Something from Grid Girls Gone has been playing on my mind since I wrote it. In particular, this quote:
Grid girls were scrapped by F1 shortly after the elimination of walk-on girls by the Professional Darts Corporation, because their jobs were held to be “at odds with modern day societal norms”.
Well, were grid girls at odds with societal norms when they were first introduced? Was there a public outcry? Were they stark naked or something?
I used to watch F1 Grand Prix motor racing quite avidly 20 or 30 years ago, and I don’t ever remember the grid girls. There were always pretty girls hanging around F1 races anyway. What did the grid girls look like? The first two images I pulled up on Google were:
Nothing to write home about there. There are girls dressed like this everywhere in the world. And they’ve been dressing like this ever since about 1965, when miniskirts became fashionable.
Doesn’t that mean that miniskirts have been socially acceptable for over 50 years? And doesn’t that mean that they’re not in the least bit “at odds with modern day societal norms”?
And haven’t societal norms being gradually changing for a long time? My mother always wore skirts below her knee back in the 1950s. And in the 1930s skirts were usually well below the knee. And in the Victorian era, skirts usually reached right the way down to the ground (right). And wasn’t there a brief episode in the 1970s when skirts also briefly did that?
Who decides what “social norms” are anyway? In my experience, they are negotiated between people in social groups, with the norms varying slightly from one group to the next. There’s no Ministry of Fashion telling people what to wear. Fashion magazines are full of models wearing different outfits, but they’re only suggestions for what people might wear, not orders.
It’s the same with smoking. In some circles it’s perfectly acceptable to smoke, and in others not.
The grid girls were perfectly socially acceptable for a long time. In fact, I’d say that they’re still perfectly socially acceptable. What’s happened now is that a bunch of puritanical killjoys are trying to arrogate to themselves the decision of what is and what isn’t socially acceptable. Instead of leaving everyone to decide among themselves what is and what isn’t socially acceptable, they’re trying to foist their own dogma on everyone else.
It’s not that grid girls are “at odds with modern day societal norms”. It’s that they’re “at odds with the killjoys’ societal norms”.
And the same is true of smoking, drinking, eating fast food, sugar, salt, meat, etc. It’s nothing to do with “health”: it’s just that the killjoys don’t like it. And they want to change social norms.
But I’ve been wondering whether social norms can be changed. If it’s true that social norms are negotiated between people in the manner that I’m suggesting, then it can never really be possible for their norms to be changed.
For example, 10 years after the smoking ban was introduced, I still regard smoking as normal. I’ve regarded it as normal all my life. And I’ll carry on regarding it as normal for the rest of my life. And I’ll also carry on regarding enjoying a beer or a cheeseburger or a steak or a curry as normal things to eat and drink. And I’ll regard miniskirts as normal too, because I’ve been surrounded by them for the past 50 years.
So I’m wondering whether large scale “social engineering” of the sort that is being attempted these days is actually a feasible, workable project. I’m wondering whether you can change people’s norms at all. For I rather suspect that people’s norms get fixed quite early in life, and never change thereafter. Smoking bans don’t change people’s norms. All that smoking bans do is to exile smokers to the outdoors – the norms of the smokers themselves don’t change one iota. Grid girl bans won’t change anyone’s norms either. The grid girls will just wear their miniskirts elsewhere, in the company of people for whom miniskirts are normal.
But if people’s norms are fixed fairly early in life, and remain fixed thereafter, that might also help explain the killjoys’ behaviour as well. And the explanation of killjoyism is that the killjoys grew up in non-smoking, non-drinking homes, and their mums all wore no make-up and their skirts right down to the ground. And so killjoys like Deborah Arnott find themselves constantly being shocked in a world where women wear miniskirts and smoke and drink and eat cheeseburgers. And they remain shocked because their norms never change either. They’re Victorians with Victorian norms living over a century after their time.
They won’t change, and they won’t change because they can’t change. And we won’t change, because we can’t change either. And if they can’t and won’t change, why should they expect anyone else to change? In fact, why do they think they can change them at all?
Their social engineering isn’t going to work.
Anyway, as an example of where women’s fashions might go next (and outside my personal norms), how about this girl with painted-on jeans?