Heavy farming equipment is not usually associated with feminist debate, but the appearance of ‘grid girls’ at Britain’s biggest tractor show has sparked a sexism row.
Agrifac, a machinery manufacturer, hired two cheerleaders to interact with people who visited its stand – a move which has been described by critics as “an embarrassment” and “an insult”.
However, others have said the decision to take part was the dancers’ choice.
One of the dancers, Melissa Sharp, told Sky News she was “shocked that women are turning on women”.
She added: “Why can’t my job matter just as much as anyone else’s and why should I lose my job over people deciding my dress was too sexual?
“There’s a very thin line when people start telling people what they can wear.”
Sharp, who is also a model and actress, says she would call herself a feminist, but added: “I believe there are two different types – those who empower and those who don’t.”
Hitting back at critics on Twitter, Ms Sharp highlighted the fact she holds an English literature and language degree and urged people to broaden their views on women.
She emphasised that they were not hired to sell any products, saying: “we were giving away air fresheners and people entered competitions. No selling!”.
Kate Lord, the manager of Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park, wrote on Twitter: “What an embarrassment for our industry and an insult to the women who work in it.”
She added: “The point made is about the male dominated agricultural industry which needs to improve its image to recruit skilled women and girls into the sector.
“I’ve no doubt the models are fabulous at what they do and wish them all the best in their own career choices.”
A Twitter account connected to the dancers posted a smiling snap of the two glamorously dressed woman, saying: “Having a fab time”.
The account called London Cheerleaders posted: “Super proud to be working with such a fantastic company like @AgrifacUKLtd at this years #lammashow19 meeting such lovely people & sharing with them all the great things #Agrifac does!”
Minette Batters, first female president of the National Farmers’ Union, is quoted in The Times as saying taking part was up to the dancers.
“It is all about choice,” she said. “It is those girls’ right and I absolutely defend that.”
Agrifac’s UK franchise accused “keyboard warriors” of creating an issue, according to the paper.
Previously, Formula 1 scrapped the use of grid girls and the Professional Darts Corporation said it would stop hiring walk-on girls.