Woolf, Football and Fashion

Guest post by Claire Nicholson, who teaches on our Virginia Woolf summer course.

As a regular reader of The Guardian I make a point of reading the Weekend magazine first on a Saturday morning, especially Hadley Freeman’s column. On 30th April she wrote about her experience as a fashion journalist and how this particular part of her C.V. was dismissed as trivial compared to the work of sports writers. As she says,

All the justified criticisms people make of the fashion industry – the high prices, the unrealistic body shapes – could equally be levelled at sport. But I have yet to hear anyone, ever, making fun of (predominantly male) sports writers the way they do about (predominantly female) fashion writers. There is absolutely no argument to be made that sport is more cerebral than fashion – indeed, one could argue that kicking a ball around is a great deal less cerebral – but an interest in sport is seen as no bar to intelligent thought, while an interest in fashion is taken as proof of a girly-twirly cotton brain.

It struck me that Virginia Woolf used exactly the same comparison of football and fashion in A Room of One’s Own, written almost nine decades ago. How sad to think we have made so little progress in heeding Woolf’s words!

Here is my letter which was published in The Guardian Weekend magazine the following week:

Hadley Freeman’s plea for fashion to be taken seriously echoes Virginia Woolf’s 1929 polemic, A Room of One’s Own: “It is the masculine values that prevail ... ,football and sport are ‘important’; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes ‘trivial’.” Plus ça change.

 Claire Nicholson