Fri, Jul 21, 2006 - Page 9 News List

G8 wives get the toxic media treatment

First came the World Cup `Wags.' With the G8 summit under way, it's the `Swags' -- summit wives and girlfriends -- who are being forced to face the cameras as a group. But why should a woman be judged by what her man does?

By Zoe Williams  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

In the middle of the World Cup, I was on BBC radio, arguing with Fiona McIntosh, a Grazia magazine columnist, about the Wags, who at the time were the wives and girlfriends of the England soccer team.

At the moment, the Wags have become the Swags (summit wives and girlfriends, for G8). They will soon all cede to the Gwags, which doesn't really work as an acronym, but is the best-established gaggle -- golf's Ryder Cup wives who famously line up in their skirt suits for a photocall proving ... well, nobody knows what it proves. Here are some ladies; they have reached the apex of life's happiness, by snagging rich men. Well done them. Let's get back to the radio news program.

I was expecting some nice banter. She was going to say, "We're covering the Wags because it's a bit of fun, and people like to read about it," and I was going to say, "Yes, what a lot of fun, that Coleen's a pretty young thing, isn't she, I've written about her myself, loads of times, but still, isn't it a bit retrogressive, the way we're talking about them as adjuncts to their menfolk ...," and she was going to say, well, whatever she might have said.

I got as far as my adjuncts number, and McIntosh said, "No, a lot of these women are entrepreneurs in their own right," and instead of being pleasant and answering this pleasantly, I saw red. Because they are not famous and they are not on the cover of Grazia for being "entrepreneurs". We do not look at their dinky handbags and their accessorized bits and bobs and say, "I wish I could be an entrepreneur like she is." We don't do this massive-scale, nationwide eavesdropping to see what business plans they might be talking about.

Posh (Victoria Beckham) is, apparently, "a very intelligent woman, creating a brand." My arse! It does not matter which sunglasses she gets him to sponsor and what magazines she tells him to be in. It doesn't matter that (Wayne Rooney's other half) Coleen McLoughlin has a column in Closer magazine and makes 10 times more than she ever would if she worked in the local supermarket. It doesn't matter that they're not "like wives in the 50s, sitting at home," that they're "out there," "managing images," all this is so much PR bilge, so many euphemisms for "they spend money, they encourage the spending of money. How very now of them, how very helpful, wouldn't you be proud if they were your daughters."

None of this could possibly matter less: What matters is that they are in the public eye for sleeping with men. They are famous because of who they are having sex with. That's all that's going on here! Nothing to see, folks. If you want modernity, if you want the fruit of the women's movement in all its 21st century ripeness, may I direct you somewhere else. All that's going on here is that some beautiful women are having sex with some rich, sporty men.

All gender prejudice proceeds from this crucial notion: "You, love, you bring the high-quality sexual attributes, and calculate carefully how you dispense them. He will bring the money." Every idea, from women not enjoying sex and only doing it for the money, to promiscuous women being sluts because they're giving it away too cheap and lowering the market value for the rest of us, to women trying to trap men, lure them into a commitment when they'd rather play the field, every tinny, narrow, inauthentic cliche about men and women, all the trite business that starts in the sitcom and ends with women getting paid less for the same work and then raped on the way home, every stitch of this ugly straitjacket comes from this central idea: you bring the pussy (make him beg, mind); he'll bring the wallet.

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