Phew! This book took me two months to read and never have I had such a rollercoaster of a time! Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon* is controversial to the point of antagonistic and when it first was released it was- explosive. So I took a step back and read it when everything and everyone calmed down. I can definitely see why the uproar happened though.
Hot (adj.) : (Of a person) Attractive ‘a hot chick’
Fem-i-n-ist (n.) : A person who supports feminism, the movement that advocates equal rights for women
Polly Vernon, Grazia columnist, Times feature writer (hair-flicker, Brazilian-waxer, jeans obsessive, outrageous flirt) presents a brave new perspective on feminism.
Drawing on her dedicated, life-long pursuit of hotness – having dismissed many of the rules on ‘good’ feminism at some point in the early 90s – she’ll teach you everything you ever wanted to know about being a feminist when you care about how you look. When part of your brain is constantly monologuing on fashion. When you check out your own reflection in every reflective surface. When your depilation practices are pretty much out of control. When you just really want to be fancied.
Hot Feminist is based on a principle of non-judgment (because there’s enough already), honesty about how often we mess this up, and empowerment through looks. Part memoir, part road map, it’s a rolling, raucous rejection of all those things we’re convinced we shouldn’t think / wear/ feel/ say/ buy/ want – and a celebration of all the things we can.
It is modern feminism, with style, without judgment.
I loved the chapters where Vernon got into the nitty gritty of the wage gap and rape statistics. But it takes up a very small portion of the book. She talks about focusing on the ‘big stuff’ and I was nodding my head along with some of her ideas, but that message is slightly diluted when it gets to the chapters about fashion. I can appreciate that the girls in Pretty Little Liars are amazingly dressed but it doesn’t apply to my life. I spend 98% of my time in some sort of gym wear. So when I pick up a book about Feminism, I’m not expecting to be told to buy 4 pairs of jeans and to “smoke a little weed” instead of shopping while sad.
There were definitely things I disagreed with, sure, the internet can be a bit witch-hunty, but I’d rather that then letting people get away with saying awful things just because nobody is calling them out anymore. And as for her opinion of selfies- anything that makes women embrace how attractive they are and feel confident enough to put it out there is a plus in my book. But the core of her message; you can dress, act, be how you want in a patriarchal world that doesn’t always fit the ‘classic feminist’ way, is spot on.
However, it’s also full of all those little nit-picky things that are less disagreeable and just wrong for me in non-fiction; Polly Vernon also makes the assumption that her readers are straight women (this is vaguely addressed in a footnote almost 300 pages in), she uses the term ‘OCD’ as a way of describing her dedication to hair removal, and that any woman involved in porn is ‘not entirely in control’ (something I feel people who choose to do it for a living would disagree with).
When she started talking about exercise I found myself wishing that, like the blurb promoted, Vernon could not judge things that she didn’t agree with. I wanted her to embrace the fact that she loves walking without putting down the alternatives. I love my trainer, she’s a gift from god, and I can’t walk for miles everyday. I wanted more positivity.
Polly Vernon has some really important things to say, and I’d love to have a sit down natter with her one day because I think we’d get on. But its a very waffle-y book and around half way through I started wondering where the editor was. I could see whole chunks- whole chapters near the end that could have been scored through with a red pen.
I was accidentally sent two copies so what better to do with the spare after a review like this, than to give you an opportunity to make your own decision on it! The giveaway is UK only (sorry!) and will run for a week.
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Have you read Hot Feminist? What did you think?
*I was sent this book to review. I am not obligated to talk about it and it hasn’t changed my opinion.