Who Decides Societal Norms?

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?


About Frank Davis

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34 Responses to Who Decides Societal Norms?

  1. Peter Carter says:

    In this particular case I have read that the feminists are not worried about mini skirts per se (although they probably are). Nor are they worried about the activities of ‘walking on’ or ‘cheerleading’ (another one of their targets), as long as the activity is the main event and not just a sideshow for male sport. As with the ‘gender pay gap’, it is all about making sure that men do not enjoy any advantage, rather than absolutely improving things for women.

  2. Jack Ketch says:

    And wasn’t there a brief episode in the 1970s when skirts also briefly did that?
    Didn’t take much interest in Women’s wear during the 70s but certainly in the 80s girls, at least in the mileu, seemed to wear ankle length skirts, often tie-dyed and ‘ethnic’, along with espadrilles/’Kung fu’ shoes and Princess Di hair does.

    • Rose says:

      We wore miniskirts when they were new and controversial but naturally when miniskirts became the norm and virtually everyone of all ages was wearing them, we dropped our hems to midi, which looks very good with knee high boots or full length depending on circumstance and how much we wanted to shock.

      • Rose says:

        That’s why I took up dressmaking, what you want is not in the shops and street fashion leads the High Street, not the other way around..
        But that was a long time ago.

  3. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    The puritanical Killjoys lack sex appeal so they resent others with ‘pulling power’. Many are in bureaucratic positions able to socially engineer petty intrusive rules and regulations. They select recruits in their own image, a self perpetuating unaccountable groupthink cycle.

  4. Rose says:


    “The Women’s Sport Trust believes women in the sporting environment should be judged by their sports appeal and not sex appeal. We’ve been working with Getty to establish visual standards for the depiction of sportswomen which focus less on what women look like and more on what they achieve.

    At a time when so much great work is being done to raise the visibility and increase the impact of women’s sporting role models, it’s disappointing to see that some of the highest profile international sporting events such as motor racing, cycling and boxing, still choose to use women to accessorise their events rather than be a central part of a sport.”

    “We’re confident that the more saavy marketeers and sponsors will recognise that in the 21st century, the presence of grid girls is unacceptable and off-putting for many men and women. By continuing the outdated practice, the likes of boxing, cycling and motor racing are potentially missing out on an opportunity to engage new audiences and excite new fans.”

    “Founded in 2012, Women’s Sport Trust raises the visibility and increases the impact of women’s sport through the promotion of diverse athlete role models, increasing media coverage and improving the funding landscape.
    We are a leading UK charity focused on using the power of sport to accelerate gender equality and stimulate social change.”

    So if anyone wants to retain ladies on the grid, instead of just standing there holding boards or umbrellas and looking decorative they may need to do some somersaults as well.

  5. Doonhamer says:

    I suppose that that delightful girl on Countdown will have to go.
    Or does she not count?
    I’ll get my coat.

  6. Rose says:

    It’s got me wondering now, if ladies on the grid have to go for standing there and looking attractive, do ladies sitting in the stands or the banking and incidentally looking attractive have to go too?
    I sat on the banking with my family at Bridge and saw Nigel Mansell become World Champion, but in those days they didn’t mind ladies just sitting there and watching the race, attractively or not.
    I do wish these people would think about the consequences of their actions, we each fought quiet battles long ago to be included in places that were once the preserve of men.

  7. Peter Carter says:

    I think ‘societal norms’ do change even if we consciously don’t want them to. In the 1970s, men were probably more than happy to see Pan’s People on TOTP; in the 1980s they might say that they thought they were ‘a bit naff’; and now they would actually be uncomfortable watching them, especially in the presence of ‘polite company’. This is how it is for me. Society has shifted in many ways – although I don’t think that most people actually wanted it to. The result is that the things that I always thought I was going to enjoy as I got older are no longer applicable, which leaves gaping holes in my life.

    A tiny example: old film and TV. Until very recently I could watch an old film or an episode of the Persuaders, and enjoy it on many levels. Now I just hear the gasps and guffaws of imaginary SJWs as I watch it. And at the same time I can’t enjoy modern stuff because of the PC bingo aspect.

    • Rose says:

      Peter, just make allowances for historical attitudes long gone and rightly so, and enjoy the old films for what they were. My world would be just a little poorer without the occasional viewing of the dining scene from Carry On Up The Khyber, a film that is politically incorrect on a variety of levels.

      • Peter Carter says:

        It’s where you say “and rightly so” that I feel uneasy, Rose. I don’t know which historical attitudes you (or anyone else) are necessarily thinking of as rightly gone, so unless I go full SJW and stay up to date with it, I can’t know that members of polite society don’t think of me as a spittle-flecked Little Englander or worse.

        I was happier Before Brexit, when many of these things were not so in the open. There seemed to be a ‘buffer’ which allowed a person to be themselves – a bit ‘non-PC’ – while remaining confident that polite society could tell that they were a decent sort, anyway. That has now gone. I spent an evening in the pub with a very old friend of mine recently and to my horror as the evening wore on realised that he had been ‘got at’ by the Brexit business. Brexit, in his eyes, symbolised at least xenophobia, probably racism. Because I was talking in positive terms about some aspects of Brexit he eventually let on that he was shocked. His wife is foreign. He basically asked me whether I therefore thought she should be sent back! This is what we now risk if we are too nuanced in our arguments or attitudes.

        So I think that even the enjoyment of watching an old film with someone must be tainted by these worries from now on.

        • Rose says:

          Imagine being a young girl and watching Benny Hill shown as popular entertainment, it does men no service to be portrayed as lechers.

          In other news

          Formula 1: ‘Grid kids’ to replace ‘grid girls’ from start of the season

          “Formula 1 is to replace ‘grid girls’ with a new programme called ‘grid kids’ this season.
          F1 bosses plan to use budding racing drivers “to make the pre-race ceremony more relevant and interesting for fans, especially the younger ones”.

          The sport said last week it would no longer be using female promotional models on the starting grid.
          The children used will be competitors in karting or junior categories, chosen by national motorsport authorities.

          A joint statement from governing body the FIA and the F1 Group said the choice would be made “on merit or by lottery”.”

          “F1 managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches said he hoped the opportunity to “stand beside their heroes” would be for the children chosen “an unforgettable experience for them and their families” and “an inspiration to keep driving, training and learning so that they can dream of one day being there themselves”.

          He added: “What better way to inspire the next generation of Formula 1 heroes?”

          Bratches said last week that using ‘grid girls’ “does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms”.

        • Frank Davis says:

          ‘Grid kids’

          So now it’s going to be pedophilia, I suppose. Welcome to the 21st century.

        • nisakiman says:


          The idea of ‘grid kids’ is utterly appalling. Great for the kids who get to do it no doubt, but a literal infantilising of the sport. Like the stomach-churningly kitsch trotting-out-of-the-kids they do at football matches these days. The saccharine is overwhelming.

          Where are the James Hunts of this world when you need them? His old nemesis Niki Lauda certainly isn’t a fan of the demise of the grid girls, and has made his feelings known in no uncertain terms.

          Grid kids. Gah!

        • Frank Davis says:


          Niki Lauda hopes Formula One reconsiders its ban on ‘grid girls’, a decision he believes is “stupid” and “against women”.

          This week’s announcement that the tradition of promotional models standing on the grid before F1 races will no longer continue has sparked a wave of headlines and debate in international media. While many have praised the decision, there has been criticism — former boss Bernie Ecclestone accused F1’s new owners of being “prudish”, while former promotional models have started a petition against the ban.

          Three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who is currently non-executive chairman of Mercedes, has added his voice to the criticism.

          “This is a decision against women,” Lauda told Austrian newspaper ‘Der Standard’. “Men have made the decision over the heads of women. This is not doing any favours to F1 and especially not for women. How stupid can they be? Are they nuts?”

          Lauda thinks F1 could backtrack on the decision and instead instigate a system which sees men and women share the responsibility together.

          “I hope there is a way to reverse the decision. I wouldn’t mind seeing grid boys next to grid girls. Why not?”

          The Austrian believes ‘grid girls’ are an essential part of the show F1 has always delivered to fans.

          “Grid girls have always belonged in F1, and they should continue to belong in F1. Women are stepping up [into senior roles], and they are doing it very well — it is moving in the right direction. But one does not exclude the other. I don’t want to hold back women — I want to encourage them.

          “If you continue on this path, there will be no cheerleaders left in America.”

          https://www.change.org/p/liberty-media-formula-1-keep-the-grid-girls h

          The above petition has 8,000+ signatures.

          There’s a darts girls petition too, that’s got 40,000 signatures. But I don’t know where it is.

          P.S. Here it is:


        • Rose says:

          I hope there is a way to reverse the decision. I wouldn’t mind seeing grid boys next to grid girls. Why not?

          I agree with Niki Lauda.
          And a race track is no place for kids.

      • smokingscot says:

        @ Rose.

        Seems the decision to rid themselves of young ladies at F1 races may have more to do with their holding races in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Bahrain – as well as Malaysia.

        Been a certain amount of commentary in the Arabic press about importing Western norms, and I see that Saudi is hosting this years Race of Champions with an intent to host an F! in due course.

        I’m hoping this’ll come up, it shows the Grid Girls at the 2016 Abu Dhabi races. Uniforms are very similar to an air stewardess IMO.

        • Rose says:

          Seems the decision to rid themselves of young ladies at F1 races may have more to do with their holding races in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Bahrain – as well as Malaysia

          I would hope not.

          The Abu Dhabi uniforms look elegant.

      • smokingscot says:

        Yup, it’s an Al etihad airways uniform, with slightly different headgear.

    • Barry Homan says:

      I get what Peter is saying about the PC-bingo thing in modern films. I’m watching a new film now, christ why don’t they just dangle little bobbing signs highlighting all those little nudges? Look there, he’s drinking “organic tea”, then switch to the “multi-culture” office team, and the inevitable mention “my grandad died of cancer”.

      You really do need a bingo card.

    • Frank Davis says:

      guffaws of imaginary SJWs

      Fortunately I don’t know any SJWs, so can’t imagine either them or their guffawing.

      PC bingo

      What’s that? I imagine it to be a form of bingo where everyone wins prizes, even if they have the wrong numbers.

  8. Tony says:

    I think there is a danger in making too much of this but he who pays the piper calls the tune.

    Presumably F1 needs sponsors and there is already a GP in Bahrain.

    As for societal change. It can be arranged. Just look at what happened to women in Afghanistan and Iran. I remember both countries being very westernised in the 1970s. I visited Pakistan a few times in the 1960s and burkhas were a fairly rare and strange sight. Not so today, even in London.

    I shouldn’t have to but I feel obliged to say that I’m definitely not anti Muslim. I’ve known and been good friends with numerous people of all religions and despite not being religious myself have always been a strong supporter of freedom of belief. However I do object to people imposing their religious views on others.

  9. wobbler2012 says:

    Who Decides Societal Norms? The answer to that is currently a very small Twitter minority.

    If some of these companies don’t start telling the virtue signallers and SJW’s to piss off it’s going to get a lot lot worse. To the average Joe on the street wondering why this shit is happening all of a sudden all they have to do is take a look at Twitter.

    I used to love Twitter (I still think it’s very good) but it is being highjacked by morons these days.

  10. Smoking Lamp says:

    Societal norms are malleable. They are subject to a range of pressures. I suspect those that become entrenched and true norms rather than fads are those that are forged from the bottom up.

    Yet, norms are powerful and help instill order and secure power. Hence the lifestyle controllers in ‘public health’ and social justice warriors seek to manipulate norms to gain relative power. That has type of power play was advocated by Gramsci who advocated ‘cultural hegemony’ as a way of dominating diverse societies by manipulating beliefs, values, and norms. The goal was that the progressive Marxist norm would dominate and other normative structures be destroyed. That’s why universities are captured, the media manipulated, and cultural practices altered (as in the case of smoking bans to eradicate smoking and prohibition of alcohol). It is of course important that the masses believe they have agency so this deliberate tactic is made to appear as a bottom-up, grass roots movement.

    Of course imposing social and cultural change isn’t a guaranteed affair. Iran tried to eradicate smoking with severe restrictions on smoking. The Iranian smoking ban (imposed in 2007) is severe and embraces the FCTC regime yet 11 years later the smoking rate is unchanged: “Iran Is Losing Its Jihad on Tobacco.” http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/01/29/iran-is-losing-its-jihad-on-tobacco/

  11. Vlad says:

    I was listening to Jordan Peterson talking about the ‘peoplekind’ remark of that pathetic excuse for a man, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, when I found out about this: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/02/05/parents-furious-as-school-cancels-father-daughter-dance-over-gender-issues.html.

    This quote from the above article applies very well to smoking: “They’re trying to take away everything that everybody grew up on and has come to know and I don’t think it’s fair or right,” said Matthew West, a 32-year-old father of two daughters told the newspaper.

  12. smokingscot says:


    The smoking ban in prisons led to a couple of them smoking Spice, which is some form of synthetic Marijuana. Anyway the pair went sort of a teensy bit nuts, trashed their cell and…. well why repeat what’s laid out in the article.


    Point is the good old “Record” has no problem saying it like it is. The smoking ban in prisons.

  13. jaxthefirst says:

    “There’s no Ministry of Fashion telling people what to wear.”

    Yet. For goodness’ sake, don’t give them ideas! God, imagine what we’d all have to wear if they put Boris in charge. Like we’d all been pulled through a hedge backwards. Or one of those awful new female MPs? Twee suit and prim little hair-do, anyone? Or Jeremy Corbyn. The “right-on granddad” look.

    Doesn’t bear thinking about!

  14. waltc says:

    I don’t know of an actual living man who is “put off” by seeing a pretty girl on the field (or anywhere else) but I think the goal is to make men feel they should be put off, or to say they are, or at least to have the good grace feel deeply ashamed that they aren’t. This is how phony social change is achieved–by forcing whatever’s genuine underground in order to avoid censure–often by others who are willing to parrot the going game in the name of a Correctness that even they themselves may not feel. Though eventually they may repeat the lie so often, they convince themselves they believe it. I think this is in many ways true of the anti-smokerism that’s rife in the land. Are all those people actually that “put off” by smokers, or have they just convinced themselves they are?

    I start to believe this new wave of feminism is deeply anti-feminine and is going to backfire on women, not only in terms of their “career goals” but in their personal lives. I note that in the wake of the Trump Election, women were bragging about being “nasty” as though it were a virtue, while irrationally costuming themselves as giant vulvas to… protest being thought of as sex objects (!) There’s no question that women can be sensual AND smart, soft AND definite, beautiful AND whatever else they want to be, but I doubt they can be full, natural beings by denying half their nature and inclinations and opting to be seen as Amazonian warriors.

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