Posh and Becks – same old story

25th February 2000

Posh is a sly, devious, manipulating, dominating bitch and Becks is an innocent, vulnerable footballer who is being lured from his true destiny.

Recognise the plot? Yes? That’s because this one is the staple diet of woman-haters over the past 10,000 years or so of civilisation. From the wicked stepmother to the witches of Salem this has been the mythology behind the evil of women.

After the great feminist movements of the seventies and the (slow) progress women have made ever since, we might have been forgiven for thinking that this type of thing had been eliminated.

But no. In the marriage of the glitzy, glamourous world that is pop music to the never-ending Man U soap opera, the old histrionics can be safely run out once again.

I have been gob-smacked by the level of animosity levelled at Posh Spice in this affair. The scale of petty sexism that has been unleashed is unbelievable.

Sports commentators (and the general public) have been able to indulge in sniggering asides about ‘who wears the trousers’ and to speculate on what plans she has for Beckham.

And Beckham hasn’t escaped lightly either. His various supposed failings, from wearing a sarong to allegedly wearing his wife’s knickers, have marked him out for some of the most vile and vicious abuse from the terraces.

His greatest offence seems to have been crossing over the gender divide, thus infuriating the ‘get-em-off-ya-darlin’ lad culture that exists up on the stands.

This is excused by the notion that they are only trying to put him off his game. In fact, it is thinly disguised homophobia mixed with resurgent misogyny.

But why? Sean O’Casey wrote of “tuppence-ha’penny looking down on tuppence” – the human desire to be better than someone else. The guy up on the stand might be unemployed, semi-literate and unable to communicate with his girlfriend but at least he is not an object of ridicule like Beckham. So he feels better off.

Secondly, in the seventies and eighties, racism was the grist for the mill on the terraces. But this has been more or less faced down, especially as most teams now have black players. But most teams don’t have women players, so what was safe territory for the white male is still safe for the male.

Lad culture in the form of magazines like ‘Loaded’ and ‘Maxim’, have made sexism acceptable again by mixing it with wit (god help us), nostalgia and a freak show mentality.

The Posh and Becks saga reminds me of the Dreyfuss Affair in France at the end of the last century. The French considered themselves the epitome of civilisation at that point when Captain Dreyfuss was accused of treason by selling secrets to the Germans.

But Dreyfuss was a jew and suddenly a tide of latent anti-semitism was unleashed in popular culture and the veneer of tolerance was ripped away. The man, and the charges, were forgotten in the rush to judge.

Is this the downside of popular culture? Where we couldn’t tolerate prejudice in the courtroom, the workplace or the classroom, pop culture allows us to be the worst we can be in a form that doesn’t appear to hurt anybody. After all, Beckham and Posh are unreal figures many miles from where and how we live.

Listening to people take sides in the B & P drama, I notice that not much of the discussion is marked by kindness or goodwill. In my day, (seems like a long time ago now) we used to say things like ‘live and let live’ and ‘it takes all sorts’.

So, to really piss people off, I’ll finish with this: I’d like to wish Posh and Becks all the best in whatever they decide to do.