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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seven and a half out of ten, 4 Dec 2008
This review is from: Not in My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy (Hardcover)
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing - it's heartening to see that age has failed to dampen Julie Burchill's creativity. I was even more pleasantly surprised to find it was relativly free from the xenophobia, misandry and general gratuitous nastiness and bile that regrettably marred much of her earlier work.

Near-death experience? Found religion? Or perhaps it's just that her marriage has helped her sort out her "issues" with men - who knows? In fact, some of the very people she has a bone to pick with here are feminists - or rather, people who imagine they stand for women's liberation but whose ideas are, in reality, far from liberating. In one chapter, she deconstructs the phenomenon of the whole "it's okay to be fat" movement, which started as a plea for acceptance on behalf of plump and obese women, but ended up becoming just another way of making women feel insecure about their own bodies. I think she has a point. Is a statement like "real women have curves" any less a type of body fascism than saying "real women have olive skin" "or real women have blue eyes"? Or how about "real men have muscles"?

Later, she explores the resurgence of class prejudice in supposedly egalitarian 21st Century Britain. In the past I'd always considered Burchill's obsession with "class" to be a rather silly anachronism, but the examples she gives of the growing tendency to denigrate and ridicule members of the white working class are disturbing and have made me wonder whether she may be right after all. She suggests that declining levels of career satisfaction in "middle-class" jobs may be to blame.

She also takes a pop at environmentalism - not concern for the environment per se, rather the elevation of the aforementioned concerns into a full-blown ideology, and the bizarre contradictions this leads to. For example, Greens promote locally-produced rather than imported food as it means a lesser carbon footprint, but their liberal principles won't allow them to oppose mass immigration, which is none other than the "importation" of labour.

So what's not to like? Why only four stars? Well, mostly the fact that near on 50% of the text is penned not by Julie Burchill but by Chas Newkey-Burden, who, although he makes some valid points, tends to indulge in lazy and poorly-evidenced generalisations a bit too much for my liking and doesn't show the same inventive use of language as his co-author. The chapter on "international affairs" is not one of the high points, in my opinion - a bit too much preaching to the converted. Some of his social observations are mildly intriguing, however, and make you realise how tricky it is to pick your way through the minefield of political correctness in the modern world. He remarks on the selective deafness of white rap fans to the misogynistic and reactionary messages that permeate hip-hop. Another paradox he notes is that his supposedly pro-gay friends can be quite judgemental about his sexual lifestyle, whereas people he knows who are superficially homophobic actually tend to be more accepting. I don't have many gay friends, but in future I'll certainly be observing my own reactions carefully.

All in all, it's a good stimulating read, and deserves to reach a much wider audience than hardcore Burchill devotees.
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