Thursday 5 January 2012

Attack on the WAGs: Explained

Just before Christmas I wrote a blog post which began by linguistically attacking ‘WAGs’. The reason for this was to dissect and discredit their social position because they personify values, concerns and ideals that many, myself included, believe are damaging to the mental health of young women. (Actually, there have been numerous studies which have proven that these ideals actually are damaging to mental health and social cohesion, but more on that later.) In the post I then went on to explain that in UK society today, where WAGs are accepted role models for women and adolescents, these values and ideals are damaging and degrade the interests of feminism. I then asked the readers of the post to highlight experiences or topics that have been alarming to their own sense of equality (which I termed ‘bullshit’).

That post received an interesting and varied collection of comments. The vast majority of the commenters clearly related to the sentiments in the post and shared their own thoughts and concerns regarding feminism and equality. However, there were a few that expressed unhappiness at the tone, content or assumptions (or all three) of my post. And although it really doesn’t bother me if not everyone sees my point of view or agrees with what I write, I do think that it is worth while exploring these conflicts of opinion whilst expanding upon my feelings on this topic

As I mentioned in my previous post, WAGs are now household names and their glamourous lifestyles, time consuming appearances and expensive possessions are splashed on the pages of the tabloid press, fashion press, gossip press and entertainment press. Increasingly they are becoming icons and role models for young women (and blueprints for young men on what they should expect a wife/girlfriend to be). Why is this dangerous and why do I feel it is necessary to attack them?

First up, I’m not attacking them in the tabloid sense of highlighting their cellulite or a whether they’ve had a bad hair day. I am attacking them for the values that they help perpetuate. And let’s remind ourselves they are not hapless figure-heads, thrust into the lime-light against their will. Of course the attention they attract from the media must be unpleasant a lot of the time, but as individuals they courted the media and embraced fame. The Queen of the WAGs herself, Victoria Beckham, wrote in her 2001 autobiography, ‘Right from the beginning, I said I wanted to be more famous than Persil Automatic’.

So many young girls these days respond to the question of what do you want to do with ‘be a WAG’. That’s a pretty sad state of affairs as far as feminism goes. I thought we (women) had more or less reached a point in history where it is generally accepted that your marital status is a part of your life, and no longer as description of life or your career. Being notable mainly for whom your husband is seems like a 1950s rather than 2010s reality to me.
The WAG lifestyle is showing young women that marrying a footballer or becoming a reality TV star will fast-track you to fame, wealth and wealth: that needing to try hard at school is probably only for the unattractive because their famous footballer-prince will whisk them away to go and shop at Gucci.

But of course, as I mentioned in that original post, most of the WAGs have careers aside from the fame that their unions brought them. And a couple of the commenters wished to remind me that the main three WAGs (Victoria Beckham, Cheryl Cole and Coleen Rooney, the latter pictured above) are ‘successful in their own right’: the assumption being that fame and the acquisition of wealth equates success. I would argue that wealth and fame don’t necessarily translate to success, and they certainly don’t breed happiness or emotional security either. There is enough research out there that has proven that the pursuit of material wealth (above the level required to provide yourself and your family with essentials) and celebrity is detrimental for mental health. ‘Affluenza’ is a fascinating book on this subject, and ‘The Spirit Level’ proves how income inequality (i.e. there being really wealthy and really poor people within the same society) is damaging to the mental and physical health of everyone in that society. The high wage bracket and celebrity as typified by a WAG lifestyle are just not healthy aspirations. And more broadly I would argue that promoting any lifestyle that is not attainable for more than 0.1% of the world’s population is not going to provide satisfaction either (but it will keep us consuming, of course).

I would also argue that the culture in which they function restricts their ‘successes’ to permitted spheres. The WAGs and the other females who live in their culture have their endeavours pretty much limited to involvement in fashion/appearance and entertainment. Whether they have no interest in life outside these areas or societal pressure is such that they are discouraged from pursuing them, the images presented to adolescent girls is worryingly restrictive in range.

Anyways, in the aforementioned comments, I was reminded that Victoria Beckham has a successful fashion brand (see above). Indeed she does, a friend of mine is employed as a pattern cutter there in fact. But we need to think realistically about what a celebrity’s role in the fashion brand actually is. They do not go into the office 9am-6pm five days a week for months on end to sit and design every garment and work with alongside the technical team to actualise each style, silhouette and detail. With little or no training or experience in the industry, these celebrities are mostly figure heads/brands on which to focus the marketing. Their involvement in the design process is, at best, that of a creative consultant’s. Not to say that Victoria Beckham doesn’t have excellent taste to apply to choosing options presented to her, but let’s not forget that anyone with enough money can (and frequently does) set up a clothing label.

I was also reminded in the comments that Cheryl Cole similarly had a very successful singing career in Girls Aloud, and as a solo artist. I’ll be the first to say that she is a talented singer, beautiful and probably a very sweet. But I struggle with the term ‘artist’: she won her position in the manufactured pop group, Girls Aloud, by auditioning for a reality TV show. An army of stylists, make-up and hair experts, managers, song writers and publicists were deployed to create the formula that required them to dance, sing and smile when told to.

Speaking of Cheryl Cole, over the Christmas holiday I found myself reading a copy of Grazia magazine. There was a long-ish article about her and the range of footwear she has ‘designed’ recently. Obviously this was accompanied with a photo of Cheryl styled as if she was about to present an Oscar gazing at some swatches of leather as if making her final selection for the shoes that were clearly already available to buy in-store. But aside from the make-believe fashion designing, far more disturbed me about the article. Having provided a summary of Cheryl’s ‘terrible and humiliating year’ they then attest to the fact that she must be in a more positive place, because she’s put on a few pounds. This simply perpetuates the idea that a woman’s mental well-being is firmly indicated by her appearance. Also, they applauded her on what this article insinuated was one of her most notable achievements: her ability to wear really high heels! Not only are the WAGs and WAG-a-likes at the very centre of an appearance-fixated culture, but they are praised for repeatedly, professionally even, putting comfort aside and sacrifice the risk of bunions in the name of fashion. Any young and impressionable adolescent reading that article because she likes Cheryl Cole is going to come away from it with some worrying messages.

On New Year’s Day, I watched a few episodes of a horrendous TV show called ‘Pushy and Proud’. It’s an intentionally provocative but ultimately representational fly-on-the-wall style documentary which follows women who push their daughters into celebrity culture-approved modes of (alarming) conduct. The most disturbing protagonist of the many I had to choose from was a woman who worked as a beauty therapist, Jools Willis (pictured above). She existed firmly within the type of culture that iconises the WAGs and judges women on their appearance almost exclusively. In doing so, she had exposed her ten year old daughter to this culture. That very normal-looking little girl had become so concerned with her own pre-adolescent appearance that her self-esteem had corroded to the point that she experienced real anxiety. To assuage her daughter’s anxiety, the mother did not attempt to explain that she was lovely the way she was and then help her daughter enjoy a less appearance-obsessed childhood. No, she gave her daughter a spray tan, manicure and eyebrow tint, thus instilling in her that appearance modification is a short cut to emotional happiness. These actions and values also help to perpetuate the myth that young women’s greatest accomplishments will be achieved within the sphere of how you look and how many people are looking at you.

It is disturbing how increasingly young those being exposed to and affected by an appearance-obsessed society are. But the media is teaching us at all ages through the perpetuation of these ideals to value good looks as a reflection of our self-esteem. It helps to perpetuate the myth that women’s greatest accomplishments are achieved within the sphere of how you look and how many people are looking at you. And whilst WAGs continue to be held up as the icons at the centre of these damaging values that provide a blue-print for young women’s (and now children’s) ideals, I will continue to attack the WAG lifestyle.


Pip said...

Great post.

Gwenan said...

I picked up a copy of Grazia in a waiting room recently and quickly swore I'd never do it again. I like to think I'm smart enough and self-confident enough to be immune to the messages of trashy magazines, but then as soon as I start reading, the doubting thoughts start creeping in as if from nowhere...

They're so good at making you feel inadequate while acting like friends. Thanks, but I don't need more shoes, I don't need better makeup skillz, and I don't need your tips on how to spice up my normal low-key sex life thanks. Are you actually trying to be helpful? Or are you just trying to make yourselves (the writers) feel better about your 'success' as women...

Gwenan said...

I love your blog by the way Zoe! I thought maybe I'd stop lurking in 2012, but I don't know how long I'll hold out before I creep back under my rock again.

Thanks for all the inspiring posts I've read over the last 6 months or so since did a fateful google search and discovered this whole online sewing world...

Anonymous said...

Zoe I frickin love you :-)
That is one excellently written post, I totally agree with you and don't think I could've said it better myself.
Not a very discussion formative comment I know but hey, sometimes you just gotta chime in with a "Hell Yea!"

Brumby said...

Can I just ask for clarification, Victoria Beckham had a successful singing career prior to marrying her husband, is the mother to four children, and consults/designs, whatever the truth is, on her own clothing line. Are none of these accomplishments relevant simply because she married a famous footballer? If she were married to a famous artist, or musician, or politician (or whichever career you deem to be admirable) would you still feel this way about her?

Corrine said...

Having read both posts and the subsequent comments I feel I need to add some perspective. At least my perspective. That said, this behavior has existed since the beginning of time. History records the various levels of female behavior where the appearance is essential to success. Most of that success is attached to marriage or at least the semblance of a union. since we now have so many ways to document this behavior and to examine its repercussions, it is much easier to see how negatively if effects young girls and women. In the US we have a show about child beauty pageants. I have never watched it. I think it is disgusting. These little girls are sexualized and humiliated at times by their own parents. Parents who I am sure never accomplished anything memorable or remarkable in their own right, unless you consider procreation as an Oscar worthy performance.

So how do we, in our everyday lives, address the issue? First, do not purchase any of the rags that idealize these people, unless you think there is nothing wrong with supporting them. Don't buy their products and be a good example to those around you, particularly those impressionable young women.

Zo, your Craft shows are an excellent way to illustrate that women, in and of themselves, are beautiful because they are authentic and artistic. Getting the word out about these people adds credence to real women. I would suggest finding a mentor, a person with influence to help you present the women that you know and respect. Newspapers and radio shows here do a great job supporting such movements.

Sorry to go on and on, but you are really on to something here. And lip-service will not change society. I think that if we can change perceptions a wee bit at a time, success will eventually provoke more discussion and perhaps some change.

Carolyn said...

A very interesting article. I missed the first one! I've heard of WAG's (should mention here I am Australian) and the term is used here occasionally too, but I think the difference is that whilst Aussie footy players are pretty well known and held in high regard by sport lovers, their wives and girlfriends are pretty much normal women, not given any press time (except at footy awards ceremonies) and not really looked-up-to at all. Of course that could change here too but I hope not. What you are describing sounds poisonous!
Corrinne said it all perfectly...
Speaking personally, I have a 19 yr old daughter, and her own role models seem to have been the brightest young teachers at her school, who were also pretty and well-dressed, the more highly accomplished mothers of her friends (who are my friends too) and other real older women in her life; and by "real" I mean women she actually knows in real life; I am grateful for that... I also agree that while it is important for high self-esteem to come from one's accomplishments; pride in one's appearance is part of that too, and only natural for young women as well as making the most of your smarts.
in short, I reckon the best we can do for our daughters is to be the best we can be ourselves and hope some of it rubs off!!
Thanks for a terrific post!

Angie said...

Ah...but you forget that disadvantaged people frequently aspire to the lavish lifestyles they feel privileged people have handed to them on a silver platter. As a black American woman who sees this played out with people of color vis-a-vis rappers, basketball players, and football stars, it's easy to shake one's head and find troubling messages in this bling-bling lifestyle.

As such, people who are disadvantaged due to race or class feel deprived of the luxuries they see more well-to-do people enjoying, and to them, those wealthy folks didn't do much to earn their wealth. Why should they spend their lives toiling for one Louis Vuitton bag, when they can do something spectacular--or marry a fabulously wealthy man--that will pour millions of dollars into their bank accounts? And when they see people from their same background achieving those ends, why wouldn't they aspire to that lifestyle? Education and a successful and lucrative career doesn't look very glamorous nor, in many cases, does it seem at all attainable.

Sadly, the more technology we have, the more these images are forced in front of us. However, I do believe that if you can make a difference with one or two or more kids where you are in life, it may help the use of spendthrift celebs as the sole role model in life. But then again, if it's the parents who teach their children to aspire to be a WAG or to be Lebron James or Beyonce, it's difficult to try to change things.

Carolyn said...

(just read my own comment through and clarifying a weird sounding bit; I meant my daughter's friends' MOTHERS are my friends :D sorry)

Anonymous said...

Bravo Zo, bravo. Here in the USA we've got a plethora of shows that are similar to those you've highlighted (Toddlers and Tiaras, America's Next Top Model, (Fill in the blank) Housewives) and I can't stand a single one of them for the very reasons you've highlighted. They're demeaning and yet some how aspirational for so many young women. It's frightening and sad especially since there are so many positive role models out there for young women to look to.

Tracy said...

I wanted to add my support of your comments about the WAG culture - although I too think that Victoria Beckham cannot be quite included in the worse of those here.

I volunteer as a Guide leader in South London, in a fairly underprivileged area. I work with young girls aged from 10-15 and I see the effect of this culture on their aspirations. When I was their age (in the 80s), I lived in a similar area (socio-economically) and my peers wanted to scientists, doctors, managers. Although we were too young to understand feminism, we were a generation that saw no barrier to our lives due to being a girl. That has eroded to a frightening degree. Out of the 8 guides I asked recently what they wanted to do when they were older - 6 of those gave answers such as "marry someone rich", "get famous", "not have to work".

I also agree with your other commenter about Grazia. I used to have a subscription to the magazine as I love fashion and it was a weekly, inexpensive way of getting to see some nice clothes. Then it changed, the whole feel of the magazine lurched towards "celebrity" - with endlessly rotating cover stories of Jennifer, Angelina and Kate. Also I came to believe it was creating an unpleasant "need" in me to consume and spend beyond reason. My subscription is now cancelled. I still like to look at nice clothes but I feel the pressure to constantly update everything I own has abated.

Alessa said...

Smart and thought-provoking post, Zoe! We don't have WAGs in Germany (I think, I haven't owned a TV in the last 5 years and I don't read fashion/beauty magazines), but of course the usual international celebrities and beauties are covered in media. There still seem to be a very many kids nowadays with very low aspersions. My friend works in an elementary school in one of the less privileged areas, and often tells that kids want to "get social benefits (welfare?)" when they grow up. Just like their parents. Of course, a lot of the parents who aren't on social benefits are both working full-time, and seem to have difficulties spending enough time with their kids to instill certain values. Like Aristotle said, right? ;)

Joanne said...

I have a confession to make: I watched Big Brother last night, purely out of boredom of course. But what astounded me was the guest line up, specifically the female guests. Although they started with actress Natalie Cassidy and finished with Denise Welsh from Loose Women (also a former actress) the women in between were a ragtag crew of lingerie models, playboy bunnies, WAGs and even a woman who's had an affair with a footballer. Literally glossed up filler with sky high heels. Is this what we are holding up to our young women as an example of success and celebrity? It makes me so sad. Thanks for posting yet another food-for-thought entry Zoe. Always enjoy them.

Reethi said...

Zoe - I was one of the people that thought you were a bit harsh on the WAGs, and honestly, I still do.

While it is disturbing that young women and girls hold these women as role models - young women in many generations had role models that didn't conform to a feminist ideal. For example, any Disney movie has a bit of a 'princess' fantasy going on, and there's a ton of marketing of 'being a princess' directed at young women. Then there's Barbie, who again defaults to traditionally stereotypes on gender.

Basically, this kind of thing has existed for a long time, and it seems to me that you are blaming the WAGs for it, vs. recognize that they are a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.

At the end of the day, fantasies of someone swooping in and fixing someone's life/taking them away from it all/etc - either people outgrow these things as they grow up, in which case there's really nothing to worry about. Or, it speaks to a legitimate lack of opportunity and social mobility. Segments of young women can't see a way out of daily drudgery. That's a societal problem, with roots in poor schools, widening income gaps between the rich and the poor, etc. Victoria Beckham isn't responsible for dreadful schools, or for a culture where parents don't ensure their children do their homework.

Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but there seems to be a bit of 'this career, because it involves fame and singing, isn't really relevant' in your post. And honestly, that seems a bit judgmental.

And yes, lots of celebrities launch clothing lines - but not all of them succeed. I definitely think you are underestimating the business abilities of Victoria Beckham.

Clare said...

I didn't comment on the original post, but while I see what you're getting at, the point for me is that while I feel like WAG _culture_ or the WAG _lifestyle_, is a totally legitimate target for criticism, individual 'WAGs' are not. Like everyone else, they are individual women, complex assemblies of desires, achievements, thoughts and so on, who are making choices and navigating their way through life just as everyone else. I guess my disagreement is that the distinction between the WAG culture and all its problematic elements, and the real individuals who make up that culture (and let's not forget, are presented to us entirely through media presentations - I'm sure many WAGs love a game of scrabble of an evening, which sort of pops the Grazia bubble somewhat, for me anyway), is a really important one. I'm not sure if that makes sense, given my propensity for massive rub-on sentences, but that is my opinion on the matter.

You say 'I would also argue that the culture in which they function restricts their ‘successes’ to permitted spheres.'. THIS is the crux of the problem for me. Why are successes for women, especially poor women, limited to looking pretty and perpetuating damaging stereotypes? As was pointed out above, a huge class element plays into this. Lots of WAGs have working class origins, and much of the criticism of them, from a media populated by the middle class, takes the form of thinly veiled classism regarding their 'trashy clothes' and lack of education.

On agency and whether WAGs 'choose' to expose themselves to harsh personal criticism, there are a couple of things I'd point out. Firstly, you can't necessarily choose who you love and decide to marry. I'm not going to make assumptions about whether footballers and their wives all love each other or are in it for the cash. But even if the divorce rate is higher than in regular society (is it? I'd love to see that research paper :D), bad relationship choices and wrong attitudes to relationships are not limited to footballers and their wives, by a long shot. Secondly, I would bet that if a woman is really driven to fame above all else, they still wouldn't choose the ridicule, the pressure on their appearance, the insecurity about reading about their husbands' possible affairs in Heat, etc etc etc. I just don't believe it. Wanting to only be famous, or only be defined by a significant other, really strikes me as a serious sign of emotional insecurity and fear. I don't blame women for succumbing to those pressure.

One final point to ponder, you talk about 'the images presented to adolescent girls' by WAGs. But I would bet that those same images were presented to our present day crop of WAGs by the previous generation of whatever we called them then. Models, actresses, singers, presented in one form, in one dimension, by a culture that undervalues the female, defines us (all) in relation to (white, straight, able bodied) men, and spends its energy putting us firmly in our place (and if we're poor or non-white, even more so). To come over all feminist for a second (and yes, I wear that label proudly, for all the problems in the movement), the patriarchy (or if you like, the system) is the problem. The people trying to live within the system? I give them a pass.

Sorry for the complete tl;dr. I love that you are having this conversation here, and I think that we are largely in agreement. Just my perspective on the matter! And for the record, I think VB shocked a lot of people with the fact that she is actually a pretty good designer!

Claire said...

This is a tough topic, but I'm definitely on the WAB side here. The WAGs, the "Jools Willis" types, the pageant moms are helping to create an image and message which hurts people instead of helps them. I'm not saying they are ultimately bad people or that they have nothing of value to offer, and I don't think Zo is saying that either. But they have made decisions that are contributing to a larger societal problem. And to me, it doesn't matter if it's the symptom or the disease, because the symptom helps perpetuate the disease. It's a catch 21. That's some Foucault shit!

So go forth and attack 'em I say. Maybe they'll have a shred of conscious about it - not about their fame, but about the way they've used it. And maybe more people will realize that there are other ways to live... maybe even Jools Willis' poor daughter. I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt... to a point. But if you don't pass a little judgment on the state of the world, you will never change anything.

jo90 said...

Hi Zoe, I love that we can sew, knit and create things and still be feminists. I despair sometimes when I look at the clothes aimed towards my daughters and see pink, pink, pink, sparkles and 'babe' (and worse) splashed across the chest of t shirts. I am so glad my mum can sew and has made clothes for my children from when they were babies and that I am getting better (!). It worries me when many of the boys at my sons school at their leavers assembly (aged 7yrs)wanted to be footballers so they could be rich! As a parent I try to instill values in my children which are not looking to quick fixes and fame as an end product but are based on being good people in the best sense of the word. Thank you for the interesting discussion.

Amy said...

That was AWESOME!!!!!

Steph F. said...

You are a breath of fresh air!

Thank you!

Sølvi said...

I asked my media researcher boyfriend if he could recommend any introductory reading on this topic, and I though I´d share it here - David Gauntlett, professor of media and communication has written an introduction on this topic called "Media, Gender and Identity", he´s also written about the online DIY community. Hope it can be of interest to anyone who want to know what kind of structures the research community can identify in this topic!

Sølvi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
niddetissus said...

Thanks for your thoughts - and thanks for the book recommendations.

Bunnykins said...

Excellent post, esp the part about only certain careers being acceptable for WAGs and the 'ladies who lunch' to persue. So true.

When I was a young woman, I was expected to marry and probably not work after than (yes, I'm ancient.) Then it was an era of 'have it all' with work/babies/husband/big house which was far too much given most men don't really do half. Now we seem to be back to 'get ahead by marrying up.'

What I hate about the culture that supports WAGs (and trophy wives) is the unspoken assumption that women are inherently flawed and not worthy or not lovable as they are, being who they are. I have no problem with grooming; I'm all for it. It's the 'fix this' mentality that bothers me, and the assumption that you're only as worthy as the cost of the things you own, the status of the man you're married to, and who did your last haircut. The trend for very young women to get plastic surgery, some as a reward for finishing high school, is just plain crazy. Somehow all this reminds me of mean highschool cheerleaders, the 'in' clique in school.

francoise_hardy said...

The really tough thing to combat is it's often true. Being superficially pretty means society generally does accept you and give you things. Marrying a footballer is a way to an easy life of luxury, certainly more luxurious than you'd get by educating yourself and working hard in normal circumstances. In the short term it works out for a minority. But if you lose your looks or wealthy partner (or never got these things), what then? If you were to believe Grazia, your life is over.

LC said...

I never felt like you attacked the "WAG"s, more accurately the media that seems to have created them.

Once again, a great thought provoking post. Thank you.

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

Hi Zoe, I really do appreciate the insight and thought you put into articulating your ideas so clearly. And I too have a strong aversion to this group of women, or rather to what they stand for (actually, both if I'm honest - I cannot see myself laughing over a wine with any of them!). But I too think they are a very strong symptom of a much wider issue, albeit one of the most self perpetuating ones. When we were in the UK last year we started in London and I had a minor freakout at the women. West End crammed with women fully made up, big bling and tight clothes. On the one hand I thought they all looked like common tramps, while also feeling drab and badly dressed! But when we left London, we rarely saw this again (admittedly the next biggest place we went to was Shrewsbury so no other 'cities'). The TV shocked me too. Dreadful dating game shows with dolly bird made up women all serving themselves up on a plate, mysogynist pseudo celebs humiliating female celebs who were clearly putting up with it, barely. I really saw this awful phenomenon in action. I don't know what the source of it is but it is weird and we don't have it here, well we do but it's so diluted that it's just one of many things that happen in a mixed up world. Therefore I wonder if it's to do with the class system, or has its roots in it, because we don't really have it here in the colonies so it's a point of difference?
Anyway I am never comfortable with women pulling down other women and I know that's not what you're doing but nothing good comes from fearing something,and I think fear is an underlying motivator for their behaviour. No answers, just observations :)

Roisin Muldoon said...

I didn't read this post, or the one before it as an attack on individual women, but rather on the culture that perpetuates this damaging ideal. Yeah, that culture includes the women within it, but pointing that out is not tearing anyone down, it's not an attack on the sisterhood. I find this internalisation of the backlash against feminism so hard to stomach. It's not unfeminist to criticise another woman, and it's certainly not unsisterly to question the actions of women who, either knowingly or unknowingly, are contributing to a culture that demeans women as a matter of course.

It's undeniable that Victoria Beckham is very clever and clearly has a lot of business acumen. I can't even deny that her designs are lovely - although, as Zo pointed out, I have my doubts about how much time/expertise/input someone with no background in the fashions and textiles industry really can have on the creation of a fashion line. Certainly, she's parlayed her early days as the least talented member of a girl band into a successful global brand. But I'd still say that she's operating within parameters that confine and damage women. This is not a criticism of her personally because you make do with what you're given. But I do think that while it might seem that she's played the game and is a success (and yeah, she is in financial terms, of that there can be no doubt) really I think the game has played her. She's still a woman being objectified by men and other women, too. She's still fodder for the gossip rags. She's still someone who is afraid to smile in photos because she doesn't like her smile. She's as constrained by the rules as much as anyone else, although this is ameliorated slightly by the fact that she is thin, rich, white, and heterosexual.

Anyway, I've wandered off my main point a little here. I have no real beef with Victoria Beckham (who, incidentally, I imagine would be great fun over a glass of wine) or Coleen Rooney or Cheryl Cole or whichever WAG we're looking at. I think it's perfectly legitimate to question the society that has made them, and to discuss them as examples. That's not tearing anyone down, and it's hugely important in fact to do so. If we're not thinking about where we are, how does anything ever get any better?

Zo, from one WAB to another - keep it up! x

quinn said...

Zoe great post. I agree with one of your readers this has been going on for a long time the only difference is we have sooooooo many different media outlets. We are constently bombarded with reality stars, jumpoffs( the other women) or just bad behavior by men and women that it becomes the norm have you heard of the kardashians.It is no longer 15mins of fame

mumasu said...

Like others my initial reaction to both posts is hell yeah. What I've always believed and what I've brought my daughter and sons up to believe.

But as other comments have said its not these women personally because all through history and all cultures right back to the cave all people (and this actually includes men) we all want the patronage and thus protection of the head honcho.

My boys (18-11) are as affected by this media shitstorm of how you have to be as much as my daughter who is 15. Probably as a result of my personal opinion of this sort of media barrage she is quite reactionary in her attitude towards it.

We are on a very low income and she and I shop mostly in the charity shops for ourselves and we both sew and knit. My boys do not want to do this (well to honest the youngest dosn't care he lives in Asda Trackies but that's a whole nother story!) and are all very worried about being the poor kids in school with the same clothes to wear on the weekend etc.

It may say something about my daughter that she is very artistic and has her own electic style and likes to be different.

I have massively digressed, in my opinion it is the media who are making money out of these magazines/tv programmes and are "using" people willy nilly to promote any kind of "next big thing" to produce personal money for themselves. It is the murdoch empire who invented the high wages in premier league football in the first place. My eldest son is an A grade A level student who is going to be looking for a job in July rather than going to uni in September as he is "sick of being poor".

I think what is happening within the media is disgusting and am so impressed to have found your blog and totally agree with what you say and have been a "feminist" from my teens, but I think it is the media coupled with the social attitudes that prevail within this country that perpetuate this.

Be vigilant, don't buy or watch or adhere to this poisonous crap and teach your children, girls and boys to love themselves and their abilities and to know that true beauty is on the inside.

Anonymous said...

I commented on the previous blog post regarding WAG's/WAB's and said I found the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth - and it still does.

Regardless of what other people in the comments may have said, attacking others - male or female - is (for me) unkind. Obviously in this instance it is a particular group of females, but I would feel just as uneasy if you were attacking the footballers they have married.

One thing that does rankle - I spend nearly every day of the week with young girls aged between 16 - 21, and not a single one has ever mentioned wanting to be a WAG. So, despite what the media seem to think, not every young girl wants to be Victoria Beckham. Oh, and technically Cheryl Cole shouldn't be included anyway, as she is in the process of divorcing Ashley Cole.

I do feel to an extent like the lone voice defending these women, but that's ok. I feel like it's too easy to cherry pick the things they represent that you don't like, and ignore anything else. Charity work? Not mentioned. Other wives that don't court the media? Ignored. Those who have continued to pursue their chosen career? Also overlooked. Any article like this needs balance, and I feel that is sadly lacking. A good "debate" needs both sides.

I'll be honest, this whole episode has left me so depressed. I enjoy debate, discussion and engaging with others - but women doing down other women? Nope, sorry. My Mum did not raise me that way.

I've enjoyed many of your posts over time, but these recent ones have left a sour taste in my mouth. It's just not for me, at all.

Best of luck with future posts....that, unfortunately, I don't think I'll want to read. A shame.

Lindsay Cox said...

I was one of the dissenting voices for the last article that you wrote about WAGs and I still agree with Reethi and the anonymous poster. Even if I do not agree with the WAGs, if this is what they wish to do with their lives, then that's their business. You are attacking the WAGs for broader societial problem.

I hate to bring this up, but it reminds of of this whole Beyonce baby-gate thing I heard yeasterday. Beyonce and Jay Z had apparently paid millions of dollars to rent a wing of a hospital. Now, apparently, this kept a new father from seeing the birth of his child. Now everyone, including the young father, wants to vilify Beyonce for renting a hospital wing. For the life of me, I cannot place the blame on them. Why are we not asking why the hospital even allowed them to rent an entire wing? The hospital was greedy and didn't think about the other people, just the bottom line.

Rebecca said...

I have to say I'm glad to know I'm not the only person who is appalled at the current trend of superficial women being in vogue. I always thought of myself as a sort of feminist. But I think often times the point of feminism gets lost. To me feminism was about allowing women to make their own choices in regards to their bodys, careers and personal lives.

For some reason we've been going backwards, at first it was about the choice to seek a career and and education. Then we had to have it all. Now if you WANT to be a stay at home wife and mother the economy does't allow it unless you do marry up and have a wealthy-ish husband.

Somewhere along the way everything our grandmothers fought for got lost.

I feel that women's lib never actually happen... Now women are just as oppressed by the need to fit into a cookie cutter type of beauty that is totally unrealistic. To me this is highly frustrating, especially when I get accosted by these barbie type girls who think that I'm the one who is opressed because I CHOSE to wear a headscarf...

People need to get their facts stragiht...
Sorry for the rant I think this post hit a nerve with me... lol

Anonymous said...

A test of the equality of any activity or action is to imagine the opposite gender doing it.

Imagine little boys in makeup and swimming suits. If the thought appalls you, then it's probably not appropriate for little girls, either.

Now imagine HABs (husbands or boyfriends of high profile women) physically on display: makeup in place; skin tight, inappropriately short clothing; hauling enough shopping bags to overload a landfill. If that image makes you sick or makes you laugh, it suggests that HAGs isn't a benign state, one to aspire to.

If you're ever in doubt about the equality of an activity or action, apply the test. Imagine the opposite gender doing it.

fransk oversetter said...

You got that one right!

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