I do wish the cultural revolution would hurry up and reach its dictatorship phase

At Spectator Coffee House

I guess there comes that time in every man’s life when he realises he is in fact a dinosaur and he’s never going to keep up with social mores. May as well just get use to your children’s gritted teeth every time you open your fat, opinionated mouth on anything.

I find myself reaching that point in regards to the abolition of Formula One grid girls, a tradition that is no longer ‘relevant’ to the sport and how it wishes to be portrayed; which is presumably as an egalitarian, environmentally friendly and incorrupt cultural event which does not at all attract the worst rich people on earth.

James O’Brien, the sort of conscience of 25-44 middle Britain these days, came up with a strangely conservative and paternalistic argument for why they needed to go.

I’m quite conservative and paternalistic and I’m not repulsed by that logic, except it seems odd to use it in this case. If I was honest I’d be very sad if a family member became a topless model and devastated and heartbroken if one became a pornographic actress, but I don’t think I’d be that bothered about one becoming a Formula 1 grid girl. Plenty of more demeaning and undignified jobs out there, just in the media alone.

So I sympathise fully with the frustration felt by some of the women, here

and here

I wouldn’t go as far as wishing someone ebola, but I’d certainly resent the way people misrepresented my job.

My dinosaur brain obviously categorises things into ‘harmless traditions’ and ‘dangerous threats to western civilization’, and grid girls are definitely in the former. Formula One is a sort of modern-day version of the medieval tourney, a celebration of masculine bravery and strength by its latter-day knights – the son of the head of the Habsburg family is, funnily enough, a racing driver – and just as the tourneys of the later middle ages had a glamorous, sexual atmosphere, with beautiful women presenting prizes to the most gallant champions, so modern motor racing has had a similar feel.

In fact, the overtly sexual clothing of these medieval events was criticised by moralists at the time; the deeply misanthropic chronicler Henry Knighton complained that ‘whenever and wherever tournaments were held, troops of ladies would arrive dressed up in a variety of male clothing… they abused their bodies in wantonness and scurrilous licentiousness. They neither feared God nor blushed at the criticism of the people, but were … deaf to the demands of modesty.’ Knighton wrote that these women were ‘the showiest and most beautiful (but not most virtuous) women of the whole realm’.

Some even blamed the Black Death on the tight-fitting outfits worn by women at these events, another chronicler attacking ‘clothes that were so tight that they wore a fox tail hanging down inside their skirts at the back, to hide their arses’.

People have always objected to women dressing immodestly – more so women than men  – but what I can’t understand, and this is the dinosaur brain again, is that the current public moral space has no coherence or consistency. So while F1 girls are out of date and exploitative, pornography is fine because it’s empowering and educating or something, at least according to the increasingly Buzzfeed-like BBC online. It’s okay for singers whose target audience is pre-teen girls to be crudely sexual and dress half-naked as long as they’re Woke; ditto films and television being sexually graphic, as long as everyone makes the right vacuous points on Oscar night. Sex work likewise is a morally neutral issue because it’s empowering; except when it’s not. Women enjoying lifestyle choices is good; except when it isn’t. The one thing all approved, authorised sex-positive things have in common is that they upset conservatives or traditional conservative mores; grid girls don’t.

I appreciate that we’re in the middle of a cultural revolution and revolutions are marked by uncertainty and therefore terror – have I denounced the wrong person today? Did my tweet upset people when a year ago it would have been harmless? – but I do wish it would just hurry up and reach whatever awful dictatorship phase follows next. At least then we’ll have consistency.


What do you think?