Banning F1 ‘grid girls’ is a distraction from the wider workplace war

November 16, 2019

first_imgIf our Weinstein moment was to be a true societal shift, there were bound to be some casualties. While the obvious guesses might be male abusers and exploitative bosses, though, few could have predicted that some of the first would be women themselves; namely Formula One’s “grid girls” who will find themselves unemployed as of next season.They are the latest battleground in what has ultimately been a long-fought feminist war, which has, at various times, seen arguments about the Sun’s Page 3, Kim Kardashian’s nude selfies, dancers in music videos and any number of other zeitgeist flashpoints. These women are sexually objectified, the argument goes. Reduced to nothing but their desirability, they send the wrong message to young girls and women. Those who posit this argument would have you believe that their opponents can be easily divided into two camps: sleazy men who advocate for women’s right to do this work in order to protect their gratification, and those who argue that such work is a choice women are entitled to make, and that it may even be empowering for women to use their bodies in these ways. Saying ‘I believe you’ when women disclose bad experiences requires doing the same when they don’t For an argument that is ostensibly about work, though, any analysis of labour itself is conspicuously missing from the above perspectives. If our post-Weinstein reckoning is to mean anything at all, our responses have to take a third form: structural and grounded in the experiences of real-world women rather than discomfort projected on to those we imagine to be objectified. Working conditions, then, would seem a better place to start than sweeping moral judgments on the type of work itself. For their part, many of Formula One’s grid girls seemed perfectly happy with theirs, with many tweeting and speaking in media appearances on Thursday about good pay, job satisfaction and being treated with respect by colleagues and bosses. Were they empowered by their work? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe some days they felt content and fulfilled. Maybe on others they felt broke and tired and frustrated by their reliance on a one-dimensional job that didn’t make use of all their skills and experiences. Bus drivers, shop assistants, cleaners and baristas can sympathise; it’s just that nobody chooses to ask them. Empowerment, it seems, is a measure applied only to the types of work occupied primarily by women.The problem with “objectification” as a concept is that it necessarily requires a beholder within whose eye it takes place. It’s a process that happens to an imagined passive woman, not a decision taken by an active one. And it’s rarely employed in any context other than that of a woman’s sexuality. Work & careers Reuse this content Was this helpful? Hide If you have been affected you can share your stories with us, anonymously if you wish, by using our encrypted form here. We will feature some of your contributions in our reporting. Share on Twitter Motor sport Support The Guardian Share via Email … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. 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Pornography Men know nothing at all about being sex objectscenter_img Sexual harassment Opinion Share on Facebook Q&A Share your experiences of sexual harassment Show Women Read more Share on LinkedIn Topics In a societal moment that emerged as a result of women speaking and finally being taken seriously, it’s paradoxical that the objectification label has been projected on to grid girls largely against their will and counter to their own accounts of the work they do. Sexism, harassment and exploitation abound in the PR, modelling and hostessing worlds, as evidenced by the Financial Times’s recent exposé of the Presidents Club. To really listen to what the women working in these industries have to say might be to discover more Presidents Clubs and Harvey Weinsteins; instead a narrative has been imposed on them because it fits better than the one they wrote for themselves. Saying “I believe you” when women disclose bad experiences requires doing the same when they don’t. comment Share on Pinterest Any tipping point concerned with structural misogyny and sexual harassment has to take as its currency the first-hand experiences of women themselves rather than the interpretations of outside observers. After all, if you can’t look at a glamorous woman dressed in skimpy clothes and imagine that she is also a complex human being with many other skills and interests then it says more about your prejudices than it does the woman in front of you.The issue isn’t one of “objectification” or empowerment, and it’s not about some intrinsic right to be sexy. Rather, it’s about recognising that we all live in a deeply exploitative and unequal capitalist society where we are each, grid girl or not, objectified by work and reduced to our ability to perform its tasks. The real battleground is for good working conditions, strong trade unions and a redressed power balance between workers and bosses so that sexual harassment and structural misogyny can truly be tackled at their roots, whatever the industry. If you’re worried about sending confusing messages to little girls, consider that many are already growing up dreaming of being Hollywood actors. How things are is always more important than how they look.• Eve Livingston is a freelance journalist specialising in politics, social affairs and inequality Share on Messenger Barbara Ellen last_img

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