Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon

Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon. Advance Reader Copy (ARC), from Hodder & Stoughton, via Bookbridgr included.

Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon

Hot Feminist written by journalist Polly Vernon is part memoir, part fashion guide and part wannabe guide to modern feminism. Polly Vernon’s main premise is that it’s possible to be a feminist and be interested in how you look. It is possible to be feminine and a feminist. But we knew that already, right?

Hot feminism is a version of feminism, in which women believe it is possible to be a feminist while also displaying femininity, being sex positive and doing things that previous generations of feminism were seen not to be in favour of. Sound familiar? That’s because there is little new here, hot feminism is basically lipstick feminism or stiletto feminism by another name. A name Polly Vernon feels more comfortable with.

From the outset Vernon makes clear that she has no time for the smaller issues that modern day feminism spends its time on. She has no time for call-out culture and online rage just for the sake of it. To her feminism is about the gender pay gap, the number of girls and women being raped and sexually assaulted and the growing attempts by the anti-choice movement to limit the right to legal and safe abortion. Everything else is just noise.

I agree that these are three vital issues for feminism, but I’m not sure everything else can be dismissed. Rape culture is real, prevalent and needs to be tackled. Rape culture is the reason why society spends so much time blaming women and excusing men for violence.

Unlike Vernon,  I can’t switch off the knock on effects of everyday things (jokes, TV shows etc.) that feed into a notion that violence against women is normal. Can it be infuriating? Yes. Can it be draining? Yes. But that doesn’t mean we should stop striving to do better.

I also don’t think every act of calling someone out for problematic things they’ve said or done is outrage for the sake of it. We learn by listening to others. We learn by hearing other people’s experiences. Even women have different experiences based on their race, sexuality and/or socio-economic background.

Is social media always the most conducive environment for discussions about intersectionality? No. Again, that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to do better though.

Hot Feminist reminded me of reading Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies by Hadley Freeman, they’re both style over substance. There were moments in them that made laugh and moments that had me nodding my head in agreement, but they barely scratch the surface of what feminism is and there is hardly an intersection in sight.

While I agree with Polly Vernon’s underlying theme that we should all be a little bit kinder to ourselves and to others, overall Hot Feminist left me feeling a bit flat and frustrated. It is a very singular view of feminism, a view that I can’t wholly subscribe to.

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