Why We Have Got Victoria Beckham All Wrong
But why had Victoria Beckham been unwittingly chosen to bear this obnoxious caricature? It can’t be ignored that her gender played a role. What man has been similarly, needlessly demonised by the press?
Words by Emma Cook
Image by Lachlan Bailey for Vogue
I have no qualms in admitting that for a long time the artist formerly known as Victoria Adams was my least favourite spice girl. Now, I may have been a little late to the nineties party when I rocked up in early 1996 but this stuff still mattered. Posh Spice was always just a little, ugh. Stuck-up, selfish, basically the last spice gal you would want to join you on a night out. Remember that scene in Spice Girls the Movie where she couldn’t run away from the aliens because she had her heels on? Yeah, me too.
I didn’t grow much fonder of her when she became the other half of Davey B either. If anything she got a bit harder to like. Golden thrones at their wedding? Leave it out. The endless paparazzi shots of her looking like I do when my morning alarm goes off became tiresome. And when she released her eponymous fashion range I resented the obscenely high prices charged clothes designed by who I thought was a moody ex-pop star.
But last week, in a revelation that precisely nobody cares about, I realised that I had got Victoria all wrong. Or not that I had got her wrong, but that I had been too keen to digest the Victoria Beckham narrative fed to us by the media. After listening to an intimate interview with the ex pop sensation I was more than surprised to hear her joking and laughing and generally sounding like a bloody lovely person.
Naturally I began to question why I was surprised by this when I’d never actually met the woman, why had I been so sure that I completely understood what she was like as a person? I recalled the magazines I had read in my teens, the tabloids I had past in newsagents, each one depicting Victoria Beckham exactly as they chose. The general party line was that Victoria was sullen, and from there publishers felt free to expand on this as they wished. Grumpy? Why not. Rude? Go on then. Too thin? Of course.
But why had Victoria Beckham been unwittingly chosen to bear this obnoxious caricature? It can’t be ignored that her gender played a role. What man has been similarly, needlessly demonised by the press? If a man were to be frequently pictured looking serious he would be labelled just that. Serious, sensible, in control. Yet for Victoria this was painted as a negative attribute. Never mind the fact that these magazines and papers never once speculated that perhaps Victoria Beckham’s entire personality might not have been captured in paparazzi shots of her leaving a supermarket.
This is because as a society we are taught to vilify women. Women in the media are constantly criticised by men, but they are equally being condemned by other women. This is in part due to the fact that we are taught, as girls, that there is only room for one of us to succeed. There is only enough space for one to be happy, to get the guy, to make it. We eat this myth up and in turn tear other women down. If a woman you know is dating a man that you thought was fit, your mates will tell you she is ugly. If a woman gets a job your friend wanted, you’ll tell her the other women is not as intelligent. And if a woman is leading an undeniably successful life (um, hello 85 million record sales and a hit clothing line) well then she didn’t deserve it, she is not a nice person, she is too… serious.
I did only listen to one interview with Mrs. Beckham and perhaps that in itself was a misrepresentation. An important lesson from my revelation is to take all portrayals of people in limelight not as the gospel truth, but as one side of a whole, complicated person- from one opinion. But what the incessant portrayal of Victoria Beckham as a solemn and spoilt person speaks more loudly of is the unfair representation of women in the media in general. As millennials we need to question the untruths we are constantly being fed by both the media and society. And crucially, we need to demand a fairer representation of women, because if we still cannot reach this in 2018, then when can we?