Book Review // Hot Feminist

Ooh, this book has ruffled a few feathers, hasn't it? If I'm honest, that's the precise reason I bought Hot Feminist- to see what all the fuss was about. You see, I'm not a very good feminist. My understanding of feminism is that men and women should be treated as equals, which is supposedly what feminism is all about. I can get behind that. But then it all becomes about Not All Men being bad, and 25% of women being made CEOs, and topless models being in cahoots with The Patriarchy, and then it loses me. And then I get confused. And wondering if I'm actually a feminist and, if I'm not, am I letting all of womanhood down? And then enters Polly Vernon, like a feminist guardian angel, sweeping me up in her arms and tucking me under her extended-metaphorical wing...

I knew I was going to like this book as soon as I read the first page. Yes, I was apprehensive. Of course I was- did you see the Twitterstorm about it? Within the first chapter I was hailing Polly as a feminist Jesus... although I should probably stop with the religious metaphors.

Hot Feminist is, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, a big ol' waffle of all things feminism-y. That's not a bad thing. Polly covers a myriad of topics, all based around the essential question "If I XYZ, can I still be a feminist?" Basically, every question my brain has ever asked about feminism (and been way too scared to ask). Whether that's looking good for men (or other women), motherhood (and the lack of), or being The Boss, Hot Feminist tackles it in a characteristically (I imagine, having never actually read any of Polly Vernon's writing before) forthright way. 

Ok, here's the deal. I totally understand why a lot of people hated this book. And why even more people hated it without even reading it. It has a deliberately provocative title (the rationale behind it is discussed but really, we all know it's to wind people up), it's unapologetically confronational and, y'know, it's about feminism which is, unexplainably, a direct line to getting people's backs up. But I'm not ashamed to say I loved it.
For the first time in my ever-increasing life, I finally felt like I got feminism. It might not be everybody else's style of feminism, but it's mine and, more importantly, somebody else agrees. Somebody older, cooler, more successful and just all-around badass (again, I imagine!) has the same ideas as me and is unafraid to put them down in print. 

I absolutely devoured the first half of the book and, going back to the religious thing briefly, it was like a divine epiphany. I wanted to wave my hands in the air and getta Amen! Finally! Somebody else who is not offended by boobs in the paper, by letting men do things that require physical strength, by women who want men to fancy her. Even better, she goes into detail about the Fear Of Getting It Wrong- Women who are afraid to speak up about feminism because they think their ideas are totally wrong. That's me! She is talking about me! I'm not alone! PRAISE JESUS!

...and then I hit the 150th or so page, and things started to slide. It was all becoming samey. Nothing was hitting me right there anymore. I'd go so far to say that Polly had run out of things to say. Rather than cutting it there with an inspiring, empowering, concise little number, we ended up with ramblings about how to refer to the man in your life, or when it's ok to have children, and the apparent rivalry between mums and childless freelancers and it just ends up running out of steam. There is, however, slight redemption in the final chapter, which includes a lengthy rant on why it is not ok to teach young girls to JUST SAY YES, and why we should be teaching them to say no instead.
It's a huge shame as I found the book hugely inspiring and empowering at first. Polly's writing is sharp, punchy, conversational and like everything Company Magazine wanted to be. I was on the verge of announcing this as the Best Book I Had Ever Read. If only she'd left it there.

*I should warn anybody thinking of reading this that there is discussion of sexual assault that could be triggering for some. 

I so, so desperately want to rate this highly. Like, high highly. However, the lack of momentum was too much for me and for that I give this- for me- eight out of ten. I'm sure many, many other people would suggest I knock, ooooh, about nine marks off that and will hate me forever now but I can live with that. Because I'm a badass now!

If you like your feminism a little more socially acceptable, may I recommend Caitlin Moran's How To Be A Woman? I read this weeks before Hot Feminist but the latter got me so excited, I had to write my review straight away. Look out for my review of Moran's very similar, but less offensive, book next Friday!

Buy Hot Feminist here. Seriously. Do it. Unless you think it will anger you, because I really don't want you hating me forever. I'm not really a badass. 

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  1. I've seen this book in Waterstones a few times and flicked through/read the back several times...and I've always just walked away without buying it. I don't really know why, maybe because - as you said - I was worried that it might be a bit repetitive or rambly rather than to-the-point like Caitlin Moran's How To Be A Woman which I loved. I may download it for my Kindle maybe, as I'd be interested in seeing what the book is like but not sure if I want the physical copy (even though real books are SO much more satisfying!)

    Really looking forward to your Caitlin Moran review - I saw her speak earlier this year and I'm full-on obsessed with her!

    Hannah Simpson Writes

  2. This is a great review, Becky. I'm glad that you covered both the positives and negatives. I'm always wary of people who write books like this and put it out like it's the bible to a topic. Might have to check it out for myself...

    Erin | Being Erin

  3. Ooh interesting read! It's a shame you felt the book ran out of steam. I consider myself to be a feminist but then it all gets confusing and murky when people start yelling about what is and isn't the right feministy way to behave and I think it detracts from us actually making any headway in real life. Loved Caitlin Moran's book though I think it was much less provocative.

  4. I never heard of this book until now but I do want to get my hands on it! I'm like you, I believe in equality and all that jazz but when people go more in depth with feminism - I can't tell if I believe in it or not! It makes my head spin and I tend to ignore it, which is probably not the right thing to do. I'll have to look for this book asap, it'll be a great summer read!

    Priyanka |

  5. Nope. I am not forgiving you for this.
    Just you wait.

    Dannie (not even going to give you a x, because)


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