Rebecca Bernard
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F1 Might Get Rid of Grid Girls and People Are Upset

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F1 Cars at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix2017’s word of the year, according to Merriam-Webster, is feminism. No matter what side of the political spectrum you sit on, there is no denying that this year has been a big one when it comes to women speaking out and fighting for what they believe in, with women winning more local elections and Hollywood stars forced to bow out due to sexual harassment allegations. Not all of these changes have been met with cheers, and one of the best examples is recent backlash against Formula One’s governing body, The International Automobile Federation (FIA), when it was reported that they were considering getting rid of grid girls at F1 tracks.

If you’re one of millions of Americans that don’t regularly watch F1, let me fill you in. F1’s grid girls are models present at racetracks to do things like hold umbrellas, line the walkway drivers take to the track, and display driver name boards, all while covered in sponsor logos. This is hardly the only sport that utilizes beautiful girls to make events look better, but considering F1’s abysmal record with women, the continued use of models on the track seems to only further enforce gender stereotypes from the last century.  Since its inception, only been five officials female drivers have participated in Formula One and some officials regularly question whether women can even physically compete at the same level as men behind the wheel.

BBC Sport asked its readers whether F1 should have grid girls, and in an online poll 60% of participants said yes, and responses from F1 figures have been mixed. Christian Horner and Daniel Ricciardo want to keep the girls around, with the later going so far as to say “It’s what you grew up with. I guess as a kid even, you see the umbrella girls, the grid girls. It’s part of the attraction of the sport.” On the flip side, Stuart Pringle, in charge of Silverstone Circuit, doesn’t want his daughter seeing the women and “aspiring to wear lycra”, adding that it is “tarty nonsense”.

Beyond thoughts from F1 personalities, the atmosphere online has been downright vicious. When Jalopnik staff writer Alanis King covered the topic, the comments section was a pure dumpster fire. Some users went beyond just voicing support for models on tracks but questioning King’s ability to cover motorsports (which we have certainly heard before). One Jalopnik reader went so far as to email her to call her a “clueless idiot” and tell her to stop writing until she has “something worthwhile to say”.

More level-headed users suggested that women were well-represented in the sport in their roles as engineers or test drivers, and some said the grid girls should stay for nostalgia’s sake.

I’m not saying that beautiful women can’t be models and show off what nature or God gave them, but maybe it’s time that they are replaced on F1 racetracks. If fans truly love watching these high-powered machines race around the track, it shouldn’t matter if there are also pretty ladies to stare at. The backlash to the suggestion that grid girls might be relics of the past just goes to show what some men really think of women, and why moves like this might be a step forward to making us more than just pretty faces.

News Sources: BBC Sport and Jalopnik