I’m going to go ahead and start by saying I haven’t read Polly Vernon’s newly released book, Hot Feminist. I read an extract where she described the nature of the title as “Hot like: hot yoga, and hot topic, and also ‘hot’ as in ‘sexy hot’, obviously… Hot as in ‘potato’ and ‘dangerous’ and ‘relevant’ and ‘ouch’. Hot feminist!” and thought that was quite enough.
‘Hot Feminism’ appears to be based on the premise that you can wear make-up, shave your legs, enjoy sex and still care deeply about the rights of women and girls. Fantastic stuff. But this is just feminism.
One of Vernon’s most pressing points is that her feminism is about choice and in this case, her choice to be fashionable and image conscious. But by distancing herself from the ‘regular’, presumably ugly feminists, it inadvertently positions ‘hot feminism’ as above the women who do choose not to adhere to the same standards of beauty – belittling and scorning their choices. It’s all just a bit “I’m not like the other girls” for my tastes. Indeed, Vernon has a history of positioning herself against other women, previously imploring them to ‘admit you hate me because I’m thin.’
Sure, there are people who think wearing lipstick detracts from women’s empowerment, but these people tend to be misogynists who can’t conceive of women as multi-faceted human beings. It doesn’t come from feminism.
Probably most importantly, as Helen Lewis noted, is that money is at the heart of what it is to be a ‘Hot Feminist.’ She says that “when Vernon counsels her readers to eye up men in the same way that men ogle women, to sleep around without worrying about the need to settle down, or to buy as many lipsticks and razors as they want, she is advising the small section of developed-world women who have disposable incomes and no caring responsibilities to enjoy their historically unusual economic power.”
Vernon claims to want to remove the ‘judginess’ from feminism, the ‘fear of getting it wrong’; but fabricating an ‘anti-hot agenda’ where it doesn’t really exist is a contradictory and hypocritical way to do it.