Wersha Bharadwa: If girls get a raw deal, of course they want to be Wags

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The Independent Online

In a world constantly belittling women for every step they take, we've now got another reason to feel bad about ourselves: for wanting to be Wags. Even government education experts are heralding Wags as role models for young women.

I can almost hear the cries of disgust from those who cannot stomach the idea of women living a fabulously and unashamedly wealthy life on the back of their hard-working partners. Nothing is subtle about the war waged on Wags, with their fake tans, £800 bags and acrylic nails. It's far more sociably acceptable for a woman to not desire things – money in particular – because it automatically points her in the direction of power, which is exactly what the Wags seem to have achieved now that they've reached icon status.

But surely rather than simplifying last week's pronouncement – from the Learning and Skills Council – and dismissing Wags as a sad, disgraceful blip on British culture today, we should be looking at the economic inequities that have made young women aspire to live off another person. If teenage girls want to marry rich men when they should be aiming for high grades and decent qualifications, what kind of messages are they being sent?

That Wags are in every celebrity magazine going doesn't help – these are read by girls as young 10 – but to blame the likes of Heat and OK! would be a cop-out. As Mary Wollstonecraft argued, women are driven to prostitution and marriage through financial motives. Women wanting marriage is old hat. No matter how successful you are, how intelligent or independent, we're still being sold the myth that you're nothing without a man. Most of us know deep down it's a message we want to ignore and one we have being trying to overturn for centuries.

Education tells girls they can be anything they want to be and that they can aspire to high-flying careers, so why aren't they buying the dream of wanting to do it for themselves? Why do young women in the Noughties have such low expectations of themselves doing well financially that they're opting for security via the wife route?

If girls can grow up today and see their mothers being paid 17 per cent less than their fathers for doing a similar job, they are not only going to see the game as unfair, they will ask themselves whether there's any point in playing at all. If more women were being paid £10,000 a week to play football or getting million-pound bonuses in the City, then Generation Wag wouldn't be a problem.

Because how many women in the UK are able to shout about breaking out of the pay-gap trap? How many are able to applaud their employers for rewarding them with top-dog jobs and easing their childcare pressures with flexible hours? What has given rise to Generation Wag is that young women are more scared than ever about making it big in the boardroom. So instead, armed with what they feel are ultimately valueless qualifications, they have come to feel that bagging a man wearing a £100k watch isn't such a bad idea after all.

Wags aren't hypocrites; they're unabashed about their need to live it up. Old-school feminists might see them as selling out, but while carving an identity from being a man's wife or girlfriend is far from progressive, Wags are working with what they've got and having a damn good time while they're about it.

By unwittingly advertising their lack of economic freedom in a system that otherwise allows them to fail, perhaps the Wags and their protégées are simply having an important but oh-so-fun moment. May they stamp on their constraints with Choo-clad heels.

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