Journalist Polly Vernon is the author of the book Hot Feminist. And as you are about to find out in this extract, she doesn’t really care if you don’t approve of her.
A barista apologised to me for using the word ‘chick’.
‘It’s a contextual thing!’ he said, hastily, frothing my milk.
‘Huh?’ I said, for I had been too busy surreptitiously eying up the lay of his abs beneath his T-shirt to focus on his chat. He is young and shaggy-hairedly cute, and he wants to be a video director one day, unless that’s the other one? It might be the other one. This one might be the poet. Well. He is definitely one of my top ten baristas, a mental chart I carry around and reconfigure regularly in my head, which rates all my favourite coffee boys in accordance with their physical charm, their chat, and their ability to make my Flat White just perfectly, bonus points if I don’t even have to remind them what my order is.
I am a terminal letch. I consider fancying people to be a feminist act.
‘She calls herself “chick” – but I think with irony – so I was thinking of that when I said it, but then actually, as a feminist, I do really hate the word myself, so . . .’
‘Do you?’ I said. ‘I couldn’t give a monkeys. Call me chick any time.’ Then I took my coffee from his hand, winked at him and playfully smacked his arse.
No. I didn’t, really. In my head, I did. But I did tell him ‘chick’ doesn’t bother me. Because it doesn’t. As a feminist, I reserve the right to not be offended by the word ‘chick’. Or by almost everything, mainly because being offended requires vast quantities of energy, and I have little left over, what with all the lusting after baristas I do.
Here’s some other things which don’t offend me, not one jot. Being called ‘love’ by some bloke, or ‘darling’, or ‘lady’, or ‘girl’. (Although I do think that last one is pushing it on a trade description level, increasingly.) I don’t love being called ‘madam’, but that’s a question of vanity muddled up with an instinctive repulsion at the unique combination of snottiness and toadying the word suggests; it’s got nowt to do with gender politics.
I don’t like being referred to as ‘a female’ admittedly, don’t entirely enjoy being reduced to my biological function. But I’m fine with ‘babe’. ‘OK, but say a male boss calls you “babe”,’ says Original E. ‘Surely that’s not OK? Surely that suggests an inappropriate level of intimacy, or a tendency to patronise, or at the very least that he doesn’t take you entirely seriously?’ ‘I don’t have any male bosses,’ I say, which is true. I’ve tried them in the past; they didn’t suit me, I got shot. All my bosses are women.