“Don’t call me skanky or dumb just because I’m a grid girl”.

 

RADelaidians. Crack open a can of VB and prepare to inhale the smell of burnt rubber.

The V8 Clipsal 500 Supercar race is fast approaching and that can only mean one thing, other than a sea of bad sleeve tattoos and mullets. The inevitable roasting of the grid girls.Whenever this topic arises, I find myself rolling my eyes. Sadly, it is seldom men who spurr this debate, but predictably, more often women.

So exactly why is it that we should consider banning grid girls at our major motorsporting event?

Is it because women are being oversexualised? Perhaps being a grid girl is now an outdated concept? Is it that times have changed and there is a movement to protect women and have them viewed in a more meaningful light? Are grid girls sending the wrong message to the younger girls of our generation? Or is it simply that wives and girlfriends are jealous that their husbands are looking at attractive, alluring, women on the grid?

Potentially all of the above.

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Glitzing it up on stage at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre for the official V8 Clipsal 500 launch (2008). Image: Katheryn Blewett

I don’t have the definitive answer. I can only speak from first hand experience. I was formerly an official Clipsal 500 grid girl for five years and was also a promotional grid girl at the Clipsal for three years. I am well aware of the stigma and stereotyping that has been attached to the title of ‘grid girl.’ The terms ‘slutty,’ ‘skanky’ and ‘dumb’ are all commonplace remarks just as much as they are also ignorant.

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The duration of my time at Clipsal saw me transition from a student studying a double degree in Law and Arts (majoring in Politics and Languages) to becoming a Lawyer at one of Adelaide’s most prestigious law firms.

Does that render me ‘dumb?’

Meanwhile, many of the other girls in the grid team were also either studying, had university degrees or were working professionals.

For all the haters out there, in case you weren’t aware, it is possible for a girl to be attractive and also be smart. One doesn’t have to choose between the two.

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Official Clipsal 500 launch Adelaide Entertainment Centre (2009) Image via Katheryn Blewett.

In Adelaide, being an ‘official Clipsal grid girl’ is the highest ranking in terms of being a grid girl. Who cares, right? The point is, whenever you see a Clipsal girl, know that she has attended viewings, panels and interviews (external to her modelling/promotional agency) and has competed against hundreds of girls in her state to vie for a top twenty place in SA to be an ambassador for the Clipsal event.

Irrespective of how frivolous or inconsequential that might sound to you, each girl fought hard to earn her spot in that grid team, and accordingly, she is damn proud to be there.

What most people also fail to acknowledge is that the official Clipsal girls work bloody hard. It’s not as simple as smiles all day long and flag bearing.

The girls need to be at the track glitzed and glammed by 7am every morning, often performing 12 hour shifts (in very high heels). That is external to the media, photographic shoots, interviews, parades, functions and launches they might also be involved in.

Aching, bandaged, blistered and sometimes even bleeding feet are a reality of a day’s work on the circuit. It can, at times, be a very physically exhausting and taxing job. I feel your overwhelming sense of compassion and empathy. Unless you’ve walked a sum total of 3kms in stiletto’s in a day, you are no one to pass judgement.

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Taking a break in between photos and having some fun with the cameras (2009) Image via Katheryn Blewett.

Being a grid girl is a paid job. It requires professionalism and good judgement and just like any other job, it also has its challenges. The girls should be applauded for the constant level of professionalism they maintain in an environment that is male dominated. It should be commended that these girls can hold their own and still be confident when their surroundings can often be extremely intimidating.

Over the recent years the grid girl outfits have even been modified to fit in with demanding egalitarian standards: to be less revealing and more tasteful. That of course still hasn’t appeased many, if at all.

The motorsport industry has always had women sexualising its brand. After all, it’s a match made in sponsorship heaven; fast cars and attractive women.

It’s an undeniable truth. Sex sells. From the global Formula 1’s to the V8’s, grid girls have always been a staple feature and attraction of the sport, just as the NFL and basketball have always had their equivalent in cheerleaders. I wonder if the NFL views having cheerleaders a part of their sport as sexist? I certainly don’t see an urgent movement to ban them anytime soon.

Watch: ‘Hey Mia, how do you deal with haters?’ Post continues after video.

I’m sure the V8 drivers aren’t exactly complaining either just quietly, nor the sponsors. I’m tipping the drivers aren’t likely to stand outside Parliament House in the near future with picket signs reading ‘ban the grid girls.’

In the past, the topic of having ‘grid guys’ has also arisen. In an attempt to show grand efforts of political correctness the concept was trialed at the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix May 2015. Is it any surprise that the drivers weren’t overly impressed? After the race, Ferrari’s four time world champion, Sebastian Vettel, questioned ‘why didn’t we have any grid girls today? F–k, you get there and park behind George or Dave. What’s the point?’ Vettel was then later quoted saying, ‘I’ll speak with Bernie (Ecclestone) about it’. If you weren’t aware, ‘Bernie’ is the Chief Executive of The Formula One Group.

Case in point.

When did the world become so serious about EVERYTHING? Our modern day life is so heavily entrenched in political correctness that we are in danger of losing our sense of humour and our perspective on life. The freedom to express our thoughts and ideas have been heavily curtailed for fear that we will offend. We are over complicating, over analysing and over debating everything. It seems that the ‘grid girl’ debate is in danger of meeting the same fate.

Shouldn’t we focus our energies on more pressing social and political issues rather than worry whether a pretty girl adorning a racing car is going to corrupt a whole generation of girls?

My personal experience saw me have an absolute blast being a grid girl. I had fun, made life long friends, met interesting people, and most importantly, I got to spend my days with seriously amazing girls.

Crucify me.

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On stage with Mark ‘Chopper’ Reid impersonator, Heath Franklin, during one of his shows at the Clipsal (2009) Image via: Katheryn Blewett

Unfortunately, haters are gonna hate and trollers are gonna troll, but that’s ok. We are all entitled to our own opinion. My grid girl days are six years gone. I am married with a beautiful baby boy and another baby on the way. Nonetheless, while my circumstamces have significantly changed, my view on grid girls has not ever faltered or wavered.

It really is simple. Being a grid girl is a bit of light hearted fun for an incredibly short period of time.

GET OVER IT

Former GG

Katheryn X❤️

This article originally appeared here on Katheryn’s blog. It was republished here with full permission.

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