Women have always had a growing place in motorsports, from fans to engineers to drivers. So why do so many female fans still hear the misogynistic phrase of “You only watch Formula 1 for the drivers”?
In recent years there has been a rise in the number of women interested in motorsports and those who watch it, but why are women still put off from getting involved? It could be put down to one simple phrase I am sure all female motorsports fans have been told at one point. “You only watch for the drivers.”
There has been a push for women and girls to get more involved in motorsport, but the intense misogyny surrounding the sport makes it increasingly difficult. Women want to spectate and enjoy motorsport in the same way men do but cannot do so as they face pushback at every turn. Men are always assumed to have knowledge in the field, but women are constantly subjected to a barrage of questions to prove the validity of their knowledge.
The statement you only watch for the drivers implies that women only watch motorsport because of drivers’ looks, but we see the drivers without their helmets maybe a total of 10 minutes every weekend. Why would women only watch for the drivers if they can’t even see them most of the time? If that were their agenda, they would pick something like football or tennis, so that statement simply can’t be true.
Women have been involved in Formula One for over 50 years. Maria Teresa de Filippis was the first female Formula One driver, entering five races in the 1958 and 1959 seasons. Given the history of women in motorsport, why are so few women getting involved, and why is it so difficult to see a clear future of women’s position in motorsport? In recent years, light has been shed on the need to increasingly include women in motorsport; however, due to the lack of a clear plan for increased inclusion, it will likely still be a long time before we see our next female F1 driver. Luckily other series like rallying have less of a stigma against female involvement and support.
Recently in a press conference, Sebastian Vettel was asked by a young female fan whether he sees a future for women to be in Formula One, to which he responded, “I think yes. In the future, obviously, you cannot say when, but I don’t think there’s anything that speaks against it…there will be women in F1.” If even the current drivers of the grid believe there is a future for women in motorsport, why are they still experiencing such misogyny when discussing and sharing their passion for the sport? Those taking the time to tell women they cannot enjoy the sport aren’t paying attention to the changes happening around them. In reality, the number of women and young girls interested in motorsport is growing each day, which needs to be realized by the community.
Women are trying to make a place for themselves, gain a following, and stand their ground when it comes to motorsport. New schemes such as W Series and FIA Girls on Track are doing their best to promote women into motorsport and emphasize the importance of equality in the sport. However, W Series has been criticized for segregating women in the sport instead of supporting them to reach a position of equality when competing.
The fact is, women are still getting degraded and excluded from a sport that is striving for equality. While the sport itself aims to do better and increase the inclusion, hiring, and training of women, the fans need to be better educated and criticized for the demeaning language that is so commonly used towards women in association with motorsport.
Women are heavily encouraged to get involved and put themselves forward, but as soon as they do, they are shot down for being simple fangirls who wouldn’t know one team from another. While it is encouraging to see the motoring community’s efforts to see more women getting involved, there is still the lingering distaste of being told you cannot be a motorsport fan because you’re a woman.
We need to see more empowering female figures in motorsports on our screens to inspire the new generation. Outstanding female figures such as Susie Wolff, Catherine Bond Muir, Natalie Pinkham, Jennie Gow, Jamie Chadwick, and Alice Powell are paving the way to increase the presence of women in motorsport. However, they themselves still face prejudice from those unable to accept it’s time for a new generation.
Women in Motorsport month gives time to view and share encouraging stories from those making their way up the ladder. It is encouraging to see the number of women now becoming fans of the sport and even more to see the number of women and young girls aspiring to work in motorsport in the future. It is now that we can appreciate how hard these women work to be able to do what they love. So for those women and young girls making their way into the sport, we must make sure no one else has to hear, “You only watch for the drivers.”
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