In the wake of the #MeToo movement, a range of businesses and industries have been forced to re-examine their business practices. Last month, Formula One announced their decision to discontinue the practice of using ‘Grid Girls’, recognising the use of women as accessories was not in line with modern societal norms.
More recently, large automakers Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co and Ssangyong have all shied away from the tradition of using attractive women to sell cars. Ssangyong’s “booth babes” will be replaced by male and female models in sportswear, and Nissan has stopped hiring fashion models.
Photo by Saso Domijan
“Times have changed,” said Sara Jenkins, Nissan spokesperson. “It makes more sense to use product specialists because we’re selling cars.”
Bloomberg reported on the changes:
Lexus, the luxury brand of the world’s second-biggest carmaker, Toyota, confirmed it’s dropping models altogether at the Swiss event, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is said to have canceled contracts with several female models over concern about being criticized on #MeToo. The maker of the Maserati, Jeep and Alfa Romeo nameplates will instead feature men as well as women in less flesh-exposing garb than in previous years, two people with knowledge of the plans said.
This is in sharp contrast with 2017, when Alfa Romeo’s display had women in little black dresses hovering around its Stelvio crossover. Nearby, a brunette with a beehive hairdo and a bottom-grazing sixties-style dress kicked up her red heels next to a Fiat 500. At Lexus, a woman in an off-the-shoulder burgundy gown was stationed beside one of its sedans.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, exposing the epidemic of men’s sexual exploitation of women, the casual sexism and objectification of women must be recognised as a significant contributing factor. There can be no gender equality while women continue to be treated as eye candy or props, valued primarily for their physical attractiveness. It’s great to see positive steps forward.
Formula One has announced plans to end the long-standing tradition of using so-called ‘grid girls’.
F1’s managing director of commercial operations, Sean Bratches, said in a statement,
“While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 grand prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.”
Essentially, Formula One has recognised that the use of women as props or accessories for men is sexist and outdated, and incompatible with gender equality.
Photo credit: Reuters, Ralph Orlowski
The move to discontinue the use of ‘grid girls’ has attracted praise from Women’s Sport Trust, which aims to raise the visibility and increase the impact of women’s sports. In a response on their website, the organisation supported the decision and encouraged cycling, boxing and UFC to follow suit. “These changes are taking place because global businesses are making a considered choice about how women should be valued and portrayed in their sports in 2018,” they concluded.
The practice of using ‘grid girls’ (who are not girls, but adult women) sends a message that women’s most valuable contribution to the sporting arena is their sexual appeal. Women remain on the side lines in a supportive role for the real athletes and drivers, who are men, while playing the part of eye candy. Formula One’s decision to end the sexist practice is a welcome step forward in challenging sexism and in encouraging female participation in sport.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, exposing the epidemic of men’s sexual exploitation of women, the casual sexism and objectification of women must be recognised as a significant contributing factor. We applaud Formula One’s leadership and hope these changes lead to a cultural shift.