A darts ‘walk-on girl’ has defended her right to participate in sporting tournaments, saying she ‘never felt objectified’ on stage.
The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) announced last week it would stop hiring young women to escort darts players at tournaments and on January 31, Formula 1 banned grid girls, in a disturbing move which has cost many women their jobs.
A heated debate has been sparked online, and in the wider sporting sphere, between those who support the profession and those who believe the practice is ‘outdated’ and ‘sexist’.
Lynsay MacDonald, a part-time player escort who’s been working on the Scottish darts circuit for six years told UNILAD she believes banning walk-on girls and F1 grid girls in the name of feminism is ‘quite contradictory’.
Players’ escorts have been a staple of the spectacle of televised darts competitions and F1 since the nineties, however, the sports’ governing bodies have announced the roles are to become a thing of the past.
Player escorts, Daniella Allfree and Charlotte Wood, took to TV to defend their jobs:
No one would bother argue the toss over the gender equality problem in darts – and the sporting world as a whole. The stats speak for themselves.
Men who enter the PDC World Darts Championships can expect to win £350,000 if they reign supreme, but women playing the same calibre of darts who win the British Darts Organisation (BDO) championship are rewarded a comparatively pitiful £100,000.
However, the decision to ban player escorts and grid girls seems to punish one collective of women for the systematic and institutional bias against female athletes – a consequence of the patriarchy which the women workers are not directly responsible.
Perhaps, before ridding one group of women of their jobs in a band-aid quick fix bid to take women more seriously in sports, the darts and F1 community should strive instead for gender equality for the athletes in terms of pay and sponsorship.
Speaking of the ‘difficult’ gender disparity, Lynsay told UNILAD:
The women darts players are in the BDO where sadly there isn’t as much exposure or as much hype as the PDC. The BDO certainly deserves the same but it’s a different corporation.
If women wanted to play in the PDC they should be entitled to the same money as the men, but I don’t think using professional models in the sport epouses women’s rights to equality.
Lynsay walked UNILAD through life as a player escort on the exhibition circuit, saying:
As a huge darts fan, it’s a huge honour to meet the people you admire in sport. I am very lucky to be a part of it.
I escort the player to the ‘oche’, wait and smile until they throw 6 darts each then walk away and let them carry on with the game. We walk with security guards so we never feel unsafe.
Never at anytime do I feel objectified and wrongly treated and if I ever felt that way, I can honestly say hand on heart I wouldn’t be doing it.
Describing the ‘lovable community’ as ‘family’ environment which is ‘relaxed’ and ‘intimate’, Lysnay says she always feels ‘welcomed’ by female spectators, adding; ‘we enjoy each other’s company immensely’.
What I love most is the women who attend these events are almost on par in attendance wise to the men and they always come up for a chat saying how much they love my dress or my hair.
The women couldn’t be more supportive. The voices we need are the women in these line of work.
Some have argued the player escorts are ‘degrading’ to female players who wish to participate on an equal footing to male players.
It’s also been suggested the player escorts and grid girls send a negative message to young aspiring sportswomen – despite the fact it’s perfectly acceptable to aspire to be a woman earning money through modelling.
Women in decorative professions are widely – and unfairly – regarded as undervalued.
Rather than scrap these perfectly valid professions and disregard the women’s future earnings and welfare, why not work to change the misogynistic undertones underpinning that damaging perception?
Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations at Formula 1 announced:
Over the last year we have looked at a number of areas which we felt needed updating so as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport.
While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.
We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world.
Attractiveness and a sense of worth on the sporting stage aren’t mutually exclusive – and perhaps the banning of player escorts and grid girls says more about our apparent and unfair inability to see an attractive woman as anything other than an object.
Yes, it’s problematic to note how the professions of grid girl and player escort lack diversity and represent only a narrow and unattainable section of female beauty.
But it’s undeniably disturbing to witness feminists speak on behalf of others in an attempt to sell short their choice of livelihood, even if it perpetuates patriarchal ideals. Don’t punish women – change the system.
Everybody is born with a skill, be that academic, creativity, athleticism or indeed beauty. So why should women be stopped from pursuing a career should their qualities include their looks?
Women have been given the right to vote for almost 100 years now and I believe we’ve come a long way since the gender pay gap, women not seen in high profile roles and the lack of women in engineering.
So why do women feel it’s okay for these girls to lose their jobs now? It’s quite contradictory but that’s only my opinion.
In an ideal world, the player escorts would be guiding female players up onto the global stage of darts and the grid girls would be waving the flag for female F1 drivers, so young girls watching at home can see women being valued for all the fabulous facets of femininity – and not just their looks.
Either way, it’s disturbing to see governing bodies dismiss an entire group of women in the name of gender equality just because they don’t want to pay female athletes the same as men.