For those who missed what went down on my Twitter last night, after we recorded Episode 79 of Motorsport101, a large scale issue swarmed Motorsport fans. It was originally from Sarah Connors, and it was a petition to remove a photo gallery on Motorsport.com named “Paddock Beauties”. Click the link and actually read it, it becomes important later. A lot of people on social media jumped on this and reached for the sky harder than Woody in Toy Story, with quotes along the lines of: “You can’t tell women what to do”, or “You’re taking jobs away from women in the industry”.
These people COMPLETELY missed the point.
No modeling agency is going to shut down because they won’t get Motorsport events anymore. Women in this space aren’t going to get fewer jobs if this one gallery on this site goes away. No agency is sitting there looking for Motorsport grids to pay their clients on a week to week basis. If it was, we’d know about the “competition” to get into that space, like any market. Trust me guys, it’s not that deep.
Motorsport is a male dominated space. It has been from its inception. Everything associated with it is attributed to masculinity. Driving cars at 200mph. Death traps. Edge of the seat thrills. All masculine traits associated with testosterone. Sadly, for that reason, this is an industry that laid out women as “tools” from the 60’s. From the dawn of “Grid Girls” in the 60’s to the men defending tradition right now in 2017, because the very concept of “grid girls” has been normalised like it’s just something that happens every time. It’s not right.
Any woman at a race track is considered a surprise to some people. If a woman is there as a fan, a lot of people will think that they’re only there because of their partner, who HAS to be the Motorsport fan and not them. If they’re a driver, like Danica Patrick, they’re sexualized, like the FHM shots she was in. Sure, she consented to it (More on that later), but it all goes alongside the environment that Motorsport has created for itself. Even gay drivers like Danny Watts admitted when he came out last month, that the environment Motorsport has made him uncomfortable given his sexuality.
Amazingly, this particular scenario doesn’t even run that deep. All it was to take the one click, to remove a gallery on a news website that was using pictures of women, often WITHOUT consent, half-dressed, to be used to advertise their site. Yet, when I and others spoke out about it, I was gunned down with arguments that basically equated to “It’s not that serious, bro.” We’re not even talking about grid girls being removed, we’re talking a photo gallery on a website being removed. To which I say…
Fuck off. To the women of Motorsport, this is a huge deal.
I’ve been fortunate to call some of the greatest people in my life, the people in this space. While it’s easy for me as a man to come out and say these things, for these women, like Sarah Connors, Elizabeth Werth, Aleks Lynne, and more, it’s a constant battle every time they roll up to a race track. Men who hit on them. Who take photos without their consent. Often ridiculously condescending because they can’t be there as a fan, the same reason you are. Grid Girls are an extension of that in this environment. There are some ludicrously revealing shots in these photos. Men, on the floor, pointing their cameras up their intentionally short skirts… And we’re just okay with that? Are you kidding me?!
Saying a photographer has a free pass to take whatever they want from a woman without asking them, is the DEFINITION of exploitation. Being paid isn’t a waiver. If that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, I worry about your lack of empathy as a human being. Why is this okay to you? And more importantly, why are you defending this? If you think this isn’t a big deal, why do you care so much that other people do?
…Because secretly, the thought of women having some value and some rights in this space, makes you uncomfortable. That’s one hell of a privilege, not having to worry about anything that isn’t a white guy (Or Lewis Hamilton), in a race car.
To those in the F1 YouTube space who says I’m in this to create controversy? Listen, I’m no big shot. I’m a human being, with compassion, and a space to say whatever I want, I’m not crafting out tweet schedules trying to be Katie Hopkins. Or Skip Bayless, Nigel Farage, or anyone who manipulates media to push their own horrific agendas. This is what I truly believe, and it’s because I learned from the great people in this space, what it was like to be a woman in Motorsport, and the difficult time that they have.
Sadly, far too many people don’t care because it’s not their problem. So instead of maybe questioning why I care so much, maybe follow people like Sarah, like Lizzie, like Aleks, and listen to what they have to say. You might just learn something. A lot more than what you’ll get, hearing from me.
It saddens me that I got praised for my tweets tonight by many, many people. I shouldn’t be. Having empathy, and understanding for other human beings shouldn’t be praised. It should be first nature. Rather than posting about how “triggered” I am. Because that shit is cowardly, and I’m not here for that. I want Motorsport to be a platform for everyone to enjoy to the fullest, not for women to have to think: “Should I dress like this before I head to the track”, and have to deal with asinine cat-calling, mansplaining and a general attitude of not being treated equally.
So one more time, follow Sarah. Lizzie. Aleks. Listen to what they say and try to make sense of it. Be in their shoes. And then do something about it. Because it’s easy for these things to sail over people’s heads, it’s a lot harder to actually try and make a difference. The reality is, its up to us as Men to be the change that makes this industry better. Let these incredible women infiltrate your pantheons. You may just make this sport, a better one, for everyone.