We race as one – without the women

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A couple of weeks back, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner provoked backlash from fans upon his misogynistic comments. In his interview with talkSPORT presenter Laura Woods, while discussing the new season of Drive to Survive series, Horner claimed that young girls’ growing interest in the sport is due to “good-looking” drivers.

Fans criticized Horner for gendering the sport; the fact that a Team Principal made this statement reflects the ongoing and prominent dilemma of women’s inclusion in the sport. Taking this into account, the real question we should be asking is: how rooted is gatekeeping women in Formula 1 in the twenty-first century?

Horner’s input about the issue indicates that there are two ways through which women are otherized in Formula 1: the media and staff (including drivers). The first ever release of DTS on Netflix attracted many young people to the sport – inevitably, among them are young girls.

Unsurprisingly, this wave of new Formula 1 fans was reduced to women, while men who were introduced to the sport via DTS were not criticized in the same manner. Women became the centre of focus. Suddenly, being a female DTS fan became a nuisance among the community, as they – allegedly – appreciate the “cover” more than the “book” itself.

This logic clearly does not make sense, as DTS is somewhat produced in the form of a reality show and is not a hundred per cent reliable. On top of this, DTS’s fundamental aim is to present Formula 1 in a way that will favour the conditions of mainstream media, as well as expand the community by drawing in new fans. According to this, it is only natural to say, so what if the ordinary DTS fan watches races only to see “good-looking” drivers? Clearly it is a matter of marginalization and inclusion.

Generalising women is gatekeeping a specific part of the community

Formula 1 is already a male-dominated sport. Only a handful of women are able to make their way into Formula 1 as a profession even in this decade. The highest percentage of female trackside staff is 9.8 per cent at Alfa Romeo. Considering this, it is only anticipated that Horner genders the sport and nuisances associated with women are generated regularly.

Generalising women is gatekeeping a specific part of the community – which is rather a debatable choice of word. Whatever their reasons for following Formula 1 be, young girls and women should be encouraged instead of being excluded and belittled. This change starts from within the core of Formula 1, which are team staff and drivers.

Drivers and team members get away with misogynistic comments when they should be confronted for them. Casting a veil over their sexist statements will keep Formula 1 from growing out of its primeval characteristics.

For instance, during a Q&A, Max Verstappen was asked what the best purchase he ever made was. He responded “my girlfriend”, followed by Sergio Perez saying “that’s a good one.” Although this may seem as a ‘harmless joke’, it is an indicator of how rooted and sided Formula 1 can be.

Similarly, in 2014 Perez was asked what he thinks about the participation of a female driver. Perez claims that she “doesn’t know the car”. He said that “Silverstone is a tricky circuit” so “we can’t expect great things from her.” He then proceeds to say the following: “Imagine that a woman can beat you, that is the last straw. She would be better in the kitchen.”

As long as this dated rationale persists in people’s heads, women will keep being criticized and excluded from Formula 1. There is absolutely nothing wrong with finding drivers attractive, the same way as there’s nothing wrong with being curious of technicality.

However, reducing women to the former is misogyny. The fact that people can be and currently are held separate because of their gender paints a bigger picture, which is that Formula 1 fully accepts people depending on certain qualities. This makes us question, what about the ‘We Race as One’ initiative?  Is it genuine or for show?

Image: Chuljae Lee via Flickr

One thought on “We race as one – without the women

  • So sorry that women don’t feel included. It’s too bad that the “dated rationale” is so distressing to females. It is ingrained behaviour that was acceptable in the past. Because women can’t handle it nowadays is their problem. Maybe it’s unfair, but maybe in a couple of thousand years things will change. It took that long to get where we are now.

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