More than just partners: The WAG renaissance

WAGS are shaping their own narratives

Image by: Ali Safadi
WAGS are stepping off the sidelines and into the spotlight.

Like a revolving door, the attention of the media and public shifts with every passing celebrity fixation. However, the internet’s recent obsession feels reminiscent of a cultural phenomenon we’ve seen before: the sports wives and girlfriends (WAGs).

In the aftermath of Sunday’s NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs, many news outlets were abuzz with conversation focused on the women on the sidelines of the field. Taylor Swift and Brittany Mahomes turned heads in matching jackets designed by fellow WAG, Kristin Juszcyzyk, while TikTok megastar Alix Earle completed the ensemble as she cheered on her boyfriend Braxton Berrios on the Dolphins’ side.

The term WAG dates back to the 2006 World Cup, when the hosting town Baden-Baden, Germany was overrun by the glamourous partners of the English football team. Spearheaded by original WAG Victoria Beckham, the women delivered an enthralling performance for paparazzi as they shopped, drank, and took over local holes-in-the-wall while their husbands competed. The ensuing tabloid chaos popularized the term WAG and incited obsession in both sports fans and pop culture enthusiasts alike.

The appeal is clear—no matter how hard one tries, no one can resist the charm of a celebrity romance. Fervent fans may find themselves just as intrigued by their favourite player’s love life as they are by their on-field performance or training regimens, as well as seeing how these women adapt to the limelight.

Though WAGs have a distinct ability to capture the affection of audiences, it’s critical to acknowledge the term doesn’t come without heteronormative and misogynistic connotations. In 2010, the British Equalities and Human Rights Commission condemned the offensive use of the term, emphasizing that it reduces women to a relationship status, perpetuating demeaning stereotypes. In many contexts, the phrase has been used to objectify women, defining them solely by their relationship to a man.

The release of Netflix docuseries Beckham last fall reminded audiences of the harsh judgments WAGs face. Despite her status as Posh Spice, Victoria Beckham was swiftly reduced to the singular label of WAG and endured intense scrutiny, especially when her husband David Beckham encountered challenges on the football field.

This new generation of WAGs is proving to embody a rehabilitative shift in the power couple narrative, and reflect a larger cultural shift towards female individuality. In rewriting the script and asserting themselves beyond the roles of wife or girlfriend, WAGs are challenging the conventional, gendered blame often placed on them for the failures and missteps of their athletic beaus. The renewed fixation on WAGs marks this shift, transcending the notion of these women being mere arm candy. These women are now recognized as powerful and established individuals in their own right, separate from their husbands and boyfriends.

The shift in the WAG narrative reflects a broader cultural change, though it remains imperfect.

In recent developments, Green Bay Packers safety Jonathan Owens faced criticism for downplaying the achievements of his partner, Simone Biles, a highly accomplished Olympic gymnast. He claimed ignorance about Biles prior to their meeting and asserted himself as the “catch” of the relationship. Despite Biles being immensely decorated and widely considered one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, she was reduced to a mere accessory.

While many fans and media outlets firmly defended her, the incident exposed the prevalent misogyny on various corners of the internet. Despite Biles’ claims she was unbothered by the situation, Owens’ discourse serves as a stark reminder of the enduring patriarchal narratives ingrained in mass media.

Once a subject of tabloid speculation and gossip, the WAG is now seizing control of her own narrative, rising to newfound prominence and influence. No longer confined to the sidelines, she is stepping into the spotlight, reshaping perceptions and proving to be a force to be reckoned with.

This empowered evolution marks a shift in the cultural landscape, where the WAG isn’t just a passive figure but an active participant in shaping her own story.


NFL, soccer, Sports, WAG

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