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She Would Burn Her Bra, But It’s Prada: Pearl Boshomane Reviews Polly Vernon’s Hot Feminist

By Pearl Boshomane for the Sunday Times

Hot FeministHot Feminist
Polly Vernon (Hodder & Stoughton)

Ladies, are you ready to free yourselves from the heavy, unglamorous shackles of feminism? Do you look forward to the day when you won’t be judged for talking about sexist double standards while wearing bright red lipstick? Are you secretly waiting for permission to wear high heels while plotting the downfall of patriarchy?

After all, we know it’s nearly impossible to be both a feminist and a fashion-loving glamazon. And the same goes for all those heterosexual women who love men and want to be desired by them.

Of course, the statements above are ridiculously misinformed. But that’s not what Polly Vernon, UK Grazia columnist and author of a book called, deep breath, Hot Feminist, thinks. She dedicates nearly 400 pages to reminding us that a feminist has the right to be hot (and shares tips on how, precisely, to achieve maximum feminist sizzle).

As the chapters prance along and Vernon rambles on, it becomes a pretty exhausting – and infuriating – read. What makes the book work initially is Vernon’s voice: she’s witty, straightforward and doesn’t give a damn if she sounds like something of a Judas to “serious feminists”. She’s like Caitlin Moran, but even more self-absorbed.

Very early into the book you already have plenty to roll your eyes at and side-eye, and many reasons to throw it at the wall (if only you didn’t love books and respect paper so much).

Take, for instance, Vernon’s explanation of what type of feminist she is: “The shavey leggy, fashion-fixated, wrinkle-averse, weight-conscious kind of feminist. The kind who likes hot pink and boys; oh, I like boys! I like boys so much, I think of myself as ‘boy-crazy’ … I like messing about with new hairstyles, and fighting for equal pay.”

Now simply reword and play around with the above quotes, multiply several times, and you’ve pretty much read all of Hot Feminist. It’s an oversimplification of what feminism is about, and it reduces a complex concepts to a battle between Hot Feminists and The Feminists Who Hate Them.

Yes, mainstream feminism – especially online – is certainly very judgmental, displays bullying tendencies and often has a problematic “You can’t sit with us” attitude. Mainstream feminism’s biggest issue isn’t the battle over women’s looks, but its failure to acknowledge women of colour and recognise intersectionality.

But Vernon fails to explore any of this because that’s not her struggle, is it? This book is the literary equivalent of being stuck on the couch with someone who talks about themselves all night at a party. Rather pick up a copy of Roxane Gay’s delightful Bad Feminist. You’re welcome.

Follow Pearl Boshomane @pearlulla

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