Geneva 2018 Reflections – Eva

The way in which we view both the automobile and gender is radically changing. Car shows are not. 

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Eva and a car, photo (c) Auto-Didakt

This photo has been viewed, shared and commented upon more than any other published as part of my reporting on the 2018 Geneva International Motor Show.

I had included a caption that remained largely unnoticed:

This is 2018, rather than 1978. So for all its aesthetic merits, this frame stands for an era that’s firmly in the past.”

To be honest, the decision to post this photo was not an easy one. These days, I feel slightly embarrassed by the attendance of young women adorning automobiles. I also respect personal rights and don’t have the habit of publishing photos of people without their consent. And yet there was a significance to this photo I couldn’t ignore.

First of all, there are quite a few aesthetic considerations. Above all else, the woman pictured is very beautiful indeed. Then there is the fact that her attire, coupled with the original Lancia Stratos in the background, makes for a rather consistent retrospective frame – which could be seen as an ironic comment on the archaic nature of such a presentation. Or just a lame excuse for posting a picture of a pretty girl.

Almost all comments made in this context later on concerned the looks of the woman, sometimes including a bit of innuendo, sometimes in straight fashion. ‘Eva looks gorgeous’ was among the more noteworthy statements, for it means that its author either knows the woman or decided that ‘Eva’ would be fine generic name for any attractive female being.

I don’t know ‘Eva’s’ name, I don’t even know her nationality, as I didn’t talk to her. My younger self may have seen great allure in talking to hostesses at motor shows, but nowadays, I just hope I wasn’t too intrusive or even sleazy back then. As a result, I’m very hesitant to strike up a conversation these days, even though I’d usually consider it rude to be ignorant of people simply because they fill out a role I consider anachronistic.

So ‘Eva’ may be a student earning a bit of extra money on the side at motor shows, or a full-time model. In any case, I’m convinced she’s sufficiently self-confident not to mind having photos of herself taken and then published. After all, this is what she’s getting paid for. I probably have more difficulty with this than she does.

There is a grave danger of being patronising toward ‘Eva’ and her colleagues. Motor shows like the one in Geneva offer them the opportunity to earn decent money. They certainly aren’t exploited in the classical sense. They don’t need to be ‘saved’ by the likes of me. And yet there’s an element of guilt in having taken that photo, not to mention the realisation that the sight of ‘Eva’ was as aesthetically pleasant as it is an utter anachronism.

It would be foolish and even downright repressive on my part to suggest ‘Eva’ ought to be prevented from using her looks to earn a living. Yes, structural sexism and discrimination need to be fought in earnest, but the dangers of fundamentalism are to be found at each extremity of the spectrum. Ordering ‘Eva’ to do a ‘serious job’ would be like telling a builder to do something more ‘intellectual’. People simply are fully entitled to exploit their physical attributes, if they do so by their own choosing.

Yes, the automotive industry lags behind when it comes to many social developments, gender equality being high on the list. ‘Eva’ and the others also act as excellent symbols of this failing. And yet it’d be too easy to simply ban ‘car show birds’, despite all the patriarchal condescension even the term itself entails.

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It’s not all about ‘Eva’, photo (c) Auto-Didakt

Yet the problem isn’t so much ‘Eva’ and how much leg she exposes. The problem is decades, generations of stereotypes that simply won’t go away by way of a simple decree.

A case-in-point at Geneva was an unnamed lady – quite clearly not on the payroll of Lamborghini – who chose to pose next to a Urus SUV, despite the fact that, what with it being press day, a handful of cameras were already pointed at the car. Her facial expression and body language suggested that she very much intended to be taken for a ‘car show bird’ – despite the fact that this anachronistic self-expression was no source of income for her.

Sexism is still everywhere, including the minds of men and women alike. But as long as it doesn’t entail outrageous injustice, we might as well accept it and reserve our outrage for those cases that truly deserve it.

In the meantime, that lady may enjoy her sixty seconds of fame next to that yellow Lamborghini. And ‘Eva’ may earn herself the cost of a nice holiday at another motor show until she’s bored with it.

 

The author of this piece runs an obscure motoring site of his own, which you may or may not choose to visit at www.auto-didakt.com

Author: Christopher Butt

Auto-Didakt

6 thoughts on “Geneva 2018 Reflections – Eva”

  1. Fascinating topic, Kris. With the removal of ‘grid girls’ from F1 this season too, it is obvious that the wider car industry is changing its thinking here, and quite fast.

    Clearly, Eva’s presence is designed to attract attention, which is what any show exhibitor craves. At an event with a majority male audience, she is a safe bet, although beautiful young women will attract the attentions of all. Would a well-defined young man attract the same attention? Most certainly not.

    It is the negative connotations that are now making car makers question their past practices. Although the road is not smooth, there is hope that society is broadly moving in the right direction, becoming more equal.

    Yet sex sells, and will continue to sell. Car manufacturers are all about creating ‘desirable’ products, circumventing rational appraisal and tapping into the base of human nature.

  2. Apparently this is called aesthetic labour. If we are to focus on the ethical aspects, the problem lies not so much with the women paid to stand around and look nice so much as the signal it sends. Such a signal is not in line with anything you would call corporate social responsibility. It doesn´t matter that the business case it itself weak – I think it is. The object of interest at the car show is the cars and the people there promoting them (who make them). Putting nice looking women in front of the cars demeans women (and also demeans the people who designed them). How does one get this message across to the dinosaurs in charge of PR?

    1. The objectification of women is one of the issues here, as is the perception that it is necessary to have some well formed female flesh on display to attract the (predominantly) male gaze. But does it not also suggest that the cars themselves are not sufficient to attract our attention?

      Is the Stratos in the background enhanced by the shapely young lady standing in the foreground, or is she simply in the flippin’ way? Do we feel better for her being there, or as the author points out, slightly grubby by tacit association? Surely one of Gandini’s ’70s-heyday classics doesn’t need ‘Eva’ to attract us?

      Looking at the photo appended, my first thought was for her welfare – all day on her feet, in those shoes, bored out of her mind, no doubt. Lets hope the money is good. However, again as the author makes clear, there are worse, more exploitative jobs she could be doing, which would demean her more, while paying less.

      Another question is not so much whether we would feel better without the ‘Eva’s of this world, but if there was a more equal balance of the sexes. Somehow I can’t see that working in such a testosterone-dominated environment as the motor business. The ‘G’ word would very quickly be bandied about.

      One also wonders what the Mary Barras and Linda Jacksons of the business make of things, or if they even care? Certainly if I had designed one of these cars, I’d feel a little miffed that the marketers felt it required a nubile young woman to get the attention of press and public.

      Other car-related sites often post galleries of these models, offering their readers the opportunity to both gawp and judge, which I find even more objectionable. If only to thwart those pathetic creatures, I’d happily see this phenomenon cast into room 101. But frankly, shouldn’t we be asking women this question, rather than simply wringing our hands?

    2. I was thinking about including the Abercrombie & Fitch hunk phenomenon in the text, but ultimately decided against it.

      The reasons behind ‘Eva’ trying to attract attention on behalf of hideously expensive retro sports car or ‘Brad’ taking his shirt off in order to sell some preppy jumpers will never fully go away. It’s the framework that truly matters.

  3. I’ve always found models just standing there, mute, really odd – uncomfortable for the ‘viewer’ (now a voyeur?), as it’s an unnatural situation. What does it say about how a brand views media commentators and its prospective customers?

    If the person with the product is demonstrating something (e.g. product features), that’s a different matter.

    I think the mix of products and people has to be handled very carefully. This reminded me of the recent (excellent) article on DTW about brand ambassadors; I’ve never really liked them, as they put a barrier between you and the product. “This is our new car, and for some unaccountable reason, here’s [insert name of celebrity] to promote it!”. Unless that celebrity has a clear reason for driving the vehicle, it just seems patronising.

  4. If someone has a talent and can sell that talent and make a decent living, then in whose interest is it to prevent them from doing so, particularly when the time frame Eva, in this case, has to make the most of her undoubted fine looks and poise, is possibly finite.

    No one says a footballer boxer or tennis player shouldn’t make the most of the years of their lives when their game is at it best, well the same might well apply to the many young women who have made decent livings from, and as a far as i know enjoying themselves, whilst they make money from the looks attitude and yes physical grace they have been blessed with and/or perfected.

    What on earth is wrong with a normal chap appreciating the obvious beauty shown here, no one is suffering it is not a crime, and nor does it in any way diminish other women because these girls have been graced by nature, it would be a travesty if they were forced to hide inside some sackcloth coverall as so many women are, or forced to renounce their former nice little earner to suit the current politically motivated crusade of the day.

    Crusades which ironically ignore completely the genuinely abused downtrodden bullied beaten and mutilated/violated/murdered young women and young girls of now sadly western lands as well as the more remote parts of the world, one can only assume the real victims are not important to the wealthy and middle class and their supporters who have jumped on the virtue signalling bandwagon, for they are without a voice.

    Oh the irony, taking hostess and grid girls jobs away to virtue signal whilst ignoring the real evil against women that goes on every day in every country in the world.

    Anway, what on earth is that yellow monstrosity, even Eva couldn’t make me more than glance towards the thing.

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