mark that they are “at odds with modern-day societal norms”.

Does this mark the start of a change in sport? Have F1 started a whole new race…

grid girls

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Grid girls are a F1 tradition, though they are not the only sport with outdated cultural norms, boxing have a similar tradition. The girls are models used in promotional tasks, such as holding driver name-boards and lining the corridors while drivers walk to the podium. The models are normally sporting the sponsors clothes and little else.

The decision follows a similar one made by the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) to stop using ‘walk on’ girls, though F1’s decision has gained more coverage.

F1’s managing director, Sean Bratches, said: “Over the last year we have looked at a number of areas which we felt needed updated so as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport.

“While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula one 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.

“We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula One and its fans, old and new, across the world.”

The decision has been met with mixed responses, Women’s Sport Trust thanked F1for the move on Twitter:

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://www.formula1.com/en/latest/headlines/2018/1/formula-1-to-stop-using-grid-girls-.html 

However, not everyone is happy with the outcome of the decision. Former ‘grid girl’ Kelly Brook told the Sun newspaper that she is not happy with the result.

Brook told the Sun newspaper: “It’s one of the best jobs I ever had. You dress glamorously and obviously it’s about being presentable but I never felt I was taken advantage of.”

grid gals

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Fans reactions have been polarised on both sport’s decisions, while many have praised F1 and Dartsfor recognising the worlds changing attitudes and norms. Most people who took to Twitter used the platform to praise the decision as a bold feminist and political move. Though not all were supportive of the decision.

ELEPHANTS VOICE (3)

The new policy will be an important step towards combating the historical objectification towards women within sport, especially in the male dominated racing world. A world in which only two women have ever competed.

Katie Summer, model and blogger, has mixed feelings on the decision.

“I am a model and in terms of the scrapping of the grid girls – I don’t feel it is any different to modelling but in a different environment, its been a tradition of formula 1 to have the girls for many years, as a feminist myself I don’t feel that this is breaching the groups beliefs.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to the girls if they want to take part in the events. Not to mention the girls do add glamour to a typically masculine sport, therefore, giving it more appeal to women, so from a business point of view could possibly make formula one more profitable.”

Though Katie does see why grid girls have been scrapped adding:

“However, I can understand the other side of the argument that women are just there for decoration, but that could be argued in so many other industries due to basic stereotyping.

“For example, think of perfume adverts they always have romantic undertones so it could also be argued that women who wear the scent will become more attractive – would that regulate the advertising industry, probably not…”

Many people are divided on the subject as though the change is a step towards equality within sport it also puts thousands out of a job, women who wholly enjoy their work.

Ridding the sporting world of podium, grid and walk on girls marks a huge change in societies norms towards women, even within male dominated sports. Though the models may feel happy it’s important that daughters do not watch men achieve while women only decorate their success.

Some of the replies to this are infinitely frustrating. If you can’t see that grid girls portray woman as accessories to men and their successes then I worry for how you treat women on a day-to-day basis https://twitter.com/skysportsf1/status/958699136861331456 

As we say goodbye to ‘grid girls’  we move up a gear to continue on full speed ahead and away from sexualisation of women.

If Jamie Chadwick, first ever female and youngest winner of the British GT Championship, has anything to with it then women will return to the track soon — no longer as ‘grid girls’, but as competitors.

This weeks controversy was chosen as #F1 was the most read article on the BBC after the news dropped and it quickly became the top trending discussion on Twitter. If you would like to see further articles click here: Guardian, BBC Sport and BBC.

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