Sunday, 3 May 2015

Everyday Motorsport Sexism

A while back, I spoke about the decision taken by the WEC to get rid of grid girls. Naturally, this received a mixed response on Twitter - from many people agreeing to some others claiming that grid girls are a huge part of motorsport, it would ruin the event, and that I was just a man-hating feminazi, jealous of the girls. Let me address these latter points: no, grid girls aren't integral to motorsport; if you think removing grid girls will ruin the event maybe you should find another source of entertainment (maybe go to fashion shows instead?); I am not a man-hating feminazi nor am I jealous of grid girls. Anyway, today's post isn't about the grid girls, it's about an instance of objectification I spotted on Twitter this evening.

A certain driver responded to a picture of a female driver (with her back facing the camera) standing alongside her Austin Healey 3000. Rather than comment on the car (which, I think, is maybe the point of motorsport - feel free to correct me though), all the driver had to say was "GREAT ARSE". This particular driver has also in the past made comment about 'Huh, women drivers eh!', so perhaps I should just expect it, but instances like these are making me increasingly disillusioned with the motorsport world.

As I noted in my previous post, there's a huge deficit of women in motorsport. Bernie Ecclestone (the mad old fool) argued that we should have a separate women's championship to encourage women into F1, however as I wrote before this is a ridiculous notion. The lack of women in top-tier motorsport is not due to lack of a female-only championship, but rather because of a lack of women throughout the motorsport world at all levels. Why is this a phenomenon? In my opinion, it's largely a cultural attitude that prevents women from entering professional motorsport in the first place.

Sure, some of this might arise from simple parenting differences between the two genders. Boys generally play with cars and "masculine" toys, while girls get the dolls and "feminine" toys. Maybe because of this, girls are less likely to want to go karting when they're a few years old. However, there are other barriers to face once women progress through the ranks of motorsport. The Twitter driver's comments are an example.

The woman in the picture was obviously a driver. She may have been an excellent driver. She might have been the only woman in the field. All that could be said about her though was "GREAT ARSE". REALLY?! That's all you can say about this woman? That her gluteus maximus is nice-looking? Would you say that about a male driver? I'm a heterosexual female fan of motorsport, but I can move past drivers' physical attributes and appreciate their talent and skill. This is a barrier that sadly a lot of male fans (and apparently drivers) can't move past when they see female drivers, and this is something contributing to women not being taken seriously in the motorsport world - especially as it's accepted (and even expected!) by the majority.

Naturally, I'll get the response of "It's just banter, love". Sure, to you it's banter. To the minority group in the motorsport world (e.g. WOMEN), it's not though. Look at the everyday sexism project for examples of what we have to put up with on a daily basis. These aren't issues that affect you, and you're actively contributing to the problem. Until you recognise this, how can women progress in the mad world of motorsport? I'm not a 'feminazi' - I recognise that men have different problems in life, and these need to be equally addressed if we're to finally achieve true equality and get rid of sexism, but this is beyond the scope of my post. To conclude, I'd urge you all to think about what you post and what unconscious attitudes you may hold towards women in motorsport. Progress is being made, but until this objectification of women in overalls is ditched, there are limits to what we can do.