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Category: Feminism

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Paddy Jackson’s revived rugby career is a backward step for feminism | Lara Whyte

Jackson was acquitted of rape last year, but he is a misogynist and should be banned from professional sportThe rugby team London Irish announced this week that Paddy Jackson will join their squad ahead of a return to the English premiership next seaso…

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The Guardian view on Andy Murray: great Scot, great guy, great backhand | Editorial

The former Wimbledon men’s singles champion is a man who reshaped the game, on and off courtAndy Murray, who has signalled his retirement from tennis, is a sports revolutionary. His claim in history was to be Britain’s first Wimbledon men’s singles cha…

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Harvard ends men’s soccer team season over lewd rankings of female players

University says ‘extremely offensive report’ on female soccer players was produced over several years by male players, who had been leading Ivy League

Harvard University has suspended its men’s soccer team for the remainder of the season because of sexual comments made about members of the women’s soccer team.

University president Drew Faust said in a statement on Thursday night that an investigation into the 2012 team found their “appalling” actions were not isolated to one year or the actions of a few, but appeared to be more widespread across the team and continued through the current season.

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Laura Trott: ‘Girls are put off sport because they get embarrassed’

As UN Women launches its Rio legacy to keep young women playing sport, Britain’s most successful female Olympian talks about why teenage girls face a crisis in confidence, how to stop them skiving PE and why she’s not a feminist

“I’d get called a dyke a lot – people would shout it at me all the time and say I was a boy because I got into sport.”

Marcelly Vitória de Mendonça, 16, has spent the morning jostling with 300 or so other schoolgirls who have been invited to the UN’s event on empowering young women at the City of Arts culture complex in Rio de Janeiro.

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Laura Trott: ‘Girls are put off sport because they get embarrassed’

As UN Women launches its Rio legacy to keep young women playing sport, Britain’s most successful female Olympian talks about why teenage girls face a crisis in confidence, how to stop them skiving PE and why she’s not a feminist

“I’d get called a dyke a lot – people would shout it at me all the time and say I was a boy because I got into sport.”

Marcelly Vitória de Mendonça, 16, has spent the morning jostling with 300 or so other schoolgirls who have been invited to the UN’s event on empowering young women at the City of Arts culture complex in Rio de Janeiro.

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Serena Williams: ​’​Not everyone’s going to like the way I look​’​

The tennis star talks about swearing on court, dancing for Beyoncé and why she’s criticised for being both ‘too masculine’ and ‘too sexy’

There are so many sides to Serena Williams. Slick and powerful in heels and leotard, she dances, squats and bounces beside Beyoncé in the video for Sorry. She has been lauded by Claudia Rankine, whose award-winning, book-length poem Citizen last year depicted Williams “as hemmed in as any other black body thrown against our American background”. She is the world’s top-earning female athlete. And arguably more than any of her contemporaries, her body has been the focus, the point of intersection, of so many arguments about femininity, power and race that it would almost be possible to overlook the tennis.

But the tennis, of course, is unforgettable. Williams has won 21 grand slams. One more – next week at Wimbledon, say – would bring her level with Steffi Graf’s total, and only two short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24. Williams has been playing since she was three. In September, she turns 35. If she stays fit, if the strength holds, if she keeps winning, if young rivals prosper temperately, maybe she can hurl herself through the narrowing gap of time to leave a new number in the record books. But meanwhile, she is singing karaoke at a pre-tournament party. When a TV interviewer points out that a strap of her crop top has slipped, she gives her shoulder a brief glance. “Yeah,” she says. “I know.” Through everything, she is a self-stylist.

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Chris Gayle cricket sexism row: reporter says ‘we want equality’

Cricketer sparks national debate in Australia after ignoring Mel McLaughlin’s post-match questions, instead asking her out and saying: ‘Don’t blush, baby’

It was, Chris Gayle said, “just a joke” that had been blown out of proportion. When the West Indian cricketer, currently playing for the Melbourne Renegades in Australia, was approached by a female sports reporter after his innings duringa Twenty20 match on Monday, he ignored her questions about the match, choosing instead to make comments about her eyes, ask her out for a drink and say: “Don’t blush, baby.”

But while Mel McLaughlin’s employer, the broadcaster Network Ten, may have initially found Gayle’s comments “smooth”, according to a now deleted tweet, the reporter did not. After initially maintaining her silence while video of the encounter went viral, McLaughlin spoke out on Tuesday to call Gayle’s remarks “disappointing”.

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Chris Gayle: sexist comments ‘blown out of proportion’ – video

West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle responds to the press on Tuesday after he was criticised for making suggestive comments to a female reporter, Mel McLaughlin, on Monday night. Gayle says the comments were a joke that had been blown out of proportion, adding that they were not meant to disrespect Mel

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Chris Gayle claims sexist comments were a ‘simple joke’ and ‘blown out of proportion’

West Indies cricketer says he did not mean to be ‘disrespectful or offensive’ to Channel Ten reporter Mel McLaughlin when he asked her out on air

Chris Gayle has walked out of a media conference after saying the row over his remarks to journalist Mel McLaughlin during Monday night’s Big Bash League game were “blown out of proportion”.

Related: Chris Gayle row: If Mel McLaughlin had bright red cheeks it was not because she was blushing | Tracey Holmes

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Chris Gayle row: If Mel McLaughlin had bright red cheeks it was not because she was blushing | Tracey Holmes

Whether it’s Chris Gayle or Jamie Briggs, it’s clear some men still believe women have a place and don’t see women as equals

Welcome to 2016 … or if you’re a woman, is this 1916?

Just consider these past weeks. A federal government minister has resigned after a night on the drink in Hong Kong where he made a female consular official uncomfortable with his remarks and behaviour. The woman’s privacy has been violated after the ex-minister Jamie Briggs circulated photos of her that ended up in the media.

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Dawn Fraser and Pauline Hanson prove old white women can be as silly as old white men | Amy Gray

Australian icons Dawn Fraser and Pauline Hanson scored a big hit for equality on Tuesday, smashing the glass ceiling of stupid commentary

Some days are so rich in idiocy, it’s a surprise we’re not subsidising billionaires to mine quotes instead of ore.

National treasure Dawn Fraser used the great “I’m not racist, but…” rhetoric when she declared tennis players Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic should “go back to where … their parents came from”, which seems to be a new low in defining what it means to be Australian.

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Serena Williams: I wouldn’t ask Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer to twirl – video

Serena Williams responds to a commentator’s request that she twirl in her post-match interview. The world number one says she did not want to twirl, but adds that she was not overly concerned by the request, saying she feels life is too short to focus …

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We try to keep out the sexism in covering tennis, but sometimes it’s difficult

We try to keep out the sexism in covering tennis, but sometimes it’s difficult to get everything quite as balanced as we’d like Continue reading…

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To bring girls into sport, get rid of old ideas of ‘femininity’ | Rachel Cooke

Helen Grant, the sports minister, was clumsy when she said some sports were unfeminine, but there is a real issue here

It happened overnight. One minute, I was flying down the wing like a character out of Bunty, my only worry in life that I would lose control of the ball and thus let down our captain Caroline “Caz” Johnson, a girl who seriously demanded to be impressed. The next, I was a Jackie photo-strip, obsessed with frosted lipstick and whether my hair looked like Siobhan’s out of Bananarama.

After this, there was no way back. Reluctant to run or indeed make sudden movements of any kind, I was soon dropped from the hockey team. PE lessons, meanwhile, became a convoluted exercise in avoidance – and not only for me. The slothfulness spread among us girls like a contagion. Cross-country runs began with a truculent jog until we were out of sight of the teachers, at which point we would repair to the nearest newsagent for sweets and fags. Rounders involved making sure your team was out as soon as possible, the better that you might field, and get to sunbathe and gossip in the long grass. Athletics meant hiding in the loos until it was “too late to change, Miss”.

Needless to say, I never returned to sport, for all that I secretly longed to. At university, I did not row or take up cricket. My 20s were notable for the amount of time I spent sleeping. These days, I run twice a week, but I do it only for my waistline: it’s work, and it’s lonely work at that.

When my husband comes home from his weekly football game, I am full of envy. The boyish pleasure it gives him! The camaraderie!

Did Helen Grant, the sports and equalities minister, hit 14 and find that she could think only of No 17 and boys? Did she turn, as I did, into a teenage zombie with a mirror fixation? No. She loved sport and she was good at it, too. At her school in Carlisle, she was captain of both the hockey and the tennis teams; she represented her county at hockey, tennis, athletics and cross-country running. She was an under-16 judo champion for the north of England and southern Scotland, a sport she took up as a way of dealing with bullying (she has spoken in the past of the difficulties of being the only black child on the council estate where she grew up).

So when she says, as she did last week, that she worries some women find sport “unfeminine”, I am prepared – unlike some – to give her the benefit of the doubt. Trying for empathy, she missed her footing and ended up sounding only patronising. Yes, her solution to the question of why so many women disdain sport – 1.8 million fewer women than men take part in it regularly – certainly sounds loathsome to me (she considers cheerleading and rollerskating to be “very feminine” and thinks those who take part in them look, as if they were starring in ads for antiperspirant, “absolutely radiant”).

But this doesn’t mean that she’s wrong about the problem itself. As Rebecca Adlington, the Olympic gold medallist swimmer, has tearfully had cause to point out, 21st-century ideas about what a woman should be – by which what we mostly mean is: how she should look – are impossible for any of us to live up to. What woman would willingly draw attention to her thighs in a world where thighs are scrutinised more closely by some newspapers than government spending?

It’s the idea of “femininity” that needs a rethink, not sport. Better still, we could ditch the word altogether. Meanwhile, we need to stop thinking of certain other words – “ambition”, “success”, even “clever” all come to mind – as dirty when placed in proximity to the name of a woman. What’s wrong with wanting to win, with longing to be good at something? And the lead must come from the top.

Women who have succeeded need to start talking about what they feel in their guts, however painful they may find this, whatever damage it may do to the air of diffidence they’ve spent so many years carefully cultivating.

They need to transmit their excitement, their satisfaction, their sense of liberation and empowerment.

On Woman’s Hour on Friday, Grant sounded oddly hesitant when Jenni Murray asked about her judo, which was weird, given that talking about how strong the sport had once made her feel could have given her an easy way out of the very deep hole in which she was then standing. As she spoke, I wondered: is she like this about her work, too?

Doubtless she is. Interviewing a senior Labour politician recently, I asked about her tenacity, her drive. I made it clear that I was admiring of these things. First she looked blank. Then she simply denied being in possession of either quality. A white lie, but a lie all the same.

I think I hate these kinds of lies even more than I do our present obsession with cellulite and “thigh-gaps”, though in the end they amount to the same thing. This is a matter of strength. Why must women make themselves so flimsy, whether in mind or in body? Grant knows this is wrong; isn’t that why she used to throw other girls around a judo mat? But saying so is still so hard. Perhaps she fears the s-word (strident).

Or perhaps she worries that in doing so, she will inadvertently admit what it has cost her to get this far (playing nice for the benefit of a cabinet and a House of Commons dominated by men).

In a way, I know how she feels. When I think back to the Bananarama days, my hair crisp with Sun-In and Wella gel, it is this flimsiness that pains me most, the sense that I would only be noticed, be found attractive, if I was a blonde smile in stretch jeans. I would not have cared to wear “beautiful socks with sequins” of the kind Grant recently saw at a YMCA rollerblading event.

I don’t think I would have signed up for zumba classes, either. But I can’t deny that in my nylon hockey skirt and clumpy studded boots, my knees covered in mud and my sweaty fringe in my eyes, I felt that I looked too substantial, too challenging. And that feeling stayed with me for years, long after my hockey stick had been laid to rest in the attic.

How I wish I’d known then what I know now, which is that energy, zest and, above all, strength are twice as attractive as smooth thighs and at least three times as enduring.

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Qatar’s accidental vagina stadium is most gratifying | Holly Baxter

The resemblance of the Al-Wakrah World Cup stadium to the female genitalia can only be a good thing – sport and vaginas are not always such public bedfellows

Have you ever heard of the Vagina Building? If you’re not from Chicago, it’s unlikely – but if you are, it’s a precious part of local folklore and a celebrated shape on the skyline. Towering amid the clustered phallic skyscrapers, the Crain Communications Building (its slightly more official name) was completed in 1983 with a prominent vertical slit in the front. Urban legend – for sadly, that is all it is – states that the building was designed by a woman sick to her back teeth of phallic architecture as a big feminist middle finger to the men who had made her live in the shadow of their huge metal penis replacements for decades. The truth is that the vaginal resemblance is accidental, and the architect behind it very much male. But the story persists, and is still told with a sense pride.

Luckily for all of us who enjoy a good story involving construction and genitalia, this week has proven that Chicago’s Vagina Building will soon be rubbing, er, shoulders with another case of “accidental vagina representation”. The design for Qatar’s new Al-Wakrah sports stadium has quickly gone viral: with its shiny, pinkish tinge, its labia-like side appendages and its large opening in the middle, the supposedly innocent building (“based upon the design of a traditional Qatari dhow boat”) was just asking for trouble. And trouble came, in the form of Buzzfeed and thousands of Twitter fans. Surely a well-populated Facebook group is only hours away.

As those who have tried to keep alive the tale of the Chicago tale of the Vagina Building know, there is something quite pleasing about a building shaped like a fanny. Look out on to the London skyline and penises are everywhere: the Gherkin, for instance, might even be visible from your office window right now, thrusting itself into the grey autumn sky among wisps of cloud, a proud red light shining at its very tip. And that’s without even going into the phallic implications of Big Ben. The world even has an ode to the wonky boner, that lopsided erection that is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Penile structures were just as abundant in the ancient world, of course – and while the humble yoni once had its heyday in certain parts of Asia, it still usually took a backseat wherever ornamental penises were involved.

The Qatari stadium’s resemblance to a woman’s private parts may be unintentional, but I for one applaud it. Perhaps the bigwigs behind the design (no doubt all male) should embrace this so-called faux pas and rebrand it as a deliberate nod towards the increasingly liberal Qatari policies concerning women in sport. In a world where sport and vaginas very rarely come together with such prominence (see: every UK female footballer’s salary versus every UK male footballer’s salary), this can only be a good thing. And after all, why not have 45,000 people crammed inside a woman’s reproductive system? It’s not like they haven’t been there before.

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Book reviews roundup: My Autobiography, Sense & Sensibility, Her Brilliant Career

What the critics thought of My Autobiography by Alex Ferguson, Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope and Her Brilliant Career by Rachel Cooke

“Former players have eulogised about his inspirational team-talks, the methods through which he created a team ethos … The curious thing about this book, however, is that there is almost none of this. There are plenty of anecdotes, lots of score-settling, even a chapter on psychology, but little to get your teeth into.” Matthew Syed in the Times regarded Alex Ferguson’s My Autobiography, published amid a media frenzy last week, as “a missed opportunity”. The excellent football writer Simon Kuper called the book, in the FT, a “mixed bag of afterthoughts” and argued that it offers “only scraps of what many readers will crave: a great manager’s secrets of management. This is a memoir, not a business book” (something other readers might cheer). “It is an entertaining read, but less than Ferguson deserves,” he continued. For Robert Hardman in the Daily Mail, the book is “a galloping succession of anecdotes and apercus … At its best, this book is brutally honest about life at the top of our national game. While it has colossal omissions, it offers brilliant insights into one of Britain’s great sporting minds.”

Joanna Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility is, wrote Lucy Denyer in the Sunday Times, the first novel “to appear as part of the Austen Project, six reworkings of Austen’s books … It is a fun read, although Austen fans are likely to find Trollope’s version wanting … Elinor’s sense becomes rather humourless martyrdom, and Marianne’s impassioned sensibility merely irritating self-indulgence … both plot and characters lack plausibility in the modern world.” Holly Kyte in the Daily Telegraph was also underwhelmed: “Her lucid story skips along, even if it does stumble on lazy exposition, romance cliches and cod-toff dialogue … But Trollope doesn’t take enough risks. The trappings of 21st-century life are present, yet the story does not feel authentically modern.” According to Amanda Craig in the Independent, “Joanna Trollope is a good choice. A skilled and witty novelist … she comes from the same kind of upper middle-class world as Austen.” Craig admitted she would rather read a good Austin critic than this novel, “but then I am not the target audience. If the project encourages the middlebrow reader who fears encountering the canon to tackle the real thing, it is benign; if not, then no harm is done.” How gracious!

Melanie Reid in the Times described Rachel Cooke’s Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties as “delightful”. Cooke set out “to discover women from the 50s who, personally and professionally, defied all the stereotypes and led extraordinary, thrilling, mould-breaking modern lives”. And those lives are “compulsively vivid, page-turning and rich in surprises. They do indeed, as Cooke intends, make you want to cheer … There is warmth and lightness of spirit to this book: it is witty, intelligent, kind and poignant.” Joanna Biggs, an editor at the LRB, adopted in the FT her magazine’s house style of not giving blurb-like judgments, but did comment on Cooke’s “peppy, conversational prose”. A rather severe Sheila Rowbotham in the Daily Telegraph believed that “the book is inclined to skim the surface. Cooke does not probe as a biographer, nor contextualise and analyse as a historian”. But Claire Harman in the Evening Standard enjoyed a “bright and breezy social history … It’s the nonconformist spirit of these women that Cooke is really celebrating and her anecdotes are great”.

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Does ‘white privilege’ really explain everything? | Deborah Orr

Theories such as this are useful intellectually, but limited in the extent to which they can be usefully appliedAshley Cole has been punished by the Football Association with a £90,000 fine, after defending fellow footballer John Terry. Cleared of rac…