Formula One announced yesterday that they have now banned the practice of using “grid girls” during Grand Prix weekends. The move follows similar recent actions from the World Endurance Championship and Formula E.
For the very uninitiated, Formula 1 is widely considered the peak level of single-seater, open cockpit, open wheel auto racing. It races in twenty-one countries annually, garners an annual television viewership of 350 million people, and is worth $8 billion USD (just the corporate ownership, not including the teams). F1 might seem to be small fry in the United States. Worldwide, especially in Europe, it commands much attention.
And “grid girls”? That’s the term for female models in varying levels of dress who are used ceremonially during Grand Prix weekends for holding up signs next to cars on the grid (where the cars launch at the start of the race), holding umbrellas, greeting winning drivers, posing for public relations photos, etc. The general concept is, of course, not unique to auto racing sans the grid.
The move comes mostly from pressure towards political correctness, a concept that’s usually repugnant to “conservatives.” With recent social media movements now acting as a catalyst, opposing the sexual objectification of women is now considered “feminist” rather than “Christian” or just plain old “decent.” And unlike sports such as American professional football, however, the additional dynamic in auto racing is that women are rising through the ranks of its athletes while competing alongside men.
F1 had also experimented with lightening the offense recently by using “grid boys.” Formula E, an all-electric series, is now using “grid kids” who aren’t there for base visual pleasure.
But this pressure towards political correctness has an incomplete argument summed up by one word: outdated. F1’s press statement looks carefully to avoid that verbatim, but it is there, though a track representative’s statement to Motorsport.com was less careful: “[I]t is an outdated practice that no longer has a place in sport.” (link intentionally not provided)
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. (F1)
By implication, grid girls were okay up until maybe ten* years ago, and then they started to become bad.
On the flip side, loud protest has arisen from models themselves. By way of example provided by Motorsport.com (link intentionally not provided):
Blurred lines. Here’s what happens when there’s no imago Dei or absolute, divine moral standards in the culture’s worldview. Matthew 5:27–28 is out the window. Our moral standards are just the wave of human thought, whether based on shifts towards political correctness or a misguided loyalty to tradition and unrestrained individualism. Somehow in this case, the “politically correct” is actually closer to morally correct.
Be that as it may, this move by F1 is undoubtedly a good thing of itself. Give them credit. Here in the U.S., can we expect the same of NASCAR, which recently took a major step backwards in this regard with its “Monster Energy Girls,” or with sports outside of auto racing (e.g. NFL cheerleaders)? I don’t have my hopes up.
* Ten? What was I thinking? Maybe more like three? (added post-publishing)