Friday, September 03, 2010

Future Footballer's Wife? I don't think so

I was walking through a very well known clothing shop the other day when I spotted a table loaded with slogan T-shirts for young girls.

Being the mother of a young girl with a compulsion for buying her pretty clothes I stopped to have a look - and I turned on my heels and walked on as soon as I saw one T-shirt emblazoned with ‘Future Footballer’s Wife’.

I have many hopes and dreams for my daughter - not least that she will be happy and healthy. I hope she is successful at whatever she chooses to do and that she feels she can shoot for the stars and achieve whatever her heart desires.

My greatest wish for her is not that her ultimate ambition in life is to be married to some loutish eejit who kicks a ball around for a living.

I find it sad that there is a culture out there where a woman’s greatest ambition is to live the life of a z-list celebrity. That her dreams and desires centre solely around wearing Prada and Jimmy Choos and getting photographed for Heat magazine. I find it sad that some women’s ideas of success are tied up in how full their hair extensions are or how manicured their nails are.

I find it particularly sad that the culture of the WAG means that many women will put up with being treated as little more than a trophy in return for a bulging bank balance and their fifteen minutes of fame.

I’ve tried to think this one through - to ask myself if my ambitions were anyway similar when I was a little girl? Of course I wanted to be like some of the big stars of the day. I would have given my eye teeth to be Princess Leia (yes, I used to pray that I would be her best friend, I was that sad). I suppose there was a time when I wanted to be Madonna. I liked her clothes and dreamed of dancing around on a stage singing my heart out. But both these were women were, arguably, strong and positive role models. They were successes in their own right.

WAGs? Well, they just hang onto the laces of their men’s football boots.

I despair of the world my daughter is growing up in. The pressure on women to be beautiful, to appear flawless, to bag a man is more intense than it ever was in my childhood, teenage years and early adulthood.

I wonder what message she is being given by the media around her (of course I know she is too young to understand just yet, but T-shirts with such slogans show just how pervasive this dumbing down of the younger generation is). Is it really a case that a woman’s worth these days can only be measured by the effectiveness of her boob job, the amount of botox running through her forehead or the strength of the smell of the San Tropez wafting from her?

You may think I’m bitter. After all, I’m hardly the WAG type myself. I don’t have a semi-skeletal frame and when I write books I actually do it myself and don’t get someone to ghost write for me - but there is more to my objection than this.

A WAG, I would argue, is different to just being just the partner of a footballer. Being a WAG is following a culture in itself. It is about selfishness and vanity at the highest level. It is not about being a strong woman. How many times have we seen high profile WAGs have their heart trampled on by their cheating partners only to take them back for fear of losing out on the celebrity lifestyle?

Setting our children up with the notion that being a WAG is a worthy ambition is shameful. Telling our young girls that their greatest desire should be to marry someone with bags of money and live quite happily out of their bank account with no ambition to actually make anything of themselves outside of maybe launching a clothing line for a catalogue company is shocking.

I don’t expect the shops to launch t-shirts with slogans such as “future brain surgeon” or “future barrister”, but do we really have to sink so low? Do we have to stick with WAG slogans or ‘Future Shopaholic’ slogans or things which, from the earliest of ages, seem to put women in their place as silly, flighty creatures?

I’ve criticized the Pink Stinks campaign before - which wants gender specific toys in hues of pinks banned - but on this one I’m with them. They have their own WAGS t-shirts - but clearly the letters stand for Women Against Gender Sterotyping and as for their children’s t-shirts, I’ll think I’ll go with the one emblazoned with ‘Future Role Model’ for my daughter.


Keris said...

I agree with you in the main, but not entirely with your criticism of the WAGs themselves. The concept of the WAG is a media construct designed to put women in their place too.

For every WAG willing to put up with god-knows-what in order to keep her celebrity lifestyle, there could well be another who is indeed a success in her own right and a strong role model, but we're not likely to hear about it in the media, are we.

WAG is just another negative media stereotype and, as such, I think we should resist tarring all the WAGs with the same brush.

Claire said...

Hi K,
I tried to make a distinction in the article between WAG and footballer's partners. The WAG is a cultural phenomena in itself - and sadly there are those out there who want nothing more to be a WAG - and all that entails, aka the media stereotype. (why else would flippin' Primark being selling these t-shirts?)

Anonymous said...

Well, thinking about it I wanted to be a Princess - was always trying to work out which of the royal family would be best suited age-wise (Andrew and Edward too old, William and Harry too young), which if you think about it really isn't so different? To be a 'kept woman' and famous simply for being famous, with a big house (castle!) and lovely clothes and endless parties. Playing devil's advocate maybe the idea of a WAG is actually the modern-day Princess, and infinitely more achievable (more footballers than princes to start with, plus princes tended to marry only girls from the upper classes which meant few girls could ever hope to fulfil that particular dream). Not that I'm one for 'Heat' but for whatever reason there ARE a lot of people out there who simply love reading/seeing all about the lives of footballers and their other halves - it's not really the footballers/WAGS fault, and I agree it's a media invention (which lots of people adore it would seem), there are plenty of WAGS who get on with life quietly and away from the camera lens and with their own achievements and successes in their own right.

The Pineapple Tart said...

Laugh at it, Claire. Cara can be a WAG and brain surgeon

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