Disclaimer: no grid girls were harmed in the making of this story!
What is an ideology? There is some consensus among social scientists to regard ideology as any system of ideas whose utility is to provide a global explanation to the reality around us. Consequently, any creation by human beings implies a set of clues to make interpretations of what we perceive. For example, there are lots of sociological studies trying to analyze the consequences of how social media help people to understand the world in a certain way: what does it mean for everyday life that we get used to name as “friends” those hundreds of Facebook contacts?
And what has it all got to do with grid girls? My point is that the biggest issues are not “women-as-objects” or the so-called “freedom-of-choice”, but something much more subtle. When motorsport broadcasts to 500 million people a system where the pit wall is 90% occupied by men, the grid is 100% and women just attract attention by standing still in front of the cars (or, in the best of cases, they work as waitresses or –sigh!- press officers [we need Tatiana Calderón on the grid in her racing driver capacity – the editor]), it is telling the world how the social order should remain organized according to F1, whether that is intended or not, like it or not, realise it or not. And that has an unquantifiable impact on the societies exposed to those stimuli (and bear in mind that Occidental societies, where we have already conquered some advances for gender equality, are but a part of the whole audience!).
In the last few weeks, there has been a strong opinion stream among fans wondering who is anyone to tell a grid girl that she should choose another job. Are we suggesting that those women are not mature enough to decide what to do with their lives? Aren’t we growing up women unemployment figures by removing this tradition? Well, I have some news for said supporting arguments: “Freedom of choice” in the labour market is a fantasy. People just take the best path available, depending on multiple external factors. Please, stop attributing a fictitious power to ourselves as workers. In addition, in my view the limit to the freedom of a grid-girl hopeful is the harm that this tradition might be imposing over women who are trying to make their way through environments dominated by men as motorsport is, be it as engineers, mechanics or even drivers.
Because there has been another funny statement lately: Don’t dare to undervalue the great job done by women employed within the teams. OK, as a reporter who was full of praise for Sauber’s Ruth Buscombe in a past article, I would like to know more precisely the gender statistics of Formula 1 outfits. And even if those people are right, “the situation believed to be real, becomes real in its consequences”. If you don’t show those merits in the TV signal, it is as if this supposed situation didn’t exist.
Having said all this, I understand the position of purists. I could have counted among them on this one, as I am with night racing, halo and races not starting at 2 pm. But were I supporting grid girls to stay, I would be well aware of the fact that it would represent a mostly emotional position in the debate, as I recognize it is in a great deal with the examples I have just arisen. I just don’t like races at 3:10 pm because I fell in love with a sport where that was not the tradition, and I admit there’s no other good reason for my opinion on that one.
And maybe therein lies the best argument to convince diehard F1 freaks about removing grid girls: The decision does not take the slightest incentive from the on-track show. This is what I’m anticipating to enjoy this season. At times when I want to watch girls, I look somewhere else…
PS (from the editor, sort of diehard type of F1 fan) I’m mainly bothered by this grid kids concept because they’re discriminating older blokes like myself; why not grid pensioners or grid animals (animals have rights, you know). Let’s also raise spacial awereness and allow aliens on the grid, Jar Jar Binks wants to have a go!
And to make matters worse, Alejandro the Santo Formula E Agag has stated “grid girls should be part of motorsport” and promised to bring the ladies’ night back.
I quote: “For me, it’s not the most relevant issue today, it should be a non-issue. Sometimes we use kids, sometimes we should use grid girls. They haven’t done anything bad, it’s part of the visual tradition of motorsport. I am not an enemy of the concept of grid girls at all. Formula E will have grid girls. Maybe not in every race, but I think they are part of the tradition of motorsport.”