A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I’d gone to see Polly Vernon give a book talk with a friend. (Click here to read.) Prior to that, I was working on interviewing the lady herself-about her new book, Hot Feminist-and now you can see her very charming, witty answers:
Hello Polly, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Growing up, did you want to be a writer/journalist?
No! I don’t think I knew it was possible. I grew up in a really quiet bit of Devon, no one I knew even left the place I grew up in, never mind had careers in media. I didn’t know what ‘media’ meant, seriously! I always, always wrote though, from the moment I could hold a pen. I wrote a book of poems when I was five. I’ve still got it. The spelling isn’t great, but they are (unintentionally) very funny.
Just write! As much as you can, whenever you can. It’s never wasted and it’s always a joy.
How did Hot Feminist come to fore?
I spent a fair few years feeling that the way I thought about and approached feminism wasn’t being represented well anywhere. I am a feminist who is obsessed by glamour and fashion, who wants to feel and be considered sexy… I wasn’t seeing that properly articulated anywhere. I’m also a feminist who wants a version feminism which isn’t defined so much by anger and fear, and what’s wrong and bad, but rather by joy and optimism and actively doing things better. Again, I wasn’t really seeing this anywhere. So I thought I better write it myself.
You write about your mission to achieve complete hotness-but do you think that women can have style as well as substance?
Oh absolutely! This is one of my central messages. I think there’s a weird and broad assumption that we can’t, that it’s one or the other. I call it ‘news or shoes journalism’, because if you work for the papers, which I do, there is a tendency to label you one way or the other, a woman who writes about shoes, or a woman who writes about news. Of course you can be both! I am, and most of the women I know are. It’s such a sexist and reductive idea that you can’t be both.
Are the writings of Greer, Beauvoir and Plath still relevant today?
Of course. They’re the academic and cultural foundations of feminism, they’ve defined everything that came after them. I never set out to replace anything, just to add a voice and experience to the discourse. I think the more women are encouraged to engage with feminism in their specific way, the better, and I wanted to demonstrate how that might be done. But it’d be impossibly arrogant and ignorant to imagine those incredible feminist minds were no longer relevant.
I’m also a feminist who wants a version feminism which isn’t defined so much by anger and fear, and what’s wrong and bad, but rather by joy and optimism and actively doing things better.
What is your response to meminism?
I don’t really know what it means… It seems like a punchy word for not much really. I think men have a really tough time in so many respects, and I feel like crap for them. Their record on mental health and suicide is heartbreakingly bad. I’m not at war with men, I want us to find an easier coexistence, something which suits us both better. I don’t think supremacy is easy for them. I think equality would suit them much better. I truly believe a more equal society would be as good for men as it would women, and that feminism could do a lot of men a lot of favours.
What essentials can we find in your handbag for a day at the office?
Smints, Nars lipstick (Sex Machine or Marlene, depending on my mood), neurofen, a tangle tamer and a kindle for quiet moments.
Do you have any advice for aspiring journalists and authors?
Just write! As much as you can, whenever you can. It’s never wasted and it’s always a joy. I’d also recommend doing at least as much private writing as you do blogging. I worry that focusing too much on what creates an online response might impact anyone trying to develop a voice. Find your own style and find your own subjects, passions, issues, before you start looking for an audience.