On Grid Girls…

rr grid girls the end

Here and now, in a global racing village and the 21st century, is no place for grid girls. This is no place for brolly dollies. This is no place for stilettos & PVC knickers as billboards. Not at the track. Not on a race course. Not when there are fast machines burning fuel and rubber. Not when we’re supposed to be enjoying the technological advancement of our supposedly most enlightened age.

Don’t tell me “sex sells.” Of course it does. But aren’t the cars and bikes and machines and circuits sexy? They undulate and thrust, moan and purr, vibrate and test the endurance of participant and fan alike. That sounds pretty sexy. Bonus points for the cars and bikes and machines and circuits as actual objects able to be objectified, not humans.

Don’t tell me “but its our history.” We have lots of things in our collective global history we have eliminated or are eliminating. Segregation. Smallpox. Open face helmets. No run off areas. No catch fences. No SAFER barriers. Times change. So does racing.

Don’t tell me “boys will be boys.” Men aren’t a monolith. There are men who love women. There are men who love men. There are men who love both, all of this romantically and sexually. Yet, there are plenty of men who do, in fact, find women aesthetically pleasing who still aren’t at the race track to ogle scantily clad women. {side note: it is impossibly easy to access images of fully nude women. they are found online, a place you also currently happen to be.} You see, these boys working at the track or watching the coverage of racing are there because of the aforementioned speed and fuel and rubber and technology and heart of competition.

The women already at the track, working and watching, they are here for the same reasons. Except the grid girls, who really aren’t allowed to do anything but smile, sweat in inexplicable clothing, and fend off bad apples. When they are around, doing the work they are paid to do, the women there for the enjoyment of or participation in racing are just as easily dismissed. Women are only at the track to be hit upon or to find a husband or to dutifully trudge behind and nag the man race fan in their life, seems to be the message encouraged by grid girls. A woman couldn’t possibly be a race fan because she, too, has an abiding affection for the sport. A woman couldn’t possibly work in racing because she, too, has the dedication and skill set to do so.

Audiences are generally shrinking for sporting events the world over, give or take. There are only so many 18-35 year old men, and only so much cash to go around. A demographic with actual growth potential: women.

Attempting to grow interest amongst women worldwide in whatever form of racing you’re selling becomes much more difficult when the very sanctioning body or title sponsor of the sport uses women’s bodies as billboards. No, I take that back. These women don’t have enough coverage to adequately advertise anything. They exist only to be objectified by a dwindling number of men.

The race track is no place for grid girls. Not now, not in the future. If your product, racing or sponsor, can’t sell without them, you need to make the show better. Make a better product. This isn’t the 1970s. This is 2017. Women are people, and racing deserves better than to treat them otherwise.

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14 thoughts on “On Grid Girls…

  1. I think you are approaching this the wrong way round. As long as the advertising execs, company CEOs, team owners, crews, drivers and spectators are mainly male, there will likely be grid girls. The guys at the top are not famous for being feminists. Grid girls will disappear when they lose their commercial value, or when more women are present at all levels of the sport.

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    • You are making my point. Grid girls are not objects of commercial value. They are women. They are human.
      & as long as grid girls are seen as objects at the track, women won’t be welcome without a fight, making it near impossible for us to be “present” enough to recognize our equality.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, about the advertising execs, I know you are aware that sex sells. That’s a fact of current life, and it’s not totally gender specific. I point you toward Fabio, the Old Spice guys and the often lurid covers of romance novels. I don’t think you will ever totally eliminate it. Maybe there should be Grid Boys….Nah!

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  3. And before you think I’m a misogynist pig, let me remind you that Ana Carrasco uses shirtless umbrella boy as do other female racers. Its the rider’s preference to have a male/female umbrella person on the grid. I don’t hear you “Feminist” say Ana is a sexist piglet because well she “exploits” a shirtless man to advertise her sponsors.

    I thought Feminism was about “equality”. When can we expect you to give us a post on brolly boys who are “exploited” by female racers? Or is there no such thing when it comes to men?

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    • I don’t think the women involved are being exploited, and I don’t want to see brolly boys. I think racing is exciting enough we don’t need to objectify people when there are awesome objects (cars/bikes) to watch race.
      And, I’ll thank you not to use quotes around “exploits” as though you’re quoting me, as I didn’t write it in the article.

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  4. This is a very good discussion. I appreciate Victoria’s sentiments about the subject and I also read the article that Nitrometh referenced. I’m a feminist, a rider, a chemistry professor, and a fan of motorsports. I do often think that the outfits worn by the “grid girls” are skimpy and are very likely designed to accentuate their feminine features. I have talked to a number of commentators and team personnel at racing events and asked if they might consider at least calling the females holding the umbrellas “gals” instead of “girls”, as the vast majority of them are 18 years of age, or older, and I consider the term “girls” to have a demeaning tone.
    I have also talked to many of these “gals” myself and I for the most part find them to be witty, intelligent, kindhearted, and enjoying what they are doing. Once I asked a “gal” who was handing out posters if she had ever ridden a motorcycle. She said no, but that she would love to try! I encouraged her and complimented her on being chosen for her poise and good looks, reminding her that she could be beautiful, intelligent, AND ride a motorcycle. She thanked me and said that she was going to find a way to learn to ride. (I think that there were many great teachers available in the paddock!)
    I brought this all to the attention of a motorsports commentator who later thanked me and said that upon reflection he decided to help promote and sponsor an up and coming female rider.
    Like many issues in our society today, it takes thoughtful dialogue and discourse, and getting to know the people involved and their points of view. Traditions are not, in and of themselves, a bad thing, but they can become outdated and in need of change. There are still people in the United States who support the old symbols and chants for the Atlanta Braves, even though Native Americans have indicated that these symbols are offensive to them and do not accurately reflect their cultural heritage. I don’t believe that those supporters of this “tradition” are all bad people, or anti-Native American. I think that they just don’t see the bigger picture and they are resistant to change. It may be the same for many of the teams and sponsors who employ the “grid girls”. Continuing to discuss and dialogue is, in my view, the way to go. Kudos to Victoria for starting the discussion, and to all those who join in!

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