Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Wagging the dog?

Zoe Williams really goes to town in the Guardian on media coverage of the so-called WAGs - the world cup footballers wives and girlfriends. And now we're hearing about the G8 WAGs and the Ryder Cup WAGs (who even wear matching outfits like girl guides or drum majorettes) and really the biggest problem I have with the whole thing is that it pre-supposes all the participants in the "main" event will be heterosexual men (it also assumes they're monogamous and in relationships). Well thats not true and not helpful.

Throughout the world cup every match started with some gesture towards the "Lets Kick Racism out of Football" campaign and I think that's great and I hope it works. Next up lets have a campaign to kick sexism out of football. I'd like to see the following measures campaigned for:

1) Equal funding for boys and girls youth development.
2) If women's tournaments do not have equal prize money to mens, then women must be allowed to play in the mens game - globally.
3) Half of all referees and assistant referees to be women, also physios, first aider, commentators, photographers and reporters.
4) Women being encouraged to train for and apply for roles as coaches and managers.
5) Greater media coverage of the women's game.
6) Players who beat their partners or are convicted of sexual assault or rape to be permanently barred from the game (like George Best, Gazza, Lee Sharpe for instance)
7) Stadium bans for fans who shout/sing sexist chants.


staghounds said...

I suspect that any woman who could improve a team's chances to win would be hired forthwith. Is there some rule specifying the sex of players?

Braganza said...

The dreadful media phenomenon of the WAGS is simply a means of shifting more newspapers and magazines. I don't know who to blame for the hideous celebrity culture we live in, but I lay a fair share at the feet of the publishers of 'Hello!', 'OK!', 'Bella', 'Now', 'Best', 'Closer', 'Reveal', 'Take A Break', 'Grazia', 'Chat', et al ad nauseam. Celebrity wrags guaranteed to feature the latest celeb-du-jour on it's cover. It is interestesting, then, that you attack the phenomenon of WAGS for being sexist. I would suggest that it is a phenomenon maintained to a large extent by the female readership of Women's Magazines. If it didn't shift copy, it wouldn't be in.

staghounds said...

So can we make up a derisive term like "lad mags" for publications that shallow women want?

Braganza said...

Surely the correct term would be 'Wags Mags'

Cruella said...

Yeah Lad Mags and Wag Mags. Interesting. I mean the fact that women willingly buy them is actually unsurprising. Firstly people wittingly or unwittingly participating in their own oppression is par for the course. Secondly if you've been told all your life that your main value to society is for your appearance then you'll want to know what the competition is up to. You'll want the tips handed out on the way to improve your own value and you'll want to feel good about yourself looking at where the likes of the WAGs have got it wrong. I remember being five years old and being asked by kindly old neighbours what kind of clothes I was going to get married in. And I'm sure my parents considered themselves relatively progressive (they did once tell me never to marry a black man though! They also told me in all seriousness "there are two kinds of women: the ones you have fun with and the ones you marry" - 'you' I suppose being the all-encompassing male viewpoint through which the world is seen - which always seemed to me to have grossly overlooked the sky-diving lesbians but ho hum...). Society rewards women who participate in the media circus so of course they are lining up to participate. There are lots of approaches we can and should be taking to weed the prejudice out of society - the things we tell our kids, the things we believe ourselves, the things we tell each other, and the way women are portrayed in the media is really the easiest one to change in a substantial way in the short term. We could even legislate to help things on their way, so why not!?

Cruella said...

Oh and in answer to the first question - the F.A. has announced that they don't want women playing in any mens league. Now in the E.U. that decision was declared unlawful and at one point Roma got very close to signing Hannah Ljundberg or at least there was a lot of speculation that they would. Probably they were looking to do it as a publicity stunt but since it would clearly have also served as a fabulous publicity stunt for women in football - who cares!?

Further afield the F.A. has not relaxed it's rule. A woman called Maribel (known as Marigoal to her fans) in Mexico was refused permission to play for a second division side there. This presents a more significant problem since there is no professional women's league in Mexico. Allowing her to sign for the team who genuinely wanted to field her every week, it wasn't a publicity stunt at all, is cutting her off from the money she needs to raise her young family and it's really not very nice.

staghounds said...

Sra. Sanchez was always MY favourite barrier breaking woman athlete:

I wonder about legislating how women are portrayed, isn't there a pretty substantial liberty of expression issue?

And the whole idea of people "participating in their own oppression" gives me an existential headache. If their choice is free, is it oppression or just a choice we might not make?

At the WAG level, why is it oppressive to permit women who choose to be WAGs to select that life?

Assuming, as Ms. Williams does, that it's a straight sex for cash deal, who are we to call that oppression, or immoral? What's the difference between Mr. Rooney "using his body" to earn his living, and Mrs. Rooney doing so? Or a coal miner or floor cleaner, for that matter? Are only non physical professions worthy of respect?

In all seriousness, which would you rather do- work at Argos and live in a council house, or take up with a world cup star? If you had a little sense, you could save up enough to retire in a couple of years. So you have 30 years of liberty from work for a couple of years of putting up with being a WAG, versus 30 years of Argosing.

Granted, YOU don't face the Argos future. But if you did, the WAG life might not look so oppressive.

Cruella said...

Oh I'm not knocking the WAGs themselves. Not at all. My problem is with the media coverage of them. If I were them I'd do just what they're doing.