This World Cup, let's stop calling women WAGs

It's 2014 and we're still defining women by their relationships with men. We must demand better than this

Share

The World Cup is almost upon us. Switch on the telly and you can almost smell the heat rising off the sun-soaked pitches. It is set to be thrilling, frustrating, and prevailing. It’s also a multi-billion pound charade, a media circus that drags some of the industry’s worst foibles with it.

Flashing cameras leer garishly over the tournament, documenting every gilded detail. Amidst the coverage, more than one channel will devote coverage to the ‘WAGs’, the wives and girlfriends of the players. These women are often framed as anonymous peacocks, identifiable only by their more famous footballing mates.

Popular press paints the Wag as a fake tanned, fake nailed "party girl", her hair extensions piled antoinette-style. She possesses a gazelle like-ability to walk in heels and drink until dawn, but is depicted as lazy, untalented, wallpaper, ripe to be rated in terms of how "hot" she is.

While footballers are ranked according to their talent on the pitch, Wags are appraised in terms of their glamour. Did they make it onto FHM’s sexiest women list? Do they model swimsuits?

We need to demand better than this. It’s 2014 and referring to any woman pejoratively as  a "wife or girlfriend" is not acceptable. Neither of these roles are anything to be ashamed of, but plenty of these women have accomplishments which amount to more than looking pretty in the stands.

Arguably just as many people have heard of Shakira as Gerard Piqué, yet Shakira too, could be classed as a Wag. Meanwhile Sara Carbonero, who is dating Iker Casillas, is a Spanish journalist. All too often looking sexy means that the achievements of these women is played down, conforming to the archaic belief that women can’t be clever and desirable.

The Times ' "World Cup Wag" piece follows this beaten path when it rates the achievements of Yolanthe Sneijder-Cabau, writing that on “one of the occasions when she wasn’t naked she co-founded Stop Kindermisbruik, a foundation with the aim of stopping child sexual abuse in developing countries.” Presumably, she’s been not-naked quite a lot then.

Journalist Sara Carbonero prepares a piece to camera while her partner Iker Cassillas warms up Journalist Sara Carbonero prepares a piece to camera while her partner Iker Cassillas warms up Melissa Satta is treated in the same sneering way. She’s dating Ghana’s Kevin Prince Boateng but is also a karate champion, who has won bronze and gold in the Sardinia and Italy karate championships. “So whatever you might say about her, don’t say it to her face,” warns The Times. How about let’s just not say it at all?!

Lumping women together in the Wag “partner pot” doesn’t communicate much about their other roles in society. What if you’re a single woman? How can you be defined then? Is this your only way to be acknowledged?

The description plays into the oafish "her at home" narrative. Many adverts do the same. Pot Noodle’s take on the World Cup’s Brazilian location is a talking beach towel that leers at women in skimpy bikinis. Curry’s PC World’s “Football? What Football?” campaign features three different husbands trying to con their wives into buying big televisions so they can watch football.

I realise horrific social injustice can be found in the shadow of the World Cup stadium, far more immediately pernicious than my semantic bugbear. Yet I feel it’s particularly pertinent we get rid of labels like ‘WAG’  this year, as YouTube launches its Proud to Play campaign during Pride month.

It’s tagline asserts that “Stereotypes are like records: made to be broken. It doesn't matter what you look like, where you're from, or who you love.” There’s no male equivalent of the wag, or a BAH (Boyfriend and Husband). 

In the world where the word Wag is used, there’s no room for gay players. The word ‘Wag’ harks back to a world that seems almost antique, where men don’t cry and women’s orgasms come from buying shoes.

Many people who use the word ‘Wag’ don’t want to be sexist. The casual repetition of this chauvinist term has normalised it  until we don't think about how it reflects and shapes our attitudes . I am not a wife or a girlfriend. I am Felicity. And I don’t think damaging stereotypes are OK.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee