Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Do Hats! Invest in Leather and Excellent Lipstick! HOT FEMINIST: MODERN FEMINISM WITH STYLE, WITHOUT JUDGMENT by Polly Vernon (Hodder, PS14.99)

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Do Hats! Invest in Leather and Excellent Lipstick! HOT FEMINIST: MODERN FEMINISM WITH STYLE, WITHOUT JUDGMENT by Polly Vernon (Hodder, PS14.99)

Article excerpt

Byline: ROSAMUND URWIN

POLLY Vernon is a self-proclaimed "big, fat looks-obsessed feminist". Well, except for the "fat" part. A hasty footnote in Hot Feminist points out she's actually "skinny" -- she wouldn't want anyone thinking she's a chubster.

In this manifesto-cum-memoir, Vernon's primary argument is that there's a clash -- in the eyes of other women's libbers -- between vanity and feminism. She finds this alienating. So much so that she has felt compelled to launch a new wing of the movement -- hot feminism: "Hot like hot yoga, and hot topic, and also 'hot' as in 'sexy hot', obviously. Hot as in 'potato' and 'dangerous'." If you're a hot feminist, sexiness is not an "impediment to [your] feminist politics -- but... its rocket fuel".

This has not been universally wellreceived. In fact, the book was given such a savaging by Helen Lewis in the Guardian that finding further fault with it feels like kicking a dead body: satisfying possibly, if you like that sort of thing, but unlikely to have much effect.

It was always going to be hatcheted, though. Vernon has presented the kind of caricatured view of feminists -- stiletto-hating, supercilious fun police -- that we expect from misogynists. And she's written the book -- oddly for someone who writes great interviews in the Times -- in faux teen speak, referring to celebrities as "famouses", and liberally scattering exclamation marks.

Vernon is right on one count, though. Feminists (me included) can be too judgmental about other women's choices. But she overlooks the fact that the society feminism is challenging is even more judgmental -- hectoring women to lose weight and remove body hair because it's disgusting (read: natural). It's a small victory if a teenager doesn't feel she has to have a Brazilian to be beautiful.

And for a book with the stated aim of stripping judgment out of feminism, Hot Feminist is pretty judgmental. …

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