I like Polly Vernon. I like her Grazia columns, her honesty, her personal style and her witty Twitter presence. But…I did not like this book. It is not because there are no interesting or valid points to be found, there are. I did not like this book because the interesting points are sparse and encased in so much irrelevant padding that, without the highlight function on my Kindle, I would have failed to remember a single one. In recent years, the bar for this particular style of writing, the style that fuses personal experience and hilarity with powerful ideas, has been catapulted into the sky by writers such as Caitlin Moran, Lena Dunham and Roxane Gay, writers that have used their words to delight and inspire, to spark conversation and new perspectives. They have built on the opinions of the writers that came before them, expanding the sphere of ideas. The have also enjoyed deserved and astounding commercial success. Hot Feminist, however, fails to introduce anything new into the fold, leaving me with the impression that by publishing this book, Polly Vernon is simply jumping on the bandwagon and capitalising on the literary zeitgeist by taking conventional wisdom and attempting to repackage it as something revolutionary. I will expand on this point in the following format:
10 things I already knew before reading Hot Feminist:
1. A person can take an interest in fashion, shave their legs, eat a salad, enjoy the company of men and still be considered a feminist.
Err, yes. This is what everyone has been saying for quite some time now. Who, in their right mind, would ever think otherwise? Vernon cites the writing of Germaine Greer and Joanne Finkelstein, both published in 1991, alongside Mary Wollstonecraft, a writer from the 18th century, as the main detractors, illustrating just how dated and pointless this argument has become. We’re all in agreement, Polly. There is nothing to rail against here. Do with your hair follicles as you please, you will not be asked to relinquish your feminist hat.
2. Feminists should not tell other feminists what battles they should fight, or what should or shouldn’t offend them.
Another pearl of painfully obvious wisdom. Feminism is a belief in equal rights, irrespective of gender. It does not mean that everyone who shares this belief must also check their sense of personal autonomy and free will at the door. Also, by issuing this mandate, Vernon is implying that there are feminists who actually do believe that they should be allowed to tell other people how to think and feel, as if feminists are a separate community with a governing hierarchy, awash with infighting and Polly Vernon has had enough. Feminism is not Scientology. I think we all know that.
3. Clothes are, hugely, about belonging. About allying yourself very obviously and blatantly with a group, by acquiring the group’s unofficial uniform.
4. Don’t overspend on knitwear.
5. Avoid lazy thinking and uncritical adoption of received wisdom like it’s herpes. It is herpes.
Promptly disregard the received wisdom on knitwear. It has herpes in it.
6. Talking about your hair is like talking about your dreams: literally no one else cares.
If I dream about my hair will the interest of my audience come full circle?
7. Men really do not like body hair.
A generalisation, but not one that I think anyone is going to be queueing up to quibble. There are larger issues at stake.
8. Don’t lay claim to a fondness for EDM if you are in fact all about Taylor Swift.
Also known as: be yourself and not an amorphous, musical genre fraud.
9. Interviewing improves your listening skills.
Tell us more!
10. Eat avocado, whenever and wherever it’s an option.
I have nothing.
In conclusion, my issue with this book is that it is fighting the battles that have already been won. In order to have something to fight against, Vernon is pitting herself against an outdated, feminist stereotype, implying that if you get a spray tan or watch what you eat a hairy legged harridan might kick you out of the club. This is not longer the case. We all know that. To imply otherwise does more harm to the cause than good. Polly Vernon has a strong voice and a substantial platform; I feel she could have used it better.