The title of this book was specifically chosen to cause a stir and is, in fact, what first caught my attention. I’ll be honest, my immediate reaction was to roll my eyes, but then I saw Polly Vernon at the ArchWay with Words Festival. The talk covered a lot of interesting issues and Vernon came across as very genuine. So, intrigued, I ended up purchasing a copy.
I wanted to love Hot Feminist and did enjoy reading it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody. Vernon makes some good points and adds some humorous anecdotes, but nothing I haven’t heard before. The writing is conversational, but too heavy on the capital letters and internet speech for my liking.
What I liked
- The idea of FOGIW (Fear Of Getting It Wrong). This book is geared towards women who worry that certain lifestyle choices compromise their right to identify as feminists. Women who shave their legs, accept drinks from men in bars or change their surnames when they get married. Hot Feminist gives you permission to be confused as well as showing that other people get confused too.
- Vernon’s passion for fashion shines through and she explains how she thinks that dressing up (or down – or whichever way you want, for that matter) can empower women. She also gives fashion advice, a lot of which didn’t interest me much. However, as someone who very well understands the feeling, I did appreciate the following…
“DO be mindful of your mood, and how it affects the way you feel about the things you wear. You know how, one day, you walk out in this outfit, and it feels stupendous and perfectly judged and everything you’ve ever wanted from clothes? And then, ten days later, you try it again, and it feels lacklustre and flat and not at all hot? That’s your heart, not your frock. Be gentle with yourself.”
- The conversational tone of the book hits the right spot when Vernon is discussing topics, such as aging, with her friends. It’s fun and feels a bit Sex and the City.
What I wasn’t so keen on
- At times it felt as though Vernon was grasping at topics to pad the book out. There’s a chapter on WAGS that I didn’t quite get and the rambling chapter on learning to say “no” could have been edited down to a paragraph. She’s a talented journalist who writes interesting and witty articles – in my opinion, a shorter, snappier book would have worked much better.
- Vernon’s view on photoshopped images in the media:
“…I already know models and film stars are better looking than me! … Even without Photoshop, they’d be a lot better looking than me. Being better looking than me is their job! And I don’t mind! My self-esteem is not impacted one way or the other…”.
And that’s great for her, but not all girls and women are as confident as Vernon comes across. And it doesn’t address the issue that the constant photoshopping of celebrities indicates to girls and women (as well as boys and men) that beauty means perfection – and an unrealistic perfection at that. I don’t necessarily have very strong opinions about photoshopping, but I think it’s an important issue that shouldn’t be dismissed so easily.
My conclusion is that Hot Feminist is enjoyable, but certainly not a must-read. For people new to feminism, I’d suggest We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for the basics.