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Author Archive for Hadley Freeman

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Sport can help to clarify the trans debate | Hadley Freeman

Martina Navratilova faced a backlash for her comments on female participation, but at least she has moved the discussion onSport is often dismissed as mere entertainment, but it is where some of the most serious matters play out, from geopolitical rela…

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Sport can help to clarify the trans debate | Hadley Freeman

Martina Navratilova faced a backlash for her comments on female participation, but at least she has moved the discussion onSport is often dismissed as mere entertainment, but it is where some of the most serious matters play out, from geopolitical rela…

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How was Larry Nassar able to abuse so many gymnasts for so long?

The biggest sexual abuse scandal in sports history shines a light on a culture of medals over moralsLarry Nassar was a wonderful doctor – everyone said so. The little girls who were sent to him were told it was an honour. Their parents were told it was…

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Two footballers’ marriages are in trouble – why are the media narratives so different?

Wayne Rooney’s wife, Coleen, is ‘humiliated’, while Jamie Redknapp is ‘carrying on’ after his wife Louise left him

Here is a tale of two marriages, both involving footballers, both of which came a little unstuck this summer. On the one side is Wayne Rooney, a man who never seemed overly burdened with an interest in marital fidelity. Last week, while his pregnant wife and three sons were away on holiday, Rooney was caught driving over the limit accompanied by a young woman with whom, according to the charmingly 1970s-esque language of the tabloids, he was planning to “romp”. No longer, perhaps, provided with the kind of PR protection the England team management can offer, the Rooneys have been in the eye of a media storm ever since, with all the traditional narratives trotted out.

Rooney’s wife, Coleen, is “humiliated”, a word that has been used in pretty much every article featuring her ever since. She feels, according to media reports, like “the world is laughing at her”. Rooney has been “banished to the spare room” while his wife is being urgently advised by someone who has never met her that “millions of men” have done this and that her duty now is to help her husband be “better”. The media narratives are as dated as the tabloid language: silly men and stoical women. You can all but hear the sigh of pleasure when a saga emerges that can be squashed down into this prefabricated storyline, with all the apparently reassuring conservative ideas about gender and sexuality chucked in as a bonus.

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It’s still harder for black people to win respect. Even Serena Williams | Hadley Freeman

She’s one of the greatest athletes of all time, but the Wimbledon champion has faced insinuation and abuse throughout her tennis career

By anyone’s standards, Serena Williams is one of the greatest athletes of all time. She has won 36 grand slams and four Olympic gold medals. I appreciate that journalists are supposed to be objective and all that blah blah blahness, but truly the Latin term for Williams is Badassius amazingus.

So it’s really super that, 13 years after first achieving world number one status, the prim guardians of the tennis establishment are “coming to appreciate” her behaviour, as one British journalist put it after her sixth Wimbledon win this weekend, “bizarre” as it is. Nonetheless, this same journalist wrote a month earlier when covering the French Open, there are plenty who “hold a rather cynical view of Serena Williams’ tennis achievements”: the view that she hasn’t “always been totally focused on tennis”. This lack of focus was proved by Williams issuing a statement that day that she was too ill for a press conference before her match. Slacker Serena, that’s what we call her.

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America loved the World Cup because for once they support an underdog

Brazil 2014 has provided a breakthrough in the US, where the younger generation, with the help of social media, have a passion for soccer rather than the distrust of the Cold War era Continue reading…

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America loved the World Cup because for once they supported an underdog

Brazil 2014 has provided a breakthrough in the US, where the younger generation, with the help of social media, have a passion for soccer rather than the distrust of the cold war era Continue reading…

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Slick BBC shade it over ITV but World Cup final TV coverage was just fine

BBC predictably won the night with its smooth professionalism but suit-less, larky ITV displayed plenty of enjoyable charm Continue reading…

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World Cup 2014 style: putting the boot into fashion and football

Football may be the, ahem, winner at the World Cup in Brazil but there have also been positive fashion statements and the odd faux pas(s) Hadley Freeman: My unlikely World Cup assignment Continue reading…

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My unlikely World Cup assignment: hey, it was just like fashion week!

I knew nothing of football, so how would seasoned sports journalists in Brazil take to me? Would they want to see my Panini sticker album? And could I learn to love the game?

Hadley Freeman: putting the boot into fashion and football

When the Guardian’s sports editor asked me to go to Brazil as a features writer during the World Cup, I reckoned that the biggest problem I’d have would be that I knew nothing about football. This turned out not to be a problem at all because I wasn’t being sent there to write about the football perversely, the editor reckoned that the dozen-and-plus-some specialist football writers he also sent would be the better bets for writing match reports than the one person who didn’t even know that the World Cup is only once every four years (“Oh, like the Olympics!” I said to my new and very stoical sports colleagues. Behind them, I could see one of the Sun’s blustery sports writers make a vom face.) No, my biggest problem turned out to be that I was almost arrested when I landed.

I was pleased to see there were several proper sports journalists on the plane from London, all also flying out for the World Cup. Oh yeah, Freeman, I thought to myself, you’re rolling with the groovy sports kids now. When we landed in São Paulo, I sought out one of them, the esteemed Jonathan Wilson, and chatted confidently with him about my plans for the week as we walked towards passport control. Oh no, I wasn’t too worried about my football ignorance I had, after all, pretty much completed my Panini sticker album. Would he like to see? (He wouldn’t.) These next few weeks were going to be a breeze, I trilled, as customs officers led me away, took my passport, my baggage and proceeded to detain me for the next 13 hours.

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How I became a World Cup expert by collecting stickers

I haven’t played football, or rather soccer, since summer camp, but I have a ticket for Brazil and a partially completed Panini sticker album Continue reading…

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Fashion may be expensive – but so is football

A Prada coat and a Premier League season ticket are both pricey – but because the football is aimed at men, it’s not dismissed as frivolous

What is the point of covering the fashion shows in the newspaper? Ninety-nine per cent of readers can’t and won’t buy those ridiculously expensive clothes.

Donald, by email

I have been writing about fashion for this paper for 13 years now and far be it for me to correct Woody Allen (except, perhaps, in his convenient assumption that the only reason anyone including Mia Farrow would object to his relationship with Soon Yi is because of the age gap) but I have learned that there are three things which are always certain:

1. Death

2. Taxes

3. Guardian readers complaining about the price, coverage and sometimes the very existence of fashion.

These complaints come in many forms – emails, letters, tweets, below-the-line comments – and I try to reply to all of them. So forgive me, if you have already seen one of my responses to these grievances, and there will be some repetition here. But it seemed worthwhile to address them all in one column.

First, why cover fashion? Few things have surprised me in my job as much as the surprise of some readers that fashion is covered. It’s stupid, they cry! It’s silly, they roar! Nobody cares, they wail! What frustrating lives these people must lead if they think the only subjects that should be covered are ones in which they have an interest. My own interests are exceedingly narrow – 80s films; 90s TV; the novels of Curtis Sittenfeld and Melissa Bank; the essays of David Foster Wallace, David Sedaris and David Rakoff; my dog – but even shallow ol’ me accepts that other people have different interests. Furthermore, these people have as much right to find coverage of their subjects as I do of mine. Yes, I wish there was more coverage of Saved By the Bell in this paper and, yes, I do find it frustrating that valuable newspaper real estate that could be devoted to the greatest hits of AC Slater is instead given over to coverage of unimportant things such as football – but I deal with it, because I know other people are interested in football. So what I’m saying here is: try to develop some empathy and accept not everyone is interested – or uninterested – in the same things as you.

Next, the expense. Yes, some fashion is very expensive – so, incidentally, is football but I have yet to see a single comment beneath a football column bewailing how much Manchester United pays its players every week, or even how much a Chelsea season ticket costs, but that, apparently, is by the bye. Some people are lucky enough to treat themselves occasionally to a bit of high fashion, but that really is not the point of featuring fashion in a newspaper. You see, the difference between fashion coverage in a newspaper and a catalogue is that a newspaper is not telling you to buy the clothes. It is simply showing them. It is no more telling you to buy them than it is telling you to buy the latest iPhone when it covers various Apple launches. It often seems to me that when readers express outrage at high-end clothes being featured in a newspaper (or supplement magazine) what they actually feel is attacked. They think the newspaper is suggesting that they buy the £2,000 Prada coat or the £1,500 Saint Laurent handbag and they think the paper has forgotten its roots and is now only interested in wealthy readers. Dear readers, let me assure you this simply is not the case. High fashion is a big business, and as distasteful as the luxury market might be to some readers’ sensibility, to pretend it doesn’t exist would be like pretending – to return to an earlier analogy – Apple doesn’t exist. Moreover, as I believe I alluded to earlier, a lot of people have an interest in it in a way that has nothing to do with wanting to buy it. It’s like how some people (crazy people) enjoy watching expensive cars go round and round on Top Gear, and they want to know what the latest car models are, but they have no real interest in buying those cars – they just like to look at them. It’s exactly the same thing with fashion shoots and trends. Think of them as being like Top Gear, without Jeremy Clarkson. Yes, some fashion is insanely overpriced, but often the prices reflect the workmanship required to make the clothes and it would be ridiculous for fashion writers (and beauty writers, food writers, travel writers, or anyone, really) to pretend that expensive, nice things don’t exist just because most people can’t afford them. I can’t afford to eat at Heston Blumenthal’s latest restaurant, but I still want Marina O’Loughlin to tell me what it’s like.

Finally, fashion itself. Yes, there are lots of elements of the fashion industry that are disgusting and I have discussed plenty of them over the years: the racism, the ageism, the eating disorders, the elitism. But that does not mean that fashion itself should be scorned and the fact that some people feel so free to do so suggests, as I have said before, strong sexism at play here. Football (yes, I’m going here again) is hardly the most intellectual of pursuits and suffers from many of the same problems as fashion, with added homophobia, but because it is aimed primarily at men, it is seen as an essential pastime. Fashion is aimed primarily at women and therefore dismissed as frivolous.

A final word of advice from my best friend Carol, who told me this years ago and it rings as true as it ever did. You don’t like fashion? You feel attacked by the high prices? Guess what? Not everything is about you, sweetheart.

Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email ask.hadley@theguardian.com

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He’s here and he’s Weir: Johnny’s outfits out-dazzle Sochi skaters

NBC’s figure skating commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir has everyone singing their praises. While they may be calling the daytime broadcast, Weir’s clothing choices are pure prime time