Formula 1 likes to think itself progressive these days, for instance; a mixed-race multiple Champion in Lewis Hamilton, grid girls banned and American owners keen not to piss off anyone who might cut their revenue stream by being seen as non PC – But in reality have things actually changed?
F1 has always been a male dominated sport, but it is perhaps fair to say that things have progressed somewhat, certainly in the paddock. For instance, teams field women throughout their teams right up to the very top.
But attitudes for a significant proportion of fans and followers of the sport are very much still in the twentieth century, and I’m not just talking about the partially quaint attitude of the late great Sir Stirling Moss who would often describe a good looking girl as ‘Crumpet’.
Below is a direct human translation of a Canadian article written by Isabelle Ducas for La Presse. In it is described what it is to be a woman working during the Grand Prix weekend in Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix.
“It’s a form of prostitution” describes an employee working at the race when explaining what is required to keep her job. It is shocking what it takes to work at a Grand Prix as a woman in some areas.
Sexual harassment and assault during the Grand Prix
Women who go out or work during the Canadian Grand Prix feel insecure in public spaces and are often victims of sexual harassment or assault, according to a study by the Conseil des Montréalaises.
The organization concluded that for women working in service, hospitality and sales jobs during the Grand Prix, appearance and body image are often hiring criteria, and that sexual and gender-based harassment on the job is considered “part of the job”.
This is what the report, tabled on Monday at the Montreal City Council, says.
“We have to call a spade a spade: the Grand Prix is an event that is largely based on the exploitation of femininity, the exploitation of women as objects,” said Christine Gosselin, an independent councillor in the Old Rosemont district.
According to Ms. Gosselin, such conclusions should encourage elected officials to question the relevance of keeping the Grand Prix in Montreal.
The 2020 edition of the Canadian Grand Prix did not take place and the 2021 edition was also cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trafficking in women
The Council of Montreal Women also looked into the issue of trafficking in women during the event in another report, but could not come to a clear conclusion.
“Whether it be from field organizations or scientific literature, it is impossible to measure an increase in trafficking in women during the Formula 1 Grand Prix,” the organization said in a press release accompanying its two reports.
The Council of Montrealers even argues that “exaggerated estimates of the phenomenon of trafficking and the resulting police presence have a negative impact on women in the sex industry, Aboriginal women and racialized women, who are victims of police harassment, profiling or arrest.
“It is a form of prostitution”.
To come to its conclusions about sexual harassment and assault during the event, the organisation conducted 38 interviews with women who had experience of working or dating during the Grand Prix.
Some, working as hostesses, barmaids or waitresses, described experiences where they are “used as aesthetic objects, playing on male heterosexual desire, exposing them to flirtation and normalised sexual harassment,” the report said.
“I had a breast grabbed one night. What am I supposed to do? If I go and get a bouncer and then take the guy out, I lose my job. Nobody’s going to tell you that, but it’s clear that’s what’s going to happen,” said one barmaid who participated in the study.
This type of event would occur more often during the Grand Prix.
“It’s not my job to have my butt touched. It’s not necessarily supposed to happen to me, but at the same time, as I say, you work in the industry, in a place where it’s likely to happen,” said one clerk.
“It’s a form of prostitution, you can’t lie to yourself,” says another barmaid, “It’s an exchange of services for money, which includes your body. You don’t have full sexual relations with the client, […] you’re not in a massage parlour. But it’s still asking you to play the trophy wife. ”