Saturday 18 November 2017

Carol Hunt: Sorry Amy, there's worse things to be called than a Wag

Brian O'Driscoll and Amy Huberman
Brian O'Driscoll and Amy Huberman

Newsflash: rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll is a Hab. Ditto David Beckham and Barcelona's Gerard Pique.

You see, 'Hab' is an acronym to describe the husband or boyfriend of a famous, successful woman. Amy Huberman, Victoria Beckham and Shakira, wives of the above, all most certainly qualify as that.

Do boys mind being labelled a Hab? Probably not the ones I've just mentioned.

But would a man who didn't like to see his wife eclipse him be a little more peeved if he was called a Hab? A man who feels he has to be the top dog in the relationship? A man who is a little needy in the confidence stakes?

What would we say to that? We'd say: get over yourself mister, stop being such a sexist twerp and take some pride in your wife's accomplishments.

Yet when the phrase Wag - wife or girlfriend - is used to describe the other halves of famous men (usually sportsmen - it started with footballers), many women get annoyed at it.

For instance, this week, the gorgeous, talented and allegedly wonderfully nice Amy Huberman complained about being called a Wag.

She said that the term was "derogatory and it's definitely not nice". The word Wag, she added, was "about putting women in their place".

Now, Amy Huberman is a very successful woman in her own right - as well as being part of a famous couple. I can't imagine any of her fans would ever want to 'put her in her place'.

So why would she think that being called a Wag was "not nice"? Surely she's confident enough in herself not to be upset if people note the talents of her husband? What's wrong with being a wife or girlfriend? Even is your husband is rugby hero Brian O'Driscoll?

But, of course, it's all in the way the term is used and there are certainly people who agree with Amy.

A few years ago the UK's Equalities and Human Rights Commission said the term 'Wag' "can be offensive", as it was "usually used as a pejorative phrase to demean a group of women".


But that was a long time back, when Cheryl was still Cole and Victoria hadn't yet carved out a fashion empire. They were part of a group of young girls having fun, and the oh so pious British media cast around for a stick to beat them with.

The worst they could come up with was labelling them 'Wags', which was precisely what they were. How did that become an insult?

Well, the term was meant to imply that were unfairly sharing their blokes limelight and spending all his hard-earned money.

So what? Since then we've learned that many footballers' wives deserve every penny they can get and some of them (Coleen Rooney anyone?) could apply for canonisation into the bargain.

You could argue that to be called a Wag these days implies that you have a vast reservoir of patience, loyalty and an innate ability to turn dross into gold.

We feminists - and by that I mean everyone with a pulse who agrees that women should be paid equally - need to pick our battles. There are an extraordinary amount of grossly offensive words and terms regularly used to demean, degrade and put down women.

If you'd like current examples of those used by men, just have a look at the Twitter stream of activist Coralie Alison to get a quick taste of real misogyny in action.

Alison tried to have a rapper called Tyler the Creator stopped from playing Australia because of his pro-rape lyrics - and for that she has been threatened with rape and murder and has had every abusive term for women ever invented thrown at her.

Last year, we were informed by well-meaning feminists that the word "bossy" was insulting when it referred to women. Really? Where I come from, to be called bossy is a compliment. It's all in the use and the way you interpret is.

The campaign was, rightly, ridiculed by many liberal left-wing women who agreed that being "bossy" was not necessarily a "bad thing".

Similarly being called a Wag is not necessarily an insult.

Sure, isn't that what all our mothers were?

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