Features, Feminism

Grid Girls and Puritans

Objectification, we are told, is degrading. Why? Because any job that requires employees to be sexually attractive and gazed upon for that reason necessarily dehumanises them. It encourages others to treat them as pretty ‘things’ rather than as autonomous people with their own lives, passions, thoughts, and desires. Or so the thinking goes. ‘Grid Girls’ – models employed by Formula One for promotional purposes – have just discovered that their role is to be discontinued. As Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations explained: “While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.”

But in their hurry to spare Grid Girls the indignity of the male gaze, nobody making this argument seems to have stopped to wonder whether Grid Girls might have an interest in defending what they do. Instead, a collective of ostensibly progressive voices leapt to their defence without bothering to ask the girls themselves if they needed defending at all. In response, Formula One abandoned its Grid Girls so that it can be seen to be moving with the times and hip to contemporary mores. In doing so, Formula One’s executives have implicitly conceded that they have spent too long objectifying women instead of empowering them. They would like it to known that they’d rather see women driving the cars, or as members of the engineering teams, or just about anywhere other than track-side holding a driver’s name-board and looking beautiful.

What baffles me is that a move supposed to empower women came at the expense of other women, and only because a minority of outsiders found Grid Girls inappropriate, problematic, and otherwise an offence against good taste. But even if Grid Girls are being objectified, then – contra the explanation offered above – it’s not at all clear that objectification is wrong in and of itself. It is acceptable to use people as a means to an end – that’s called employment. Grid Girls obviously know that they will be objectified and they make an autonomous, informed decision to take the job anyway. They are not harmed, they are paid for their time and their work, and many of them have come forward to say, with understandable indignation, that they enjoy what they do. Needless to say, this has not impressed those feminists who applauded their redundancies. But surely a woman has a right to be the object of somebody else’s desire if she wants and surely it doesn’t matter if she is being paid for it?

Opponents may suggest that Grid Girls have internalised their own oppression in a society shaped by patriarchal values, but not without making two claims: (1) that Grid Girls are unable to adequately think for themselves because of the society they live in and (2) that thinking for yourself is only evidenced by acknowledging the existence of a patriarchal status quo and resisting it.

Of course, protecting women from their own decisions in the name of their own interests isn’t new. Feminism’s drive for female empowerment has long co-existed with a strain of authoritarian puritanism. Women have the right to be as sexy and promiscuous as they wish, but only if they do so in a manner sanctioned by the self-appointed theorists-in-chief. Women may sleep around, pose naked, and become a sex symbol if it’s for ‘the cause.’ But woe betide women who would do so because they feel like it or – worse – to make money, because then their treacherous behaviour reinforces a patriarchal status-quo. It’s fine to #FreeTheNipple on social media but it’s most certainly not fine to expose your nipples in a ‘Lads Mag,’ because that would be tawdry and exploitative and undermine the notion that nipples aren’t always sexual. I thought the intended message was that nipples don’t have to be sexual, not that they must never be sexual.

You can be a proud slut, but you can’t commercialise sex. You can dress as provocatively as you like, but you must not be paid to do so. You can sleep with whoever you want, but you can’t be paid to do that either and having a sexual preference is possibly prejudicial. For every liberal sex positive movement in feminism, there’s a reactionary counter-movement which tries to define the precise terms under which a woman’s sexual liberation is acceptable. You’re free to be whoever you want to be, provided you benefit the cause.

Women are expected to sacrifice their individuality at the altar of a higher calling: the promise of a vaguely imagined hinterland of ’empowerment’ and transcendence beyond oppressive hierarchies. At its core, this is a quasi-religious claim to a better life after this one. Heretics who cannot or will not conform are to be shunned and excommunicated. Freedom of speech, thought, and choice are contingent upon the extent to which they make you an ally and an adherent of collectivist ideology. Under these rules, there is no inalienable right to freedom for the individual, because the smallest unit of analysis is now the group.

The puritans’ methods can be summarised as follows:

If they don’t say what we say, punish them.
If they don’t think what we think, punish them.
If they don’t act as we act, punish them.

There can be no platform for the unorthodox. They must not be allowed on TV or university campuses, or into lecture halls. They mustn’t even be allowed their preferred choice of employment. If a career – sex worker, porn star, glamour or promotional model – doesn’t advance the cause then that’s just too bad. Those misguided women will simply have to be cast aside; collateral damage in the relentless pursuit of an egalitarian utopia.

People should have the right to decide for themselves when, where, with whom, and why they will or won’t have sex or be sexual. In the 1950s and 1960s, liberal women fought against prevailing social conservatism for the right to precisely these sexual liberties. But a maternalistic and puritanical counter-counter-cultural feminism has long fought to reverse those gains in the name of protecting its daughters’ innocence. This is a chastened feminism reminiscent of the Social Purity Movement of the early 20th century and the paranoid sex-negativity of Dworkin, MacKinnon, et al. in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.

There’s nothing wrong with a woman allowing herself to be objectified in a professional setting. If she doesn’t like the experience of being a Grid Girl, Ring Girl, or whatever else, then she will find that out for herself and quit (as some do). Learning from one’s mistakes is a part of life and a part of the kind of understanding and growth that comes from experience. Yes, we can learn much from the mistakes of others, some mistakes must be ours to make. Others who find they enjoy such work should be allowed to continue, irrespective of the disapproval of those who don’t.

When people venture into new territory, they cultivate a habitable order so they can ensure it is safe for those who follow, especially if they are supported in doing so. Prohibition has never been a stable solution to any problem. Prohibition only leads to unregulated chaos. As of yet, we are hard-pressed to find a black market of models, but we do have a significantly more chaotic and treacherous world of modelling in social media (Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, etc.). Inexperienced or unsupported models open themselves up to a host of new dangers and ways to be exploited.

Rather than sending Grid Girls off into the wilds of unemployment, or providing one less place for would-be models, a far better solution would have been to make sure that they’re unionised, properly paid, and protected. If they are, then they have empowered other women to take up work they might otherwise have avoided, in a safer way. People can’t be coddled into competence and resilience. In a free society, we should let them have the courage to make use of their own experience and understanding.

 

Kirio Birks is a postgraduate student with B.A. in Philosophy and is studying for a Master of Heatlh Sciences endorsed in Bioethics. You can follow him on Twitter @kiriobirks

52 Comments

  1. Objectification isn’t just seeing someone as an object, it’s about seeing them purely as an object. By that standards it is the puritans who objectify grid girls by denying them agency. Grid girls aren’t capable of making a moral or informed choices and so it is up to feminists to ‘protect’ them, much as an adult will protect a child.

  2. DiscoveredJoys says

    The difficulty with the argument about ‘objectification’ (if there is any significant meaning in the term) is that is only half of a dynamic. Men might objectify women but women are also working hard to project themselves as ‘objects worthy of desire’. It’s just the mating game playing out.

    Taken to its logical conclusion no woman should be allowed to wear make up, hair product, clothes that flatter, or shoes that are not practical. Similarly men should not be allowed to display any muscles, no designer stubble, use hair product, or any overt display of wealth.

    But I rather suspect the mating game will still be played, just using different means.

    • ga gamba says

      “women are also working hard to project themselves as ‘objects worthy of desire’”

      Women, being complex humans, have many facets, many aspects, to their personalities. Being sexually desirable is just of one these, and they have the right to express it as each individual woman herself sees fit – some women will choose to be celibate nuns, others sex workers, and everything else in between. That one of these aspects is expressed at times does not eliminate all her other aspects.

      Of feminism’s many fatal flaws, its views of modeling and pornography are amongst its most hypocritical. One never hears feminist condemnations of genuine lesbian-centric model shoots and porn – the “for us by us” type. Certainly there is gaze involved, and objectification too, yet this is OK – no, check that, it’s “celebrated” – because those are female eyeballs being entertained. I’ve heard and read the many rationalisations, and each one is more pretzel twisty than the last. Feminists ought to cease mind fucking themselves.

  3. NotYourAverageCrossfitVegan says

    This whole discussion is quite ridiculous. Middle-class people white-knighting for overprivileged women to keep their job which consists of doing something that adds nothing of value, requires neither merit nor talent and has absolutely nothing to do with the activity (Formula One) they are hired for.
    As a long-time F1 fan, I always asked myself: “Why can’t I just watch cars racing in a circle, without getting shoved boobs and asses in my face all the time?”. I know it used to be worse in the earlier days of F1 and now they’re more covered, with varying degrees of coverage between the hosting countries.
    I applaud the F1’s decision and I’m looking forward to the new season with less unnecessary BS.

    Of course, these self-entitled “grid girls” will use any tactic to keep their silly, useless and overpaid job (e.g. “feminists take away our jobs” to appeal to the anti-SJW crowd, “everyone should be able to do what they want to do” to appeal to the libertarian crowd, etc.). Too bad Quillette decided to take this bait without hesitation.
    These women know their audience and know how to sell their victimhood.

    To the article:
    At no point during the F1’s decision did they say that their motivation to get rid of them was motivated by feminists demands or anything remotely of feminists influence.
    Maybe they just didn’t want to spend the money on something that adds no value?
    I assure you that no one in the executive board of F1 thinks about feminists, “objectification” or “internalized misogyny”. Maybe they just used their justification because this explanation is most likely to be accepted by the ordinary folks and a whole off-topic discussion (example: this article, every post by those grid women on twitter, etc.) is created that has absolutely nothing to do with and distracts from the money-saving efforts of the managers.

    “I have been a grid girl for 8 years and I have Never felt uncomfortable!”
    No shit. Who would have thought that hanging out with almost exclusively ultra-high status people and attending their private parties on their yachts & staying in the best hotels while “working” a maximum of 3 days a week every few weeks is the opposite of uncomfortable?

    In my not-so-humble opinion, the question everyone should be asking is “Why were these women there (on the grid) in the first place?”. Weird that the burden of proof is on the one getting rid of unnecessary stuff and the only reason for keeping them over the years is tradition (usually an invalid argument when it doesn’t appeal to your side).

    Obligatory side note: I’m not a conservative, not an “alt-right, insecure virgin”, or anything that is easy to insult. And with “overpaid” I don’t mean: “I don’t get basic economic principles” or “I am the moral authority on who should earn how much”.

    • Grumpy Old Man says

      Deary me @NotYourAverageCrossfitVegan what a load of arrogant self centred rubbish. In summary what you are saying is that women who don’t agree with you either have no agency or are liars. Take the time to read some of what the grid girls have to say on this topic – you will find the ones who are speaking out are intelligent, educated and very capable of making informed decisions about what is best for them. As as to your “why were these women there” question if you took the time time to read their comments before embarking on your rant you would find they answer that question – for some it is simply good easy money and for others it is a way to engage with F1 making the most of what opportunities they have. Both are good legitimate reasons.

      • David Turnbull says

        ‘what you are saying …’ I see that you’re a Cathy Newman disciple.

    • “Why can’t I just watch cars racing in a circle, without getting shoved boobs and asses in my face all the time?”.

      For me it’s the opposite way round.

  4. Quill says

    I’m not sure where the assumption those defending these women are middle class comes from, it’s very odd you would do that. Of course their presence adds value, unless F1 are terrible at marketing and can’t make money and neither are even remotely true as you must know. It’s very odd also that you would miss that. As for the position requiring neither merit nor talent, either you have a certain definition of both those words that most people do not share or you are perhaps being disingenuous.

    Models have nothing to do with coffee, running shoes, airline travel, laptop computers, beer or anything else beauty is used to sell, but it is used to do just that, to incredible effect, by marketers the world over – including F1. Should we now ban all glamorous women and handsome men from marketing anything at all? Or is it only live models like grid girls, in that the objectification is live and immediate? There is no difference between the two.

    It makes no sense to claim F1’s decision was not influenced by feminist ideology, because the ‘changed societal norms’ they offer as an explanation are in large part driven by that specific ideology, with the strong and growing suspicion it does not in fact reflect the wider community.

    Your parsing of the grid girl’s tweet is crass and without merit.

    As for why they are there in the first place, I think we’ve covered that and to return to an earlier theme, it’s odd that you seem not to notice that beauty, both male and female, has used to sell many things, to both men and women, for a very long time and the obvious and only explanation to this is that it adds value to the product being sold. One may object to this value and question its nature, but not deny the fact it exists.

    • Quill says

      This is in reply to @NotYourAverageCrossfitVegan (I’ll echo others in gently pointing out a delete or edit function would be very nice for the comments system here)

    • David Turnbull says

      “Of course their presence adds value, unless F1 are terrible at marketing and can’t make money and neither are even remotely true as you must know”
      In fact, F1 is having revenue/sponsorship problems. Perhaps they have decided that the value added by the Grid Girls is negated by its contribution to the appearance of F1 being just a ‘man’s sport’. This is about money, not feminism.

      • Quill says

        This is a fair comment, although it’s easy to see F1 in the very recent past had no such problems at all. This returns to the point of adding perceived value, the value is decreased now and as you say, it’s 100 per cent about money but they most definitely add something, or F1 would never have bothered to begin with

  5. > You can dress as provocatively as you like, but you must not be paid to do so.

    That’s not right. Feminism supports sex workers, so it must be okay to be paid for sex. Of course, the Johns should be arrested and shamed, and the sex workers understood to be proof of patriarchal victimization. What is more problematic are the grid girls and geisha girls, who while not having sex are seen by the alpha feminists as *serving* men. That’s pretty bad stuff.

    • Quill says

      One very interesting thing I learned while working in mass-market consumer magazines is that female beauty sells to both males and females, with almost equal effectiveness. The face on the cover of consumer magazines is female almost without exception – women’s magazines feature a female face, or a female face and body with or without an object of desire, and men’s magazines feature the same with the exception of some which simply feature an object of desire.

      The male impulse to associate beauty with desire is easily dissected, the female impulse to do the same is somewhat more complex and would be an interesting topic for an article.

      • Caligula says

        But, it’s not just “female beauty,” it’s females in general. That the public has more sympathy for small girls than for small boys seems apparent when one looks at charity appeals, which show far more pitiable girls than pitiable boys.

        The only question is, is this biologically “hardwired,” or is it culture-dependent?

    • ga gamba says

      “Feminism supports sex workers”

      Some, but not all, feminists do. There are the sex-positive ‘choice’ feminists, and they were ascendent in the ’90s and ’00s. However, the anti-choice feminists, sometimes called SWERFs (sex worker exclusionary radical feminists), usually of the radfem bent, have been on the upswing lately.

      Laws that decriminalise sex work yet prosecute their customers have been their tactic, and it has been successful. These radfems also agitate for all convicted women to be absolved of their crimes because under patriarchy they have no agency. These radfems are very infantilising group of women, yet their views find support because ultimately many people dislike being held responsible for their actions. Many are also quick to rationalise the actions of people they view as oppressed. So, if you can convince the public a oppressor-oppressed framework exists, the oppressed can get away with murder. Literally.

  6. Dan Vesty says

    I know this is Quillette, so genuinely hesitate to ask this question for fear of lowering the tone, but isn’t it just possible that the entire edifice of the feminist-Puritan objections to grid girls etc rest on nothing more than widespread repressed jealousy and resentment in the face of superior physical attractiveness ?

    • It’s a projection of insecurity. Which is a lot of what radical feminist ideology boils down to.

      “I’m not successful ( professionally, physically, or x ), so therefore I must morally extort and negatively coerce in order to move up in society.”


      The sad thing is, to me, it’s wasted energy ( and talent ) that could be used to learn or contribute to society at large. Like art, code, rockets, literature, whatever. But said contributions and learning require a level of self-reflection I think many people have not been taught. So, it’s rage du-jour!

  7. jason kennedy says

    The Grid Girls should’ve been replaced by scantily clad (intellectually, that is) feminists.

  8. The Iconoclast says

    What’s the authoritarian feminist position on grid boys? (To catch up, search google images for “grid boys”.) Apparently there are a number of very attractive men who choose to commit a great deal of their time to developing and maintaining chiseled, supremely fit bodies, who have been getting paid to stand and hold umbrellas and appear in various states of undress while promoting their team’s brand and whatnot.

    • In the radical feminist frame, it’s okay.

      ‘Because while it’s not okay for women to ‘dress scantily clad and sexy for viewers it’s okay for men because they deserve to be humiliated for the patriarchy.’ ( Still in radical feminist frame )

      It’s ironic how much the ‘double standard’ was ‘taught’ growing up in the early 2000s.

  9. Caligula says

    “Opponents may suggest that Grid Girls have internalised their own oppression in a society shaped by patriarchal values” appears to be a subset of the “false consciousness” meme and, as with other kafkatraps, an assertion that can be leveled against anyone and which all too conveniently remains non-falsifiable.

    For just as agreeing that you are an alcoholic/have drug problem/are an abuser means you are, but denying the accusation is even more evidence that you are (because you must be “in denial”), for a Grid Girl to protest that she benefits from this arrangement can only be taken as evidence of how deeply she must have internalized her own oppression.

    There’s not much one can do with kafkatraps (by design, of course) but, one can at least recognize one when someone attempts to deploy it as if it were a rational argument.

  10. Bill Haywood says

    In a free society, Formula One can employ who it wants, why it wants. Rather than assume what’s best for Formula One, listen to it. It wants to broaden its appeal and does not think grid girls help. A business decision like this does not need a philosophical critique of false consciousness to be understood.

    • Michiel van Haren says

      Of course this is true, F1 can choose to employ who they want. However it’s rather hard not to feel that this decision was not taken on soundly researched customer data, but rather on direct or indirect pressure of a very vocal minority of SJW/”feminist” types in either marketing or HR departments. The only good reasons I can think of for F1 to ban grid girls is: A: the women in question complained about the contents of their jobs and felt degraded (not likely because they chose to do it freely), B: a substantial part of F1’s audience complained about the presence of grid girls (not likely because F1’s audience is probably 90% male, and most likely skewed towards more conservative males too, or C: a substantial amount of F1’s advertisers complained about the presence of grid girls. This last one may be more plausible but then the advertisers have the same target audience as F1 itself or they wouldn’t be advertising there.

      So it doesn’t seem to me that from a purely business view this decision makes sense at all. Instead of a change that is forced by changing mores in society at large, as they claim it to be, we have a change forced top down by a virtue signalling corporation who have been taken in by a minority of SJW feminist types, almost certainly for purely ideological reasons.
      Not to mention the fact that the actual practical result of this action is that people watching F1 will only be seeing more men and less women.

      • nisakiman says

        One needs to remember that a substantial source of F1’s income stream is from the broadcasters, aka the MSM, who have been the standard-bearers for the PC and feminist ideology for years. If they suggested to F1 management that grid girls were no longer appropriate, then F1 is going to listen. It has nothing to do with public perception, and everything to do with the wishes of a tiny minority who happen to be in the position to impose their wishes on an industry which relies on them for coverage.

        It’s interesting that the grid girls are to be replaced with ‘grid-kids’, who arguably have a lot less agency than the grid girls, and really could be held up as examples of ‘exploitation’. I think it’s an appalling decision to have ‘grid-kids’ for F1, which in its essence is an adult sport. I find the parading of kids preceding premier league football matches mawkish and irrelevant. Using them in F1 is even more so.

        • Ken Phelps says

          The quote from F1 invoking the mantra of “…modern day societal norms” suggests why this is contentious. The metric for determining societal norms is more than a bit unclear, and society in general has never been their market. Based on much observation of pressure groups from both right and left, there seems to be very little reason to believe this decision reflects any connection to the wants of the actual F1 fan.

          There is a simple reason that F1 has had difficulty maintaining its market. They have made the sport sterile, over-teched, and boring. It seems fruitless trying rectify this by appealing to the supposed “societal norms” of an ethereal cadre of numb-nutted individuals who take offense as their hobby. More than anything, it suggests that corporate management’s poor judgement is just encompassing a wider area than it used to.

  11. Aaron says

    It’s easy to become contemptuous towards people who gain advantage doing things you have set to be off limits to yourself.

  12. V 2.0 says

    Personally I’d rather be objectified than have to wear long sleeves and an unwieldy scarf on my head on a hot summer day. I can’t see how someone looking at me and having thoughts in their own head would prevent me from doing other things I want to do like going to the gym, enjoying a nice summer day at a cafe in a pair of shorts or figuring out that stubborn problem on that server I am configuring. it’s hilarious how many feminists champion the headscarf as some sort of choice while getting their collective underwear in a knot over something like this. As far as I know no one will arrest, hurt or ostracize these women should they choose to put on some clothes and become doctors and lawyers.

    Feminism needs to die before we lose all the rights and freedoms the original women’s movement fought to get for us.

    • “Personally I’d rather be objectified than have to wear long sleeves and an unwieldy scarf on my head on a hot summer day. ”

      Why do you go about buck naked in summer?

      “it’s hilarious how many feminists champion the headscarf as some sort of choice”

      Isn’t it? If it is the choice of a woman to wear a scarf then it “IS” her choice. Unless she is being forced into it. Name me one single such feminist anyhow. I doubt you actually know a single one. As those exact same feminists would support your choice to go bareheaded and topless. If it was your choice.

      “collective underwear in a knot over something like this.”

      This has got nothing to do with wearing what a woman wants to wear. It has got to do with being objectified.

  13. JustAnOldGuy says

    Let’s compromise. For every Grid Girl one Burka Babe (I know the “Babe” is terrible but I wanted to keep the alliteration). Think of the employment opportunities opened up for the aesthetically challenged. After all, in the burka they wouldn’t have to be babes. In fact everyone involved in promotion or advertising should wear burkas – male, female and all the graduations in between. In addition no one should be allowed to speak. This would eliminate the possibility that some might be exploited for the tone and qualities of their voice. Sign language or written communications would assure that no persuasion was derived from any baser motive than pure reasoning.

  14. This has to be one of the worst articles on this site. The arguments are so poor, which one would one start with? This is comments section after all.

    “liberal women fought against prevailing social conservatism for the right to precisely these sexual liberties.”

    Er, no they did not. The fought against and not for objectification. Else, name me a single feminist who actually did?

    • Er, no they did not. The fought against and not for objectification.

      The article doesn’t claim that feminists fought for objectification, it argues that they fought for sexual liberation and for choice. Show me the part of the OP which says otherwise.

      The grid girls are conscious agents. They choose this profession. There’s nothing ‘feminist’ about denying women a choice in what they do with their bodies because you feel squeamish about sex.

      • “The article doesn’t claim that feminists fought for objectification”

        It implies exactly that. Read:

        “People should have the right to decide for themselves when, where, with whom, and why they will or won’t have sex or be sexual. In the 1950s and 1960s, liberal women fought against prevailing social conservatism for the right to precisely these sexual liberties. But a maternalistic and puritanical counter-counter-cultural feminism has long fought to reverse those gains in the name of protecting its daughters’ innocence.”

        The author doesn’t think objectification isn’t necessarily degrading. Plus he advocates that a woman has the right to decide to be objectified in whichever fashion she chooses. Conflating objectification and sexual liberation is by the author.

        – –

        “The grid girls are conscious agents. They choose this profession. There’s nothing ‘feminist’ about denying women a choice in what they do with their bodies because you feel squeamish about sex.”

        Being sexually liberal and objectification are 2 very different things. It is hardly much of a profession. Such objectification is relic of the past and nothing more. It is about continuing poor and outdated traditions.

        • ‘Objectification’ is a meaningless buzzword

          If you’re looking at an attractive member of the preffered sex and getting a bit of sexual pleasure just from the act of looking, without any intention or possibility of getting into some kind of relationship with them, you’re “objectifying” them, right? But this is something which happens every day – in the street, on the bus, when watching media. It is a side effect of our inherent biological drive to find a suitable sexual partner.

          ‘Objectification’ is an attempt to define this perfectly natural and common psychological phenomenon as somehow metaphisically evil, basically it is the same as christian idea of ‘impure thoughts’. Which is not suprising, as large part of radical feminist ideology seems to be quasi religious in nature and (subconciously?) derived from puritan christianity, with different vocabulary for same ideas.

          And increased sexual liberation obviously increases posiibility of ‘objectification’, as it increases frequency of situations when ‘objectification’ can occur. To think you can separate one from the other is weirdly irrational.

          • “‘Objectification’ is a meaningless buzzword”

            No, it isn’t. How is it meaningless? There are many women, particularly in poorer countries, that are forced into prostitution. Bought and Sold. That is clear objectification. It goes on in quite some scale. Slavery is another clear example of objectification.

            ***

            “you’re “objectifying” them, right?”

            No. That is clearly not about “objectification”.

            “‘Objectification’ is an attempt to define this perfectly natural and common psychological ”

            No it isn’t. It seems you have misunderstood things. Look it up online. Here is a very good article:

            http://www.mit.edu/~shaslang/mprg/nussbaumO.pdf

    • Michiel van Haren says

      Please define “objectification” and make a good argument why it’s bad. Especially when people freely choose a job where they are “objectified”. As far as I can tell from the many responses I’ve read from actual grid girls (in articles and on Twitter nad Facebook), they all say they were treated well, “as part of the team”, “as royalty” etc. Many expressed how they had a particular interest in motorsports and had a great time being at the races, seeing everything close up. Some even used it as a way into racing or driving related work. How many grid girls have you spoken to that expressed they felt “objectified” (in a negative way). If they felt this way, why wouldn’t they just stop doing it? These are generally not poor women forced into the job to earn a living. What about other attractive people, male of female, working in PR jobs, or acting, or modelling?

      • There is no point in me regurgitating this:

        https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-objectification/

        Especially read what Kant & Nussbaum have to say. And no, I don’t really care if “feminism” get right up your nose.

        – –

        “Especially when people freely choose a job where they are “objectified”.”

        Really? Women who wear Hijab and Niqab? Are they actually free and choosing or were they conditioned to it by culture/religion? That too is objectification. The whole modesty thing objectifying [reducing] women to sexual objects.

        Practices such as grid girls are historical relics. And as such have no place in modern society. When the sole purpose of such job is “objectification” then it is wrong and against basic human dignity.

        This is a fair question, people such as yourself have a habit of no answering it:

        Why is it ONLY women who are objectified in such a way?

        This problem is very easy to solve. Get rid of them and employ dancers, singers or such entertainers.

        – –

        “they all say they were treated well, “as part of the team”, “as royalty” etc.”

        Ouch! Says it all doesn’t it!

        – –

        “Many expressed how they had a particular interest in motorsports”

        Ditto! When you were writing this, did you not think it over? Did it not hit you?

        – –

        “How many grid girls have you spoken to that expressed they felt “objectified””

        None. Don’t intend to either.

        – –

        ” If they felt this way, why wouldn’t they just stop doing it?”

        Same way women consent to being prostitutes. Conditioned to it.

        – –

        “What about other attractive people, male of female, working in PR jobs, or acting, or modelling?”

        They are NOT there to be objectified. That isn’t their purpose.

        • Becky says

          I’ve read your link. None of the 7 features of objectification that Nussbaum defines really apply here. You could make a case that fungibility does, but seeing as the grid girls are no more interchangable than the mechanics at the pit stop (we don’t even see their faces!) I don’t see a problem here. In a professional context we are all interchangable to some extent. Three of the features, inertness and denial of subjectivity / autonomy, instead apply to your attitude towards the grid girls. Instrumentality? Am I or F1 treating the drivers as ‘tools for my enjoyment’? I don’t stop seeing them as humans and as subjects rather than objects either way. Same applies to the grid girls.

          Two of the three features added by Langton do apply, but they rather prove Cort’s point that the term is often used to demonise the enjoyment derived from appreciating someones physical appearance.

          Since you emphasised Kant, I assume you support his view that people engaging in casual sex are automatically objectifying one another, only having sex in monogamous marriage preserves our humanity? Thats precisely the kind of sex-negative feminism that this article is criticising. And then its not surprising that MacKinnon and Dworkin are next:

          “Women (all women, women as a group) are objectified, whereas men (all men, men as a group) are their objectifiers. Even though MacKinnon does acknowledge that a female (sex) individual can be an objectifier and a male (sex) individual can be objectified, she takes it that the former is a man and the latter is a woman, since in her view a man (gender) is by definition the objectifier and a woman (gender) is by definition the objectified.”

          Well of course, if we say thats the case by definition that makes things much easier…

          Both Nussbaum and Bauer admit that its difficult, perhaps impossible, to really define objectification, so Cort refering to it as a buzzword is understandable. Instead Bauer says “the person in question will see objectification everywhere she looks in contemporary culture … even if she is not in a position to exactly specify its marks and features”. Yes, if I take on the MacKinnon/Dworkin worldview, I will see objectification everywhere without being able to define it. You might see this as recognising the true nature of the world, but I think its an ideological lense that is blinding you more than it is sharpening your vision.

          With all that being said, I’m really not that bothered by F1’s decision, they can hire who they want or not. I liked the grid girls but probably won’t overly miss them either.

  15. The totalitarian left in the form of puritanical feminism strikes again!
    No wait, it doesn’t. The corporate managers of Formula One freely decide that using women as decorations isn’t good for their brand. It seems that if other organizations think it is a good idea to employ women as decorations they can, and women who like that kind of gig are still free to accept any offers.
    But the reactionary boys’ club at Quillette can manufacture outrage about anything.
    Carry on.

    • Michiel van Haren says

      Yeah yeah, we’ve already established F1 can freely decide what they want in a free market. It’s not as clever an insight as you seem to think. People are actually discussing things a little beyond that obvious fact, please do try and keep up.

  16. Mark Matis says

    It was not “Puritans” who exterminated the Grid Girls. It was instead Communist Cows. The Puritans were a Christian religious sect. I hope you do not confuse the Communist Cows with any semblance of Christianity…

  17. ccscientist says

    Men are also objectified. They are admired if they are rich. Far more girls can be pretty (probably 40% of them) than men can be rich (maybe 3% truly rich).
    Men are also highly constrained by what women want. Boys in high school almost all figure out that girls won’t go out with them unless they have a car. It is the girls enforcing this rule. So most of the boys I knew in high school had a part-time job, purely to get girls. Most of the girls did not have a job (unless sunning by the pool is a job). Women do not want to hear a man complain or cry (since this makes them feel insecure), and thus enforce stoicism in their men.
    As to women be objectified: they insist they have a right to dress as sexy as they want, but object if men notice. This is split-personality behavior. I would suggest that men are much clearer about their goals: money, status, sex, fun. Women seem to have their true desires hidden from themselves: they want sex but independence, love without attachments but with attachments. They are confused.

  18. Bubblecar says

    “so that it can be seen to be moving with the times and hip to contemporary mores.”

    You made this observation but then seem to discard it.

    This was a commercial decision made because the grid girls make Formula One look too embarrassingly old-fashioned.

    The organisers don’t wish to appeal only to aging men who grew up in the days of Page Three girls. They want to appeal to younger people who may well find they have to pass off their interest in motor sport as “ironical” in order to not be laughed at.

    These younger people certainly do notice that the grid girls tradition “clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms” and a factor that makes watching Formula One something of a social liability.

    The grid girls aren’t seen as either sexy or scandalous, they’re just seen as silly and embarrassing.

  19. Michiel van Haren says

    So do you really think a great new potential F1 audience awaits among upper middle class SJW millenials who really want to watch F1 but are afraid to be laughed at by their latte sipping, ironic-beard-wearing compatriots? Do you think F1 really believes this? Have you even spent any time around actual F1 fans? Ever been to a race?
    Surely they just have to look at Marvel comics to see how wrong this idea is. They turned all their classic, male heroic characters into SJW versions of them and guess what? Nobody actually bought the comics! That’s because the SJW’s are not actually the people buying the content that they are criticising.

    • Bubblecar says

      Um, no. You seem fond of fanciful stereotypes that bear little resemblance to flesh and blood humans.

      F1 seeks an audience of ordinary motor sport enthusiasts of all ages and social classes, and you’ll find that the dated sexism represented by the “grid girls” tradition seems just as cheesy to young working class people as it does to middle class people.

      And F1 is run by people who are sufficiently professional to regret that their sport is starting to appear embarrassingly dated and cheesy, as their statement makes clear.

      As far as I’m aware there aren’t actually any such critters as “SJWs”. Media PR research tends to focus on human audiences, not internet memes.

  20. Michiel van Haren says

    I’ll repeat my question: have you ever spent time around actual F1 fans, or been to a race? Ok maybe you have because you sound like you actually work in F1’s marketing department. My Marvel comics example is a real thing. I’m sure Marvel has a lot of professional people running it, but even professional people can be influenced by misguided ideology.

    • Bubblecar says

      Yes I have friends (both middle class professionals and tradesmen) who are F1 fans, and those who’ve commented on the change regard getting rid of grid girls as a sensible update of the sport.

      I know little about Marvel comics, but since the superheroes were regarded as fighters for justice, it shouldn’t be surprising to see them embracing modern “justice” issues. This was presumably a marketing decision but may also just reflect the views of the artists who create this stuff.

      • I know little about Marvel comics, but since the superheroes were regarded as fighters for justice, it shouldn’t be surprising to see them embracing modern “justice” issues.

        There’s a big difference between fighting crime and lecturing readers on ‘mansplaining’.

        This was presumably a marketing decision but may also just reflect the views of the artists who create this stuff.

        If it’s a marketing decision it should be judged on the market response. And the market is saying ‘fuck off, I want Tony Stark and Bruce Banner back.’

  21. If women want to make money showing off at F1, in a swimsuit for SI or for free at ComicCon, that’s their call. And if they don’t want to, same deal. I believe in pro-choice for women.

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