Lewis Hamilton could continue to “take a knee” at Formula One races – saying he does not want the fight against racism to die a silent death – as Daniel Ricciardo reacted to the six drivers electing not to do so in Austria.
It didn’t take long for V8 Supercars to act on David Reynolds’ sexist slur to the weekend’s all-female Bathurst 1000 wildcard entry, his out-of-touch comments seeing him slapped with a $25,000 fine.
While the size of the fine resulted in much debate in the Mount Panorama media centre, there was no doubt that Reynolds deserved to be reprimanded.
“Reynolds’ comments were disgraceful and completely unacceptable in our sport and he has been fined $25,000,” V8 Supercars CEO James Warburton said.
“Women are an integral part of our sport, whether they are fans, drivers or team members. And V8 Supercars will continue to support and promote female participation at all levels of our sport.”
But while motorsport categories across the globe try to readdress the obvious gender inequality and encourage female participants, what about the inherent sexism on display at most events?
Grid girls and cheerleaders were evident around Mount Panorama over the weekend. They’ve become a staple of the V8 Supercars scene, hardly the sort of female participation that promotes gender equality.
If motorsport categories truly want to embrace gender equality, then they need to move away from this archaic form of promotion. Scantily glad women being paraded around to be gawked at seem to encourage sexist comments like those from Reynolds.
Only by moving away from this sexist image will the likes of V8 Supercars make gender gains. And it’s not a big ask – if the absence of grid girls keeps people away, then questions need to be asked regarding how committed motorsport fans really are.
Renee Grace and Simona de Silvestro performed admirably at the Bathurst 1000, with the progress of the likes of de Silverstro highlighting one of motorsport’s unique selling points: the ability for men and women to compete on equal footing.
It’s time to really encourage female participation by making motorsport events family- and female-friendly environments, as attending and following events and categories will encourage more women to race or work in motorsport.
Persisting with the grid girls and a gender divide will only maintain the status quo, in which female drivers are rare and their involvement needs to be allocated for rather than being the norm.
And for those who insist grid girls are a bit of harmless fun, then surely something so insignificant can be done away with. It won’t drastically change motorsport events, while going a long way in attracting new fans and encouraging gender equality.
As the recent closure of Zoo magazine and Playboy’s decision to move away from nudity prove, cheap titillation is a click away on the internet, forcing more traditional forms of media to move on. It’s time for motorsport to do the same.