Completely screwed my body clock,
With all the late night bants.
My head just needs its pillow,
Brains dancing ’round in its pants.


invisible ink – a response

Whoa. So I’ve been bagged-out and demonised since I aired my long-held view about superfluous and gratuitous presence of grid girls at motorsport events. A lot of men have got their knickers in a right old mess over what I have said on twitter and here. None have countered what I’ve said with any direct academic points, but only repetition of their original premise: there’s no harm in them, and let a woman do what job she wants. Some have completely missed my perspective and retorted with more mixed-up whataboutery than I can begin to fend in a single life-time. neonbrand-428982From accusations of being jealous of youthful beauty to somehow offending the family and friends of racers because I have said grid girls have no place on the starting line? And a few have been abusive… which is ironic given they are supposedly defending women’s rights. Because part of being a woman and having equality, is society protecting my right to vocalise an opinion different from… well, men’s. Let it be known clearly, no woman with an opposing view has connected with me to discuss, just men pontificating. Or trying to correct me. My experience in similar jobs, background in marketing, love of motorsports, time in the Paddock, and being a woman, actually discounted as having any leverage in validating my view. This latter, I find hilarious. Like no one but men and the ‘girls’ themselves (I mean even the bloody job title they use is denigrating to women) can speak with authenticity. 

I know. I know. Most of you have recognised this conversation has taken a limited single-layered tone. And you’re absolutely right to be concerned. As world-wise and educated, wider-thinkers, we know. This is a much bigger, more insidious issue. It’s important.

I have been trying to find a way to explain, articulate my thoughts on the difference between a woman’s right to choose her employment and this. The purposeful contracting of young women by men, to wear specifically sexual clothing in a male dominated environment to entertain using only looks, for men. So I’m going to try and flesh (!) it out here.

I believe in a woman’s right in both choice of clothing, (how she presents herself to the world) and how she financially supports herself. Except this, this ‘girls on parade’, this pimping out for male pleasure, isn’t choice. It’s allowing yourself to be part of the male construct. It’s a male environment, managed, funded, and provided by men, for men. You are permitted to perform here. Are paid to be here. Purely and precisely for their financial benefit, and sexual gratification. A starkly different image, but possible comparison to explain further: the burka. I have absolutely no issue with a woman wearing what she wants, when she wants. But the doctrine, provision, and permission for women of this culture (see religion, institution, patriarchy) is managed, owned, and defined by men. I feel like they are similar aspects of the same issue.

We are led to believe empowerment is our choice… but it is actually and very essentially found in our freedom away from a masculine criteria. If each scenario could be held separate and still be relevant, then that is true choice. I believe, to a certain extent this also includes aspects of prostitution, stripping, and variations on acting – and whether you report directly to a woman for your paycheck or are employed by an organisation led by men – if the world in which these actions happen, can be isolated from male dominance or their conceptual infrastructure, if there is no direct benefit, profit, or manipulation by men, by their purely being male, that is choice… if not, it is existing for them, to support, or provide a service for them. Without real power, negotiation, status, or equality.

invisible ink

I can hear the groans of grown men from here. Some of them not at all pleasant. They are imagining a life without scantily-clad women to gawp at when they go to the motorsport. Lorks! The anguish they must be feeling. The bereft state they find themselves in, suddenly, and with a bewildering shock. I can sense their dis-ease at the changing landscape. One that holds no hip-hugging-lycra ladies, nor free cans of Monster held out by a widely-smiling angel. The future must feel like a bleak and unfair place.

I read that the once beatific babes themselves are aghast that anyone should find them offensive. Question their right to employment, their empowerment. How dear we shrivelled and over-sensitive moral brigade call out the silliness of their status. Don’t we know, they will be jobless? A job they so passionately love. That a whole stable of sex-pots will be redundant. Negated, unheard and just not cherished enough. Sad days. Who will carry the brollies?

But wait. A surprising turn. For now we have a plot twist – and given the rarity of a plot at all – engagement and activism from both sides in joined pursuit of a mutually beneficial climax. I mean out-cum. Outcome. This is the stuff of fantasies. This is a coming together (rarely happens, it has to be said, have you seen the state of that beer-belly?) of a band of dubiously developed men, desperately wanting to protect the objects of their desire.

Feeding such simple needs, this scenario… hot girls become maidens in need of rescue, normally quiet impotent men rise up demanding retribution on behalf of the meek, the mewling minxes say No! We are strong and fighting and we stand tall in our stilettos. The men, at once, in thrall and engorged with purpose. An excuse to connect with objects of their affection, to offer affirmation. It is the story of centuries. A centuries-old profession. That of the sexy con. The gifted sweet smile in exchange for a good bartering. The selling of goods. She doesn’t mind they are her goods being sold but the boss-man’s products being bought.

These two are bit players on the set-edge of a yawning cavern of change. Their puppet-masters, aware of the shift and managing the stage carefully. Watching from aloft, while counting the revenue receipts as the entertainment settles in to a new groove.

What tweaks my nip most, is the vehement vilification of those who agree it is time for the removal of #gridgirls from our tracks and telly-boxes. Such a noisey chest-beating response by men, to what should be an obvious and positive change. And astoundingly nasty commentary from women…

“I saw a minger on tv saying it’s morally wrong… bet if she had a quarter of the looks these girls had she’d be doing it too!”

Yeah, because ugly* is the only reason a woman wouldn’t do the job, right? FFS. Honestly, bitch?

*When women are calling other women mingers, ugly… when females are using beauty values to dismiss someone’s intelligence and academic achievements, shitballs, we still have a massive problem.

Right, where was I?

From your keyboard you are yelling. It is Political Correctness Out of Control! Listen, your anti-PC insularity is not what this is about. The curdling cries of What next? No more ads featuring stunning actresses wearing red lipstick biting seductively at a chocolate bar to make us all a-titter? All the beautiful people banished into an underground dystopian world? Those self-replicating fembots making us wear loose sack-cloth from head to toe, hiding our man-memberage in case blood-flow takes a detour from the brain? People actually suggesting “… it’ll be the Burka before long, mark my words…” (can almost picture the shaking staff and accompanying spit at the dirt floor in curse). Because the choice of what women wear in a promotional role in public is that binary. Either your body is encased in figure-tight luridly-branded lycra or, only your eyes will be seen. A hijab though? More surface area for the branding, it has to be said – may be the way to go. Like a grounded zeppelin. Anyhoo. Are you all insane? Or is this just being male? Because that doesn’t make it ok this time.

And don’t start @ me about ‘The Feminists’. Please. That somehow heavy-hoofed he-women have pressured the cowering boss-mans of F1 and Darts, dictating in world-ending prophecy, that all femme-bodies shall be covered in breathable material, that they shall not endure long hours of posing atop ridiculous footwear, and henceforth be free from the pervy, penetrating, prying eyes of a guy being manipulated by sex into buying the latest sock for his helmet. This is about money, don’t let them make you think it is anything other. If the #gridgirls and promo staff bought in ROI that fiscally outweighed current misogyny, alienating the growing female demographic, and the just plain glamorous (see tacky, cheap, creepy, prostitution-like) tradition of it, F1 certainly wouldn’t be ceasing this plying of their trade. It is a business decision and not one based on morals but driven by dollars.

Your accusatory, aggressive, abuse towards Feminism makes me reel. From fear. Have we not learned to embrace and trust it; that Feminism is the umbrella (see what I did there?) under which women have grown stronger and more confident, sought shelter and shared stories. Feminism is the small space we give ourselves to find what we want to do with our lives, to then move forward knowing the path is made safer for us. And you women, calling out your sisters for caring about the generations to come, our daughters. For wanting the betterment of society for us all. For believing, and rightly so, that these roles perpetuate and support the objectification and sexualisation of females. Dissing us for wanting you to know:

you are more than just body parts

More than a nice face and a photogenic personality. By not hearing our voices trying to join with your own, you allow sexism to continue it’s “enduring, pervasive, systemic, cultural, and ingrained” existence (Reisenwitz). That faux-empowerment, the language you are using, mimics your overlords. Take a beat, girl.

Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes (Google dictionary, my dears).

The way in which we “define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes. This includes seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.”
(Wiki, see the definition is easy to find…)

Hell, it’s not a new concept – it is older than your bra-burning Grandmother. The word feminism has been around since the late c19 and whilst it’s evolution has seen the inclusion and understanding of intersectionality, it has rarely diverted from its origin. I am a Feminist. I strongly believe in the right to choose. Choosing life-goals, choosing careers, choosing not to have children, whatever the journey. Feminism is, at it’s very heart, a woman making a choice for herself. No matter how confused or misguided she may be, she is permitted that choice.

“A choice of circumstance, or need, or desire – it does not matter. If she has made that choice for herself, then it should be honored and seen as a feminist act – a conscious choice of her destiny in the world.” Sheila Hageman, ex-stripper

I do not argue against a woman choosing to use her body any way she wishes, to pay attention to her needs, to pay the rent. What I have always objected to is the need for this outdated and inappropriate marketing tool at motorsport. At any sport. The objectification of women, the premise that an entire gender exists for the gratification of another. It remains a poor example to our children, the new spectating generation – of all genders. Let’s teach them this is no longer acceptable. That women are not a reward given to men by other men, that you cannot buy them. That being beautiful on the inside is more important than beauty on the outside… lets teach them that. And along the way, let’s keep reminding ourselves too. Because I am not sure you men would weep so loudly, be so indignant, if these were not specifically the jobs of beautiful women.

Here are my questions: can the role of #gridgirl be carried out by anyone? Can brollies be held by any gender, ethnicity, appearance or academic qualification? Yes? Then, why aren’t they? Because sex sells. Marketeers know men are hard-wired to notice sexually relevant communication (to be fair, a lot of men are still very confused about this: boundaries, permissible behaviour, consent, etc but who can argue against Harvard studies, ay?). Because purveyors of goods sold around circuits around the world, know men will spend their hard-earned, diminishing disposable income, if they feel good. Women paid to make men feel good, are a marketing tool to increase sales. But I venture, this gig is up.

And whilst the #gridgirl is long-obsolete, if rider, racer, driver, really needs a wipe-down or to hide under an umbrella and their pit-crew don’t have enough hands, then lets muster people who can utilise their abilities, holding a brolly and holding a flag, whilst wearing actual clothes. Loads of people can do that, right? It’s not a complex skill. Widen the competition, an all-inclusive employment opportunity. The uniform provided will of course be H&S appropriate overalls and steel-caps, to protect them – I mean, why wouldn’t it be?



And I am a fraud. A middle class, middle of the road, middle aged, middling to mild, creation. One whose dreams bounded beyond borders but have only achieved mediocrity. While heroines rose high, reality was a catalogue of muddling through. Nothing colourful or qualified, a remix of sameness, repetition of the similar; looping with no crescendo. A myriad of almosts, no climax. Dull and dowdy, the self-delusion of sophistication. I can dine with seven sets of cutlery, but have never been invited to. I am widely read, but never the right authors. Somber at the wrong times, joking at the worst. In my head I speak, in turns, with the seduction of Nin, and the wisdom of Angelou. To you, I am comedy relief. The voice of a clumsy prankster. Not the beguiling creature you had hoped. I am not who I dreamed I am. And not where I pretend to be. Yours will be a polite slow seeping boredom. The visuals, a disappointment.
But at least you will laugh. With me or at me.

It often is important
To respect from whence you came.
But better that you know,
When it’s time not to remain.
When it’s time to hit the road Jack
And get a wriggle on.
Cos while you love your people dear,
The urge to fly is strong.

Great seas full of adventure
And skies to cast your dreams.
So many laughing faces,
To share the nomads’ theme.
And out there in the world
Are hopes and gifted gems
To taste and to dissolve in
Beyond the focus of a lens.