Calling the practice “at odds with modern day societal norms,” Formula 1 on Wednesday announced it no longer would employ “grid girls,” models who perform various promotional duties during races.
“Over the last year, we have looked at a number of areas which we felt needed updating so as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport,” Sean Bratches, Formula 1’s managing director for commercial operations, said in a statement on the circuit’s website. “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. We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world.”
The decision did not sit well with some grid girls, who railed against what they see as an overreach of political correctness.
“Ridiculous that women who say they are ‘fighting for women’s rights’ are saying what others should and shouldn’t do, stopping us from doing a job we love and are proud to do. PC gone mad,” now-former grid girl Rebecca Cooper wrote on Twitter.
Michelle Westby, meanwhile, wrote on Facebook that her experience as a grid girl helped pave the way for her entrance to the male-dominated world of stunt and drift competition driving. She also said a lot of women will lose a source of income, thanks to “feminists.”
“I’m now retired from it all but to think girls have now lost a lot of important income because feminists think they know best when they haven’t a clue is really frustrating, we have our own voice, we loved doing the job, this is all basically because some men can’t control what comes out their mouth and nothing to do with the girls,” she wrote Thursday on Facebook. “I can walk past a building site and get the same comments so why suddenly a job should be taken away due to some unwanted male attention is a joke. What’s next? No female magazines, commercials ….. where does it end.”
“It’s upsetting, and I’m rather disgusted that F1 have given in to the minority to be politically correct,” a former grid girl named Charlotte Gash told BBC Radio 5 live. “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. 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, and we don’t want it taken away from us.”
Formula 1’s announcement followed a similar edict by Professional Darts Corporation, which said last week it no longer employ “walk-on girls” who escort male competitors to the stage. Female models still are used as eye candy at cycling events and during boxing and mixed martial arts competitions.
“We strongly encourage sports such as cycling, boxing and UFC to follow darts and Formula 1 and reconsider the use of podium girls, ring girls and octagon girls,” the Women’s Sport Trust said in a statement.
“This is not a matter of feminists versus models, which seems to be the way many people want to portray this story. These changes are taking place because global businesses are making a considered choice about how women should be valued and portrayed in their sports in 2018. They deserve significant credit for doing so.”
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