It has been announced that Formula 1 will no longer employ ‘grid girls’ at events for the 2018 racing season. Grid girls are models who wear specific attire or accessories to promote drivers and sponsors at races. Their purpose is similar to that of podium girls in cycling or ring girls in boxing.
“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,” said Sean Bratches, the managing director of commercial operations at F1.
We are living in an era where the objectification of women is becoming less and less tolerant. Social attitudes are changing, and global businesses are adapting to that change by attempting to modify the way women are valued and portrayed in sports. F1’s decision to get rid of grid girls should be thought of a way to do just that.
However, many people are not pleased by this change, especially former grid girls who claim that many women need opportunities like these to make money.
“I’m one of the lucky ones that I don’t rely on this as a main source of income, but there are girls out there who do,” said Charlotte Gash, a part-time grid girl. ”I know the grid girls are there to look pretty when they’re out on the grid but my role was interacting with the crowd and we were there as an advertisement for the sponsors. We love doing it we don’t want it taken away from us.”
“I think it’s sad [F1 has] taken such extreme measures so quickly. I think they could have looked at ways of bringing the role more into line with modern times instead of scrapping it entirely. They could have looked at making it more equal between the sexes in the role,” said former grid girl Caroline Hall.
The unfortunate side to this change is that without grid girls, women have less of a chance to being involved in any aspect of F1 racing. The last female driver to enter the F1 World Championship was Giovanna Amati in 1992. Only four other women have attempted to be involved the F1 racing world, and the most successful was Lella Lombardi, who was active from 1974 to 1976. She participated in 17 races.
Of course, this sport is very competitive, since there are only 24 spots on the grid and thousands of drivers who wish to fill those spots. However, little boys may have more of an opportunity to enter this sport, because they are able to look up to many male role models.
It is hard to find a solution to these problems. Should F1 invite female and male models to act as promoters, instead of getting rid of the job entirely? Should there be championships for both men and women, instead of allowing both genders to compete within the same race? Getting rid of grid girls seems to be a step forward for getting rid of female objectification, but it pushes women out of the sport almost entirely. Either way, many believe the decision that F1 has made was necessary, and will hopefully propel the sport toward further equality.
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