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What sport says

This week, a political party in Catalunya, Spain, labelled grid girls as the reducing of woman to lust objects, and announced its intention to ban these girls from the MotoGP and Formula One events that are held in Catalunya each year.

In a discussion on Reddit, the common reaction was that the girls have to decide for themselves whether they wanted to have this scarcely clothed job or not. If most of them seem happy with the job, why ban it and limit their freedom? It’s hard to argue with that logic, although it misses the bigger issue.

This proposed ban isn’t so much about individual rights of the girls that choose to exercise this profession, but rather what international sporting institutions wish to tell about the role women should have in male dominated sports, and that this role can be more than wearing scarce clothing and holding umbrellas for male athletes.

Gridgirls are by far the cringiest aspect of top tier motorsport, a heritage from a forlorn era of traditional roles. And while many institutions around the world are promoting equal opportunities for women, the FIM and FIA, who organise the MotoGP and Formula One races, choose to turn a total blind eye and stick to old gender roles.

Staying stuck in the past is hurting cultural change, as the biggest barrier to women entering motorsport, whether it’s as a driver or engineer, isn’t actual liberty to do so, not financial and obviously not biological. The biggest limit are the roles imposed on us by culture. And right now, we’re telling our children that a woman’s role is to be an ornament.

It’s worth asking; what’s the point of sport? For sure it’s entertainment, but sports can also be an inspiration for life, educative in how to overcome obstacles and achieve great things. It is this why we should be more conscience about the lessons we let sport teach to our children, whether they’re boys or girls.

Jenny Tinmouth, photo by Rob Clenshaw

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