Ahhh… who doesn’t love an opportunity to be morally superior while dismissing the lives, concerns, behaviour and relationships of women? I mean, we’ve witnessed a cacophony of contempt recently with the misogynistic claims about Angela Rayner, the exposure of “Pestminster”, and the Roe v Wade horror unfolding in front of eyes.
But there’s more where that came from! The Depp v Heard trial has conveniently taken a pause in proceedings so we can refocus and concentrate our collective contempt and vitriol on not just one, but two famous women. It’s a bumper package, ladies and gentlemen!
According to, well, a gazillion posts on social media, the “Wagatha Christie” legal case between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy is a “cat fight” and a “b**** fest”. According to many social media commentators, the “spat” would never have got so far if it involved men rather than women. Bloody women with their pretend sisterhood and fake friendships!
The trial is evidence, apparently, that two wives of famous footballers don’t have anything better to do with their time or their husbands’ money than go to court over trivial matters. Now, it may be that the trial is an obscene waste of money. It may be so that Rooney and Vardy could have donated the legal fees to those in need. I mean, there are so many more important, urgent things going on in the world right now – why is this unedifying legal scrap between two WAGs even news?
Why are we concerned with the “War of the WAGS” when there’s an actual war happening? The trial seems distasteful and outrageous in a socioeconomic context where ordinary people are having to choose between eating and paying energy bills, and the queues for food banks are ever growing.
What’s also distasteful and outrageous is that we’re still using the term WAGs at all.
I’m absolutely nauseated at the amount of misogyny that gets trotted out on an hourly basis at the moment. At any given point right now, social media is a tide of lovingly created, flatteringly edited, romanticised memes of Johnny Depp, while Amber Heard is subject to hideous name-calling, all the usual insults we use for women, and that seems to be okay. It’s okay to use misogynistic slurs when we don’t like a woman or their behaviour. What this says more broadly about cultural attitudes towards women is pretty gross, to be honest.
And now we’re seeing a resurgence of the “WAG” label, harking back to the 2006 World Cup when the acronym came into popular usage. The term, referring to the wives and girlfriends of famous sportsmen, is vintage Y2K, when misogyny was a favourite pastime. In the noughties, a whole subculture was created around the term WAG. There was the series Footballers’ Wives and “looking like a WAG” became a jibe for a woman whose appearance is judged to be fake and classless.
Of course, the term WAGs is anything but classless. In fact, it’s positively teeming with class associations. When we talk about WAGs, we mean the women from working-class backgrounds. Being “classless” is yet another dig at those who are perceived as crass, coarse, vulgar and stupid. The concept of the WAG epitomised everything we’re taught to hate about women – boorish behaviour, profligate spending and vacuous vanity.
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Feeding into even more insidious gender tropes, tabloids put the WAGs in competition with each other. Who’s the best dressed? The worst behaved? I mean, a group of women can’t possibly be friends – their dynamics must be competitive and fraught with jealousy.
And now, 16 years later, despite all the political upheaval and reappraisal of social injustices we’ve witnessed since 2006, we’re back to WAG-ing it up – with all the attitudes and associations that come with it. The term that erases women’s identity beyond that of their male romantic partner. Any indication of their own talent, business acumen, accomplishments, or career is subsumed by their relationship status.
Just this morning, a bloke on the BBC commented that the trial would hurt “their husbands’ pockets” and newspapers articles covering the story opened with “Footballers’ wives Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy…” Reducing the women to their husband’s occupation, forever his plus one.
We know that language matters. We know that the labels we use for women reflect broader attitudes and – even if we’re directing them at only one woman – they have consequences for how all women are perceived and treated.
But never mind, eh? They’re just a pair of stupid WAGs, after all.
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