‘What the hell is Zoe on about today?’ you may be thinking. Well, the idea of WABs only came to me this morning, so I’m not entirely sure myself at this point but I'll start typing and see if it resolves itself by the end of this post. Let me apply some context...
At some point in the 2000s, the British tabloid press coined the phrase ‘WAGs’, an acronym which provides a collective term for the Wives And Girlfriends of high profile sportsmen, particularly the excessively paid members of the England football team. The queen of the WAGs is, of course, Victoria Beckham but there are many who have regularly graced the pages of tabloid newspapers and celebrity gossip magazines for years and are now house-hold names. Some of these women were celebrities in their own right before they shacked up with a footballer (Mrs Beckham, Cheryl Cole, Louise Nurding), even if that fame usually arose from dancing around in their pants. Others, such as Coleen Rooney, did little aside from sit their GSCEs before their relationship threw them into the limelight, but have since gone on to be something of a success in their own right, the popular assumption being that an interview and cover photo for Vogue has elevated her above the rest.
But the reality is that most of these women are in the position they are in because they are attractive and managed to ‘snag’ a footballer. It’s unlikely that their prized and envied relationships are based on mutual and balanced respect. The power is not equally distributed between the partners: their men hold most of the cards. Every one of these WAGs has been reportedly cheated on by their partners because it would appear that the role that they serve could be fulfilled by any number of attractive and attentive young women in the depths of China White, or whatever is the latest celeb hotspot. No matter how independently powerful and successful the WAG, no Vogue interview, perfume range or Gucci catwalk appearance seems to inoculate them from infidelity.
The pressure on the WAGs to appear beautiful, polished, on-trend, in control and happy despite swarms of paparazzi and Sun journalists feasting on any signs of weakness, must be off the hook. All the while, any hiccup in your relationship, large or small, real or fictitious is gleefully scrutinised and analysed endlessly in the press. But I find it difficult to feel sorry for or respect these women when they have, at every stage, courted and welcomed fame and attention.
Why do they subject themselves to this? Why didn’t they go and find themselves a hot accountant or supermarket manager? Because they have been sucked into believing that celebrity and column inches, no matter if the contents is positive or negative, equates to popularity, acceptance, power and success. They feel that it is better to be ridiculed in OK magazine for having cellulite than to receive no mention at all. The WAGs have also fallen for the patriarchal belief that being a successful man’s ‘other half’ is the best that a woman could ever achieve, and that the most promising opportunities will come from them merely ‘being’: ‘being’ someone’s girlfriend rather than ‘doing’ something interesting and fulfilling. In short, aligning themselves to a talented and/or notorious sportsman will provide them with more national attention and free champagne than even dancing in their pants could bring and if national attention and free champagne are your social currency, then being a WAG is a golden status. What worries me most is that so many young women see this as the life model to aspire to.
But thankfully there are many intelligent women that view the values that have seen WAGs elevated to role models as bullshit. These are the WABs: Women Against Bullshit. An alternate term to ‘Feminist’ if you will. I am most definitely a WAB. I’ve been uncovering and then calling bullshit on lots of stuff of late, for example, the way the fashion press creates and exploits women’s insecurities about their appearance to hawk the products sold by their sponsors. Caitlin Moran (pictured above), is another WAB, I dare say. She’s written a whole awesome book full of things she’s uncovered as bullshit designed to make women feel bad and prevent them from achieving what they are capable of.
Sadly, Feminism has and often still does get used as a derogatory term. The image the term's detractors wish to imply is that of angry, hairy, sexually frustrated women who hate men and wish all females could live separately in some commune which resembles a Herbal Essences advert. In reality a Feminist is someone, male or female, who believes that women deserve equal status and opportunities to men. Simple as. I don’t know how we can reclaim that term and rid it of its bad press. I do think, however, that not being afraid to use the ‘f’ word and to talk openly from time to time about the negative experiences and inequalities (AKA bullshit) that you’ve experienced due to being a woman is a good place to start.
And you know what? I AM angry at a lot of those experiences and inequalities. I AM angry that women still earn on average a third less than their male colleagues. I AM angry that as a teenager I was made to feel that I was worthless unless someone fancied me. I AM angry that female friends of mine who have decided they don’t want children regularly have their decision questioned by strangers and acquaintances alike. I AM angry that a social expectancy has developed that I should spend chunks of my hard-earned wages on getting most, if not all, of my pubic hair waxed off (i.e. ripped out). That anger is ok, it is good in fact. It can be used as a motivational tool to try and uncover the causes of potential damage to women’s esteem and prospects.
So what about you? Do you suspect you maybe a WAB? What bullshit have you uncovered recently?