‘Sizzling G20 Wives’ – the round-up

// 5 April 2009

While the G20 met to discuss the global financial situation, Oxfam released a report on the impact of the recession on women in developing countries.

The charity says the denial of basic working rights is increasing.

It quoted Xiao Hong from an unnamed factory in China as saying: “Now one person has to do three people’s work for the same wages and the employer is piling on the pressure – any small mistake is an excuse for dismissal. In this way it does not have to pay compensation and severance.”

Another example given was Ruth Cerna from El Salvador, who was one of 1,700 workers laid off in November when a factory closed.

She said: “Many women were pregnant, many are ill and are left with nothing. It’s been three months since the factory closed and we haven’t been paid anything.”

The report found that, particularly in Asia, traffickers are targetting women who’d just lost their jobs.

Meanwhile, of course, the vast majority of stories relating to women to come out of the G20 did not concern the impact of the financial situation on women, both in the G20 countries and more widely.

Nope, it was a predictable mess which is pretty much exemplified by US site The Daily Beast, which decided to mark the G20 summit with an insulting slideshow of photos of the “sizzling G20 wives”. To round it off, they included Cristina Kirchner, president of Argentina, in their list of, let’s repeat it for emphasis, “sizzling G20 wives”. (via Shakesville).

Meanwhile, Sociological Images notes that the two ‘G20 husbands’ – the partners of Krichner and Angela Merkel, do not seem to have been included in a photo of “first spouses”:

I don’t know why-were they not invited to the event? Did they choose not to come? SocProf asks, “Would the husbands have looked out of place here? Would this have been embarrassing to them?”

The Guardian continued post-G20, with this ridiculousness, live-blogging whether or not Michelle Obama or Carla Bruni was better dressed. They even called it the “first lady fashion race”.

And, apparently, there’s been much ado about nothing in the US press about Michelle Obama “breaching protocol” by touching the Queen (except it seems like that’s not really a breach of protocol after all..)

A breach of protocol? Hardly. Buckingham Palace was very relaxed today about the incident, and attitudes there have changed significantly since the days of Mr Keating and his lese-majesty. And no, they don’t issue instructions to people about not touching the Queen.

“This was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation between The Queen and Michelle Obama,” said a Palace spokeswoman.

Comments From You

Kez // Posted 5 April 2009 at 10:43 am

I loved that picture of Michelle Obama putting her arm around the Queen – I bet Her Maj was just delighted to be treated like a fellow human being, for once.

With regard to the wives in general, though, I struggle to understand why they were even there, other than to provide a spectacle for the media… as you point out, the two husbands stayed away, either through choice or because they weren’t invited. But who could blame them, really?

And would everyone PLEASE STOP using the term WAGs?

Jennifer Drew // Posted 5 April 2009 at 12:04 pm

Trivialising women’s lives and experiences of the recession is par for course because it neatly deflects attention away from the real issues. Namely, this latest recession is men’s responsibility and it is man-made not woman-made.

But then unemployment and increasing female poverty is a non-issue when the only issue is whether or not female partners of powerful men fulfil the ‘male sexualised gaze.’

What does it matter if women are forced to become sex slaves because at least these women will have ‘work!’ No, the real issue if one reads male-dominant media, is to what extent recession will affect men and their employability. Scapegoated are the bankers but this too ignores fact it is male politicians of all parties and hues which played a central role in the so-called ‘free market’ which completely ignored social responsibility. After all ‘free market’ means no regulation, no controls and profit at any cost is the name of the game.

Aimee // Posted 5 April 2009 at 12:23 pm

For unequivocal evidence of the aforementioned “derailing” see the Guardian comments on this article! “Don’t read it if it’s going to make you angry!”…

Oh, okay then, and i’ll ignore rape and murder because it “makes me angry”, climate change? Let’s just ignore it because it might upset us. Just because *you* see no problem with it doesn’t mean that I can’t! AGHRRRR…

Karen // Posted 5 April 2009 at 6:50 pm

Ha Ha, typical! Sod the needy women of the world that need protecting by G20 policies, lets just turn the event into “politicians wives” where the sexy get the ogled, the normal get ignored and the important issue are overlooked in favour of beauty contestry of the lowest order. Well done lads, your gender is proud of you. Pratts!

KC // Posted 5 April 2009 at 7:09 pm

As far as Angela Merkel’s husband goes, according to the Independent anyway, he stayed in Berlin because of work – he’s a quantum chemist, I think? And apparently he’s shy. Still a typical sexist assumption though, that the wives have nothing better to do than follow their husbands around; I bet there would have been outcry if one of them had declined to participate.

Amy2 // Posted 5 April 2009 at 9:52 pm

A reversal of gender roles in this situation anybody? Wouldn’t that just feel insane now, if the women were G20 leaders, the men being sizzlers whose shoes are in immediate scrutiny? So strong is the patriarchy in media & politics, this wouldn’t even be imaginable unless in some topsy- turvy wonderland.

Butterflywings // Posted 5 April 2009 at 10:20 pm

How DARE you criticise China! Or the ‘developing world’! You’re…you’re criticising ENTIRE countries which we know according to Jess McCabe Holy Arbiter of All That Is Right And Feminist, is ‘bullshit’!!

Jess McCabe // Posted 5 April 2009 at 10:56 pm

@Butterflywings. I really don’t even understand what point you’re trying to make.

Debi Linton // Posted 6 April 2009 at 1:54 pm

I’m disappointed that Iceland isn’t part of the G20, just because I’d be amused to see how the press coped with Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and her partner Jónína Leósdóttir. Would they *both* have to be ‘sizzling G20 wives’?

Gregory Carlin // Posted 8 April 2009 at 1:22 am

“The report found that, particularly in Asia, traffickers are targetting women who’d just lost their jobs. ”

So just like Jobcentre Plus then? I wrote to Minister McNulty and one of his officials

Nigel Brown

Jobcentre Plus – Products and Transformation Division Team

JSA, Advisers and Employer Vacancy Standards

Phew, I bet that title is hard to say, anyway, he told me:

“I can inform you that Jobcentre Plus has no record of having had any contact with the Storm Nightclub in Rotherham.”


Feel free not to trust me and to check.

But what does that mean?

The IATC intend to keep the records the DWP have been busy shredding.

“The report found that, particularly in Asia, traffickers are targetting women who’d just lost their jobs. ”

Because that is so true.

The way to spot a labor govt. Minister lying ( that’s male and female) is quite easy, their lips move.

They are also real good at shredding the evidence of their own complicity in recruiting marginalized females for the sex trade.

Thee you go, naughty DWP telling pork pies yet again.


02/03/2005 16:52


Dear Mr Carlin

Following our telephone conversation yesterday evening I immediately suspended the vacancy pending further investigations.

I have confirmed with RMBC that the Employer does not hold the relevant entertainment licence for pole dancing in his establishment.

The vacancy has now been closed and our Employer Direct colleagues will be writing to the company in due course.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.


Jane Frost

Business Manager

Chantry House Jobcentre


01709 343000

David // Posted 8 April 2009 at 9:35 pm

The Guardian piece doesn’t bother me as it’s under ‘fashion’; what else about the g-20 is going to interest the fashion editor [in that role]? I agree, though, that any such attention in main news sections should be nothing but perfunctory. The point about Krichner and Merkel’s partners being conspicuous by their absence is good also.

Anne Onne // Posted 9 April 2009 at 11:36 am

David, one might then ask why G20 coverage should be in the Fashion section at all. Is there a particular reason that G20 would be seen as an important fashion event? I find the idea that fashion is the first thing that women in any field should be judged on problematic. They weren’t at London Fashion Week. They’re not models. Analysis of what you wear and how you look isn’t something most men put up with to nearly the same extent as women, and it’s tiresome. What does it say about us that we see these women as nothing more than armcandy to be rated on appearance?

And no, they didn’t sign up to it. One doesn’t marry someone they love to be rated publicly. They’re expected to attend, but that doesn’t mean they have to be rated as if they’re contestants in a wet t-shirt contest.

There’s no real reason to focus on fashion when covering a political event, and even if there is, it’s always the women whose fashion faux pas or style is analysed. Where are all the articles about how hot all the men are?

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