I am hereby proclaiming my ‘selective feminism’ and have been vaguely doing so for many years now. It has gained me a couple of enemies and many incredulous glances. It seems that women of my generation are not impressed by my decision to embrace some feminist thought, while dismissing others. Reading this title made me realise that I am not alone. Let me start by saying that I do not agree with all aspects of Polly Vernon’s logic, but applaud her brashness in voicing her opinions. She has given me the courage to be more open and honest about my ‘selective feminism’.
Polly is a well-known columnist and features writer for publications including The Times and Grazia. Not afraid to speak her mind, she has been causing headlines in the world of media for many years. She defends her right to remain super-skinny, champions her refusal to have children and has no intention of getting married. This may not not sound like anything new, but she does all this while managing to love fashion, femininity and flirting as much as possible. She is chained to her beauty routine, but secretly loves it, she ogles men as much as Don Draper-types have been doing at women for centuries and she has no qualms questioning her right for equality in the workforce. She has gone through stages of working demeaning, sexist jobs (one involving a cat suit and wonderbra), been a victim of sexual assault and experienced soul-destroying relationships. She admits her mistakes, while explaining the reasoning behind bad decisions and manages to make cocky seem humble at times.
The only issue I had with her essays is the one that seems to irk me about most contemporary feminist writers. They rarely have children, they tend to have good salaried jobs, no husbands and live in urban landscapes. Usually aged between 25 and 40, they forget that some of us women live in extremely busy households, with children needing to be washed/fed/cuddled and husbands who work every hour available to pay for the roof over our heads.(Sometimes also wanting to be fed and cuddled.)
Not all of us can afford to work full-time (childcare being more expensive than the actual take-home salary) and we rarely have cash to hit the beauty salons and hairdressers to remain the sexy divas we were pre-children/responsibilities. Yes, we had the choice to remain childless, but that doesn’t mean we should be dismissed as ‘letting the feminist side down’ by giving up work or letting go of our separate bank accounts. This said, I found myself laughing out loud, on a recent flight to London, whilst reading the opening chapters of this book. Holly shares her fashion tips, while poking fun at herself and her girlfriends. She does this without feeling the need to degrade men (which can become very tiresome) as a whole gender. There are the usual humourous digs about men’s inability to remember to buy gifts or spot the obvious, but it’s all in good faith. She also divulges her secrets on how to be fancied. I found this very amusing and took it in the spirit it was intended. (I can see the smoke coming out of some feminist ears). She sees it a bit like I do. We (women) like to look good. We like to smell good. We like to feel attractive (to either sex). We have shitty days where we are sick of the effort it takes to look good and we get very competitive on our children’s behalves. Our male counterparts tend to get competitive in work and in sport. End of.
The most profound page in the book is where the author sums up rape and how a convicted rapist can get less time in prison than a tax-evader. It is the one, major area where we women cannot seem to gain momentum in modern society. It’s the one that we have no control over (except for not having legal control over our bodies in Ireland, but that’s another story). We want to wear whatever we like without fearing the repercussions, yet we still find our hairs standing up when in precarious situations. Will we ever be 100% safe, whether wearing belly tops or burkas?
A big ‘selective feminist’ thumbs up from me. It’s so nice to read a more relaxed viewpoint and know that fancying men, dressing up and wearing make-up, making the occasional cake and letting a man hold the door open for you, does not mean we are not feminist. We are just feminists who feel free to decide how to interpret the word…