Interview: Hadley Freeman

The Guardian’s HADLEY FREEMAN tells us why America can’t let Romney win, why she rejected her first Guardian job offer, and how to dress for a supervision when you’ve written an abysmal essay.

barack obama fancy dress fashion Hadley Freeman interview journalist katie forster Mitt Romney natalie gil paywall Sandy The Guardian US Elections

After moving to London from New York as a child, Hadley Freeman attended boarding school in Cambridge and proceeded to The Other Place to read English, where she edited the student newspaper Cherwell.

She is able to seamlessly shift from writing about John Kerry to Kerry Katona, and her articles – from sharp commentary to her much admired Ask Hadley fashion column – are routinely the most-read on The Guardian’s website.

Hadley’s dual Anglo-American citizenship is manifest when we meet. A very British mix of frankness and humility charmingly complements her archetypally American self-assuredness – which has brought her to the Union to debate the US election. The Tab spoke to her about politics, print journalism and Primark.

Will Superstorm Sandy affect the election’s outcome and how has Obama handled it?

It might motivate apathetic and disillusioned Obama supporters to vote, because Romney was against the federal helping of states and very sceptical of climate change. Obama’s been there with those affected, not campaigning, whilst Romney is off in swing states thousands of miles away.

Would you have conducted Obama’s campaign any differently?

I’d have motivated him before the first debate because he really couldn’t be bothered with the politicking and fighting. Romney gained momentum, but Obama got it back.

If Romney wins the election, will you renounce your dual citizenship?

Oh god… knock on wood, but I really don’t think he’ll win. The idea of him and Paul Ryan in charge of America is so horrendous I can’t even bear to think about it.

How would you compare the political cultures of the UK and the USA? 

They’re like the weather: London’s isn’t extreme, whereas New York’s goes from hot to freezing. So in America the right wing is much farther to the right. I thought you’d never get away with that here, but they’re trying.

Nadine Dorries and Jeremy Hunt are using abortion and women’s bodies as political footballs. Hunt is such a moron – he ‘has a feeling’ that the abortion limit should be 12 weeks. I think he only said that so Cameron wouldn’t look as bad bringing it down to 20 weeks.

Do you think part of the problem is that there just aren’t enough women in politics?

It is better for women to be talking about their own issues, but they don’t automatically bring empathy. Sarah Palin played a big part in moving the Republicans rightwards, based on a fake morality.

If you were president for the day, what would you do?

I’d put in more stringent climate change policies; shore up Roe v. Wade; shut down a lot of the cable news networks because they’re so partisan and hysterical. And I’d ensure the survival of newspapers.

How much longer do you think The Guardian’s print edition has left?

A lot of daily papers probably won’t have print runs during the week within the next few years. I don’t see how we can survive if we don’t put up a pay wall, but that’s against The Guardian’s whole theory.

You’re part of a current wave of funny feminist journalists, along with the likes of Caitlin Moran. Do you think journalism has reached a tipping point for women, enabling them to be more outspoken?

Maybe. We all grew up in an age when Feminism had progressed to a certain point, so it never occurred to any of us that we shouldn’t be mouthy.

What was it like being an American at Oxford? And why did you decide to work for a British newspaper?

I moved to London at eleven so it wasn’t too weird. But on my first day some idiot boy asked me if I was related to Morgan Freeman! In my final year, The Guardian offered me a job but I didn’t want to be a journalist so I swanned off to Florence and pretended to be Lucy Honeychurch for a year. Then I planned to work at American Vogue, but the pay was too low to survive on. So I came back and said to The Guardian, “Hiiii…”

Cambridge student fashion consists predominantly of oversized knitwear and thick-rimmed glasses. Can geek chic work in Cambridge, or is it just geek?

Sure it can! That’s hipster with warmth – practical hipster! It’s better than the fashion at Oxford in the nineties. Everyone was wearing floral dresses and Doc Martens, or Carhartt combats – there was a lot of Carhartt – and everything was baggy.

Dressing for the library – dress up or down?

Down, otherwise you’ll spend the whole time hoping people are noticing you. If you’re making the effort to go to the library, just do the work.

One for the guys: you’ve got a job interview, worst-case scenario, do you wear your dad’s suit or go to Primark?

I didn’t know Primark made stuff for men! It depends on your dad – my dad’s suits would be a disaster. If Jarvis Cocker’s your dad then you’re fine.

You’ve written an abysmal essay – what do you wear at the supervision to distract from it?

I’d look as awful as possible so the tutor would feel bad for me. Like I’d had a terrible nervous breakdown.

What’s your favourite fancy dress outfit?

You know that story in the news about the old woman who painted over the church fresco? This Halloween, I was the fresco Jesus. But when in doubt go Ghostbuster.

Tell us about your second book, ‘Be Awesome: Modern life for modern ladies’, due in April 2013. 

It’s a guide to life directed at myself at 23. How to be an un-annoying vegetarian; how to talk about eating disorders without mentioning Kate Moss; how to be a twenty-first century feminist; how to cheer up your single friend without lying or patronising them. All the important stuff!