I’m coming off an amazing weekend right now. I spent all of Saturday and part of Friday roasting in the California sunshine, meeting Formula E drivers and watching an amazing race with some great overtaking and drama, culminating in my friend’s favorite driver getting on the podium for the first time in years. I got to be at the podium ceremony and go in a few of the garages and it was fantastic, so fantastic.
One of the great things about the weekend was how accepting everyone was of our knowledge of the sport; we didn’t get aggressively quizzed once, as I have been at other sporting events. Granted, in a new series like Formula E, everyone on the teams, I imagine, just assumes that everyone hasn’t seen a race yet, as there have only been a few so far – but as soon as the teams we spoke to realized we’d seen races and knew who the drivers/teams were, they just helped us fill in gaps in our knowledge rather than trying to explain things to us that we already knew, and that was awesome.
But Formula E isn’t the norm in motorsport, and Formula E still has grid girls.
I can’t talk about how much it pains me to be watching things going on in the pit lane, to be so astounded at the work some of these people do, only to look up, see 20 women holding signs, and look back down to realize that there are so few women working in the pit lane. And motorsport is claiming to be inclusive? Not so. Women are primarily in this sport as props, and the fact that sponsors and even drivers are lashing out at series like WEC for doing away with grid girls is so incredibly disheartening.
When Sasky and I took this name for our podcast, we did it in the hope that eventually people will hear the term “grid girls” and think of us, two women who love talking about motorsport and attending events and generally moving the sport forward, rather than women being used as eyecandy, a sideshow for actual motorsport – a sideshow that none of us have signed up for. There has been a lot of posturing by some of the bigwigs of motorsport to bring equality into play; Bernie Ecclestone’s (frankly stupid) idea for a Women’s F1 series being one of them. But you can’t make noise about bringing in more women drivers while on the other hand keep promoting scantily clad grid girls — and accepting disgusting comments about them by everyone from drivers to commentators as the norm — at your races. It’s a dichotomy that can’t exist.
Imagine being a young girl who’s getting into karting, or contemplating going into engineering or tech work. These fields are toxic enough for women as it is; now imagine watching races on tv, seeing the only women there as just pretty little pictures with closed mouths and artificial smiles. Imagine seeing drivers you support tweeting that the elimination of women-as-eyecandy in the World Endurance Championship is a tragedy, the same drivers that posture about wanting more women to get involved in the sport. Would you want to continue into a field that will tear you down at every turn simply because you’re not a man?
I condemn the institution of grid girls. I condemn it for making me and other women who take their sports fandom seriously uncomfortable. I condemn it for making it that much harder to feel validated that our fandom isn’t unnatural. I condemn it for the youngsters who want to shatter that ceiling and get into motorsport — especially those that want to be drivers, since this is definitely a sport where being smaller and lighter than other drivers can be a definite advantage, therefore one where women should be succeeding against men. I condemn it for giving rise to disgusting opinions like those of the company whose tweets I posted above, 8Js, calling for a return to “70’s values” and “classy” grid girls — and yet somehow not the booty shorts and skimpy clothes that the MEN wore in the 70s. Why is that, 8Js? Why do you feel the need to slut-shame on top of everything? (8Js also happens to be a brand which several drivers wear and support, a brand whose clothing features pictures of mostly naked women).
So thank you, WEC, for doing the right thing. Thank you, drivers tweeting outrage over the WEC’s actions, so I know who not to support. And a genuine thank you to those drivers like Fernando Rees in WEC who supports the elimination of grid girls as an institution, and Scott Speed in Formula E who tweets honest support of the few existing women drivers like Simona de Silvestro.
You’re helping. You may not think it’s a big deal, but when other drivers are saying what they are — it’s a beacon of hope, and for that, thank you.
It’s hard to love a sport when your happy buzz is constantly being harshed by men invalidating you. That’s the life of a woman sports fan these days, and you better believe I and others are going to fight like hell to make it better for those who come after us.
If you’re in favor of grid girls, you aren’t in favor of equality in motorsport. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Abolish Grid Girls 2K15.