Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wags get Fifteen More Minutes of Fame.

According to the UK’s LSC, (The Learning and Skills Council), Wags, that is the ‘wives and girlfriends’ of famous sports stars, particularly soccer stars, are good roles models for teenage girls. The LSC claim that the Wag image of a vacuous cloth horse and party loving mini-celebrity is inaccurate. Apparently many of these ladies actually hold a number of GCSEs. Now GCSEs are the State examinations taken by most pupils around the ages of 15 and 16 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. (Scotland has a separate system). The implication being that these bright young ladies having done their school-work are now, in adulthood, mature, responsible young women and would not be seen dead near a Prada dress, or, God-forbid posing before a bevy of rapacious photographers.

I do not want to get into a discussion about the merits or de-merits of wags and their footballing husbands. I, like many men, will happily set everything aside to watch a football match. I also dislike some of the class innuendo involved in criticism of sports stars and their entourages. But I have to say, I feel the LSC give the game away when they believe they have to resort to statements like this in order to try and motivate teenage girls to take study and consequently their lives seriously. Despite their GCSEs, the wags’ only validity as a motivator is that they focus some teenage girls escapist fantasies of glamour, fashion and easy wealth. If the wags were never seen in those D&G dresses, never appeared in the pages of glossy magazines showing off their dream homes, were never caught in the glare of flash leaving an exclusive nightclub with the famous boyfriend, it is unlikely we would know anything of them. They have little to do with Tracy from Billericay who has 4 GSCEs and is hoping to find a job in retail. About how her and her boyfriend are saving for a house. Or how hard it is.

Surely the LSC’s brief is to encourage and provide further education and training for young people. To convince them of the validity of learning and to take responsibility for their lives. It is not to reinforce our culture’s obsession with celebrity.

In their statement the LSC do caution, that Victoria Beckham, the ultimate wag, and possibly one of the most overrated celebrities of our era, left school with only a handful of GCSEs and was lucky to succeed. They add, and I quote, ‘the odds of following in her footsteps are incredibly thin’. (Yes they do say thin. Not, I would have thought, an adjective to use lightly in relation to the former Posh Spice). They then continue to list a number of other wags who have qualifications, including one with a degree in business and one studying law. Fair enough. Good luck to them.

But why should the LSC need to make such a statement? Are they not equating success and celebrity? Are they not holding up glamour and a nigh unattainable lifestyle for most as an enticement to study. Or is that the problem? That they themselves believe learning is seen by teenage girls as dull and pointless; something that involves unwanted application and perseverance. Teenage girls will only do it if there is the promise of a nice dress at the end. Or a celebrity catch boyfriend?. None of which is borne out by statistics that show in nearly all subject girls outperform boys in secondary education. And when given the opportunity for third level education, excel.

It is sad when a non-departmental public body, answerable to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has to resort to such tactics. Note that title – Department for INNOVATION, Universities and Skills. If they have to hold up such a small and really superfluous section of our society as role models for teenage girls some might say it is time to revisit the merits of male chauvinism. Though others might answer, and answer wisely, surely this idea was a man’s

Copyright (C) Peter Millington Oct 2007

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