One Woman’s Perspective On The Grid Girls

susan
By Susan Phillips

I usually don’t tackle hard issues here. Usually, I take on topics that might appeal to the casual racing fan. Sometimes I like to embarrass my husband who usually occupies this space by sharing some detail he probably wouldn’t like you to know about him. But this is a topic that has caught my attention and I would like to give you a woman’s perspective that may be different than what you may have read elsewhere.

For the past few days, all I’ve seen online are comments praising the fact that the Grid Girls have been banned from Formula One. To me, it looks like much of this high praise has been coming from men – and men who are middle-aged like me. As a woman who grew into womanhood in the 70’s, a time of advancement for women; I don’t share their enthusiasm.

I am all for opportunities for women. I enjoy the fact that when I go to race tracks, I see women drivers, journalists and fans. It’s not 50-50 but from what I see, the women are treated equally. Some of these women may disagree with me, but I can only comment on what I see in the garages and media centers of the tracks I’ve been to.

Racing is about the only sport I know of where men and women are mostly on equal footing. They may not get the same opportunities with top teams as men, but once they climb into a car they can perform just as well as a man can. Women certainly have their place in a race car, but should that come at the expense of having their place as a Grid Girl?

As foreign as it may seem to some, there are women who enjoy that type of role. Many women use these marketing roles to advance acting or modeling careers. It may be hard to believe now, but before the ravages of time double-crossed my body – I was quite the hottie. Why else would George have dated me in college?

While in college in the late seventies I served as a Timette, which was a role originated for the University of Tennessee Men’s Swim Team by their famous coach, the late Ray Bussard. We would time the swimmers in practice and help out with assorted duties in swim meets. Realistically, we served as the eye-candy to attract male students to come to the swim meets. It was a marketing ploy.

We Timettes were scantily clad in tight-fitting white short-shorts and orange halter-tops. Oddly enough, it was all topped with an orange cowboy hat with a white “T” on the front. Did any of us feel demeaned, exploited or objectified? Not. One. Bit.

On the contrary, we felt it was an honor to be part of a team that was recognized nationally as one of the top programs. I wasn’t into swimming, but it was my senior year and I wanted to do something social that was connected to the university, so I tried out (yes, they had tryouts). It ended up being one of my most rewarding experiences in college.

While we are on the topic of collegiate activities where women are dressed in little more than sparkly swimsuits—let’s talk about majorettes. While at UT, I had a good friend that was a majorette. The tryouts were very competitive and oftentimes, they were offered scholarships to twirl for the Pride of the Southland Band. She told me of having to stay on a strict diet, and weigh-ins were not uncommon during football season. She didn’t feel objectified, she wanted to be able to fit into her uniform–which was strictly tailored for them at the beginning of the season. It was a great honor for her to march out in front of the band and perform. I’m sure the wave of political correctness will eventually phase them out also.

As a young adult in the 80’s, flirting was expected. If a guy didn’t flirt with me, I figured there was something wrong with him or me. I didn’t want to be treated as a male co-worker. I enjoyed the male-female banter. Things were more human back then. It was all in good fun. Sometime in the 90’s the movement against sexual harassment in the workplace came into the forefront. We attended annual classes as to what defined sexual harassment in the workplace, and what has evolved from it in our politically correct times, boggles the mind.

The daughter of a very good friend of mine is currently a Titan’s cheerleader. She is super-intelligent and graduated with honors from the University of Memphis. She is currently working on her masters while already carving out a successful career in sales. She has made her parents very proud. She is also very beautiful and enjoys her role as a Titans cheerleader. She is not under any illusions that she is holding women back by cheering for the Titans in skimpy outfits on the sidelines. We met up with her in the stadium after a Titans game this season. It was brutally hot that day, but as an active cheerleader she seemed to fare much better than I did just sitting in the stands.

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Have times have really changed that much over forty years? I don’t think so. When I was a Timette in a skimpy outfit, I never once felt ashamed or that I was doing something against my will. I chose to be a Timette—it was an honor. The men wore far skimpier outfits than what we were wearing—they wore Speedos! We all were doing an activity that we CHOSE and the uniform that went along with it. It didn’t make me feel like a slut if guys were eyeballing me. I enjoyed it and found it flattering. Did that make me less of a person? I didn’t think so then, nor do I think so now. Nor do I think that being a woman in a role like that did anything to hold women back.

I have probably outraged some men and women alike with this stance. I hope not, but I probably have. But it’s hard for me to sit silent while I read the entire PC crowd patting themselves on the back for sounding so noble as if they are above it all. I think there are a lot of women who think like I do, but they have been shamed into silence by feeling like there is something wrong with them if they are not offended by Grid Girls.

The question I think we need to ask here is our political correctness, and what we consider objectifying women actually holding them back? I think this is just the beginning–by the demise of the Grid Girls–are we keeping women from what they really want to do, or depriving them from a stepping stone to a modeling or acting career? What if I wanted to be a trophy girl or work for Cooper Tires and wear tight-fitting jumpsuits to promote a product? Political correctness and what others consider objectifying women, doesn’t get to choose the career I want—I do. As a young girl, I was told I could be whatever I wanted to be. Why are we now limiting that by saying, you can’t do that if I find it offensive?

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16 Responses to “One Woman’s Perspective On The Grid Girls”

  1. Nobody in their right mind would countenance abuse or harassment of women who choose to work in this area or other similar fields. I am as liberal as they come but in my opinion this is becoming hysteria and the PC crowd are casually linking the two. So, soon the sun tan cream ads will not be able to feature a women in a swimsuit? Fashion ads will obviously be vetted so as not to ‘objectify’ the model? If someone wears a low cut dress are we to think less of her? Justin Timberlake [I think] was berated recently because he tweeted that his wife was “hot” whilst they were on the red carpet. What? Really? Personally I don’t care if the ‘Grid girls’ are there or not but I do take issue with people deciding this on their behalf. Recently in the UK, Manchester art gallery took down a pre-Raphelite painting, part of which featured semi naked women, because they wanted ask the public what they thought as to whether paintings like this should be displayed!! Madness. Abuse is abhorrent and should not be tolerated ever. Nor should it be conflated with women pursuing their chosen careers. Rant over….

  2. It’s good to get someone’s perspective who has done these things that some do-gooders try to abolish. Even better to get it from someone whose had years in between to see if perspective changed at all. I’m a guy but I agree with everything you’ve said. I see it the same way. I was born in 1960 and remember when the girls in elementary school wore dresses and skirts. They also played sports at noon and recess if they cared to. No one had a problem with this.

    Then, came political correctness and feminism (I’m not talking about the feminism that gives equal rights to women, I’m referring to the feminism that doesn’t stop there and ventures into sexism). The “progressives” seemed to want to tear down the culture and replace it with something that doesn’t reflect how we human beings really are and how we socialize and enjoy our lives and identities.

    And so we have no Grid Girls. What’s next?

  3. This post was a breath of fresh air. So great reading a female perspective on this! I bet there are many other women who share your feelings on this Susan, and I don’t know how anyone could logically dispute your points. Well done!

  4. Well said, Susan. I think this is a wrongly intended PR move by F1. They should be opening more opportunities for women in all areas, not closing more doors to them.

  5. I notice Simona hasn’t jumped into the Grid Girls discussion. I like how she tends to her own business and avoids any type of controversy. But I’m sure she will be asked about it by the media as soon as the Supercars season starts.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    Looks like it is safe for whoever is now married to Ashley Judd to race in F1…

    It seems to me that the role of grid girl could be altered, expanded, or simply better explained rather than eliminated in order to satisfy complainers.

    • Mrs.Olpressure Says:

      Personally, I think we shouldn’t have to satisfy the complainers. There are always complainers and that is what has gotten us into this politically correct mess that we are in now. I think many of the complainers simply complain or jump on the bandwagon to show how “aware” they are so they can appear to have empathy to whatever group they consider to be marginalized without a thought to how it actually affects the people they are trying to “save.”
      I have read a few articles about how they should have defined the role of the Grid Girls and given them more responsibility than to just stand around and be eye candy–and I like you, agree with it, but it shouldn’t be at the hands of political correctness.

  7. Let’s get one thing abundantly clear — this isn’t about taking away Grid Girls because they somehow deter women from being interested in F1. If a woman wants to participate in F1, be it as a driver or a mechanic or an owner or a media member, they are going to do so because they want to. You don’t strive to reach that level of motorsport and then just quit because their are pretty girls holding signs on the starting grid. They have enough other issues trying to reach the highest level of worldwide auto racing. A girl holding a sign in clothes you might not like should not be the one obstacle that keeps any woman from achieving her dream. If you work that hard just to quit because of grid girls, you simply didn’t want it bad enough.

    No, this is about the self-righteous do-gooders who feel that nearly all societal norms of days going past that in any way differentiate men from women need to be abolished. It’s about an attempt to remove any semblance of beauty and sexuality from the world where they don’t want to see it. It’s about celebrating only some gifts and fruits of hard work for women but not others. Think about it… if a woman is born with natural intellect, works hard, studies, masters her intellectual abilities, and is desired in a position for her intellect, we celebrate her. If a woman is born with natural physical beauty, works hard, promotes herself, and is desired for her physical beauty, we frown upon her. Why is that? That’s not in any way whatsoever intended to say these woman have no intellectual skills and abilities. Many, as Susan pointed out above, are exceptionally bright and could very easily excel in many other areas of their choosing. Nor should anyone ever twist my words into saying such women should be subjected to true sexual harassment. (But let’s be honest, a guy staring at these girls who voluntarily do these job while passing by on the start grid of a race is not really sexual harassment. If he grabs her, yes. If he simply admires, no.) But why are mental gifts so cherished and physical gifts so decried. Why does the presence of one in a woman apparently seem to preclude the presence of the other?

    Plain and simple… this is about F1 trying to get out in front of a problem that doesn’t exist just as a way of saying, “Hey! Look at us! We’re doing something! Come watch us because we’re really combating this issue of sexual harassment by just removing these women altogether.” It’s a smoke show… nothing more, nothing less.

  8. Mrs.Olpressure Says:

    They have just announced they will use Grid Kids–waiting for the backlash of exploiting children.

  9. Pc this pc that… As a guy I appreciated a living billboard. i also appreciate beautiful people and the work it takes to live a healthy lifestyle. I did however always wonder about why don’t any lady drivers utilize any male models? Cut shirtless dudes holding umbrellas or as their entourage, selling a brand or product. Male or female, I would be fine with on a race grid.

    • When Simona was in Formula E they had grid girls but provided a grid boy for her. She just laughed and posed for pictures with the guy. Then she got in the race car and did her job without making a big deal about it. That is one reason she is my favorite driver. Formula E is now bragging that they got rid of grid girls before Formula 1.

  10. Doug Benefiel Says:

    Thanks for sharing your views on this. I completely agree with you and appreciate hearing a female’s perspective. The problem we face is the PC crowd is winning. I hope that changes. Again, thanks for sharing.

  11. Oh how I have longed to read or hear something like this! A voice of reason rising above the cacophony of political correctness. Well done Susan.

  12. susan, you are one reason
    about being reasonable.

  13. Mark J Wick Says:

    Thank you Susan. When I first saw this news I realized that quite a few women were going to be deprived of an opportunity they wanted.

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