Not In My Name: hypocrites of the modern age
What’s the secret to looking cool? Bitterness, cynicism, and a camera-ready scowl, says Julie Burchill, the first of three writers to remember the days when they were so hip it hurts.
From self-obsessed celebrities to cynical beauty companies, she’s got an opinion on everything – and none of them flattering. In a waspish new book, Julie Burchill lets rip at modern life.”
Beauty manufacturers who ruthlessly target women’s self-esteem. Ugly older men who think they’re God’s gift to women. And celebrities who say they long for privacy – but are happy to sell their stories to gossip magazines. In a witty and coruscating new book, Not In My Name, Britain’s grande dame of the poison pen, Julie Burchill, lets rip at what she regards as the biggest hypocrites of the modern age. Take cover!
THE BIG FAT BEAUTY CON
“A couple of years ago, Dove, the touchy-feely toiletries brand owned by the huge international Unilever corporation, launched its Campaign For Real Beauty. Jaded old cynic that I am, I couldn’t help thinking of that old line by the French diplomat and writer Jean Giraudoux: ‘The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.’ Dove has been peddling soap, deodorant, shampoo and ‘body-firming’ cream over here since the 1990s; more than seven million women a week use Dove products in the UK alone. As toiletries go, they’re fine; I used to use them occasionally myself. But toiletries is all they are.”
“Where does one start to describe what is so creepy about this ‘campaign’? Let alone the related Dove Self-Esteem Fund, which aims to challenge conventional ideals of beauty and encourage every female to feel ‘positive’ about her appearance: ‘It’s time to shake up self-esteem. And to give body image a boost,’ they say. ‘Every day we are bombarded by hundreds – if not thousands – of airbrushed images of ‘beauty’… images with the power to affect how we see our bodies and ourselves.”
“‘But who defines these beauty standards? How can we turn the tide of such beauty pressures and encourage young girls and women everywhere to embrace a more positive body image? We believe it’s time to find the answers… with your help.’”
“I’ll do my best. Well, for a start, would it be churlish to point out that a good number of these ‘airbrushed images of beauty’ with which we are ‘bombarded’ every day come at us in commercials for such brands as Impulse fragrances, Lux soap, Pond’s cold cream, Sunsilk shampoo and Sure deodorant? All of which just happen to be owned by the Fat Girl’s Friend – Unilever! ”
“Not that I personally ever feel ‘bombarded’ by images of attractive people; on the contrary, I enjoy them without feeling threatened by them, probably because I value myself for other attributes apart from my looks. Far more offensive to me – though, come to think of it, even these leave me sneering rather than shrieking – are the numerous daily images which suggest that women can achieve multiple orgasms simply by using the correct household cleansing agents – thank you Persil, Surf, Cif and Comfort, all courtesy of Unilever.”
“Another answer I’d be happy to help Dove with is that there actually seems to be something about their specific products that implies (far more than the ‘airbrushed beauty’ brigade) that there is something inherently wrong with women’s bodies.”
“For instance, their insistence on making their anti-perspirant one-quarter moisturising lotion – not only are women being told that they smell, but that their armpits resemble rough old bits of sandpaper! How the heck this insinuation helps to improve female self-esteem I have no idea – maybe Dove could help me find the answer.”
‘HOW DARE YOU INVADE MY PRIVACY!’
“It shouldn’t come as any surprise that those who choose acting as a profession are phonies who live in a fantasy world. What is surprising is how many of them are blissfully unaware of it. It has a modern slant, too. The current-day Hollywood is populated by bigger hypocrites than ever.”
“Legends from Ava Gardner to Richard Burton would routinely get drunk with the journalists sent to write about them, and in the process casually pour contempt on their talent, the industry and, most deliciously of all, the whole myth of acting as an art.”
“Richard Burton once claimed that all actors were gay and went into showbiz only so they could wear make-up every day without being beaten up.”
“How impossible it is to imagine the ‘real’ film stars of today doing this. When Oscar Wilde said that being natural is surely the biggest pose of all, he must have foreseen the current crop of big-screen luvvies, those po-faced, ‘fiercely private’ paparazzi-haters who have chosen to expose themselves on screens the size of churches – often naked – in return for vast amounts of money from paying strangers.”
“And then act outraged when they find people looking. ”
“These attacks of the vapours invariably come across as about as justifiable as a stripper getting upset when people expect her to take her clothes off, and you can almost see why star-stalkers sincerely believe that they’re married to their favourite flesh-flashing star.”
“While ceaselessly lying to themselves and the public about how the process of acting – i.e. pretending to be someone else, by reciting words yet another someone else has written – is all about ‘honesty’, modern actors never dare to face the one stark, simple truth about the way they have chosen to make a living.”
“Which is that they have never grown out of the ‘look at me’ stage of childhood; they want attention, pure and simple, more than they want anything else in life, including regular one-to-one human relationships, and this desire embarrasses them so much in their rare lucid moments that they overcompensate by endlessly and ludicrously insisting on how ‘private’ they essentially are. ”
“In fact, the pain actors willingly submit to, the bravery they display, the sacrifices they make – just for us – makes the civilian mind boggle with sheer molten awe. Why, they make nurses, firemen and volunteers in leper colonies – all of them ever, all rolled together – look like the Hilton sisters on a spring-break spree. So, why won’t we just stop looking at them?”
“Of course, when we do, and they cease to be box office, they move on to reality shows, finding yet another way of getting themselves in our faces. The sad, strange fact is that it is stars who stalk civilians far more often than civilians stalk stars. So who’s the weirdo here?”
“Have you noticed that Green is the first socio-political movement in which every single leader and spokesperson is filthy rich – they make the Conservative Party look like the Jarrow marchers. Even the suffragettes – a pretty posh posse – could count working-class women among their star turns. But look at the Greens – not one chav champion in the whole stuck-up setup that is chock-full of Etonians.
The new generation of Private Frazers – ‘Doomed, doomed, we’re all doomed!’ – tend to be from hugely wealthy families, too, though their ancestors tend to be barons. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to work out that what these silver-spoon scions may be experiencing is a good old-fashioned bout of class guilt to make them turn on the cut-throat carpet bagging that made their families’ fortunes.”
“But whereas getting a dose of socialism would have led them to turn – quite rightly – on their own kind, the rich and powerful, the warped logic of ecology encourages them to turn on the poor and powerless. Hence the constant harping about how cheap food, cheap clothes and cheap travel are the enemies of the planet – so, presumably, prices should go up and the well-off won’t notice a difference while the poor should starve, go barefoot and stay at home. Just like in the good old days, eh, chaps?”
A PLAGUE ON THOSE OLD FEMINISTS
“Oh, the sheer relief of growing old. To lose one’s pesky good looks, to cease being chained to one’s sex drive – and to concentrate instead on the real stuff of life: gout, grey hair, is it OK to ride one’s mobility scooter on the pavement – that sort of thing. Oh, the joy of finally leaving childish things behind!”
“And becoming an old feminist, in particular, is surely something to look forward to. Now we’ll really get to prove that character matters more than beauty, that the menopause is not synonymous with mental collapse.”
“And, most of all, we’ll be able to set a grand example to young women – our little sisters who, at the height of their beauty and ability, are often insecure and unsure of themselves, as we once were before we lost our looks and gained our selves. ”
“We can mentor them, even, thus enhancing our own credibility and reputation, do good by doing good, and into the bargain seriously stick two fingers up to the multitudes of meat-brained men, who love to stick a smirking spoke in the feminist ideal by pointing out that women have been too busy cat-fighting among themselves since the dawn of time ever to pose any threat to patriarchy. ”
“I would maintain that most older feminists, like myself, totally live up to this. But there are a few very visible, very noisy ones who do their very best to let the side down time and time again. ”
“It’s a lovely thing that in recent years this country’s senior citizens have begun to behave irresponsibly, spending the money that their grasping, parasitical middle-aged offspring imagined was coming straight to them to spend on fuchsia leisure wear and fjord cruises. ”
“It’s a cool thing to be enjoying your second childhood at an age when the people whose bottoms you once wiped are planning to put you out to grass in a granny flat. ”
“But does such delightful regression really have to include the worst bits of being childish? That is, the bullying and cattiness of the schoolyard? Speaking as an Old Feminist myself, I strongly feel that it is the behaviour of women old enough to know better. And reluctantly – but not too reluctantly – I come to the conclusion that sheer, old-fashioned envy is the root of such pseudo-superior spite; when the nipples go south, the nose goes north. And it is such behaviour that really does the dirty on feminism. While conveniently identifying one as a rabid hypocrite, of course. ”
CELEBRITIES WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT ‘THE PRICE OF FAME’
“I almost choke on my popcorn when I hear film stars, who walk on red carpets as much as the rest of us do on zebra crossings, criticising youngsters who crave fame.”
“Having secured and learned to love the trappings of fame, they try to kick the ladder away. Fact is, famous people say fame stinks because they love it so – like a secret restaurant or holiday island they don’t want the hoi polloi to get their grubby paws on.”
“When you are a star, everything is free; for example, the hideously named ‘goody bags’ that are now pressed on celebrities each time they attend the opening of an envelope.”
“At the Oscars, gifts easily total 100,000 dollars per person and over the years have contained everything from 40,000-dollar watches to holidays in Tahiti, all this just for turning up at a party, smiling for the camera and downing free booze. Naturally, the idea of losing all these perks – not to mention the main business of being paid more in a week to sing/play-act/dress up and walk along a catwalk than a nurse or teacher is paid in a year – is absolutely horrific to the rich and famous.”
“So they pile on the agony, talking up the ‘stress’ and ‘pressure’ of being paid to do very little apart from show off in one form or another, at any opportunity. And, in a thoroughly spiteful, mean-spirited and underhand attempt to ring the bell as soon as they’re on the bus, they ceaselessly diss the bright, talented youngsters from TV talent shows.”
“When all else fails, they enter rehab – ‘See how fame has made me suffer. So stay behind that fast-food counter, kids, and don’t try to follow me up the greasy pole.’”
“Celebrities try to foster the myth that fame is something that descends on individuals out of the blue, with no encouragement, blighting innocent lives; even Z-list personalities come out with astoundingly self-pitying statements about how fame has ruined their lives, as if they haven’t pursued it with all the dignity and restraint of a rat up a drainpipe. Having slogged so hard to become famous, it seems a bit rich – not to say simple-minded – to turn around 20 years later and whine about what a pile of c**p it all is.”
“Just go, then – you’ re probably rich enough. Do what pop stars Sade and Kate Bush did when they were at the height of their fame and genuinely grew tired of it – disappear!”
“The difference, I suppose is that they weren’t greedy and needy, unlike the moaning minnies who complain about fame while doing everything humanly possible to keep it at fever pitch. Hypocrite, heal thyself.”
UGLY OLD MEN WHO THINK THEY ARE GOD’S GIFT
“You may not have ever seen a Magic Mirror, but you’ll certainly know a man of a certain age who has one. The biggest give-away will be his apparently demented conviction that – even though he invariably has a face like a baboon’s bottom – he’s God’s gift to women.”
“He may be your hairdresser, neighbour, an ‘alternative’ comedian (so alternative that he habitually does reality shows and TV commercials, begging the question: ‘Alternative to what? Not being desperate?’) or a DJ. But he will have no doubt whatsoever that the entire female population of the world, between the ages of 16 and 61, is waiting in an agony of exquisite anticipation to find out whether he finds them attractive or not.”
“The old saw about ignorance being bliss finds perhaps its truest, purest expression in this man. His own estimation of his singular sex appeal is so extreme that he will actually spend real, valuable time on ‘grading’ women, putting them in order of ‘do-ability’ – Girls Aloud are a favourite sexual smorgasbord for this picky eater.”
“I have to say, this is not a totally male thing; when I was a size 22, or even now that I’m an ancient 48-year-old size 16, I certainly wouldn’t dream of giving interviews in which I carnally ticked the dance cards of notorious male hotties.”
“And it has nothing to do with self-loathing, either, or not thinking I am ‘good enough’ for any old male sex symbol. Indeed, though it grieves me to say it, I must admit that when I was huge, I had a bit of a Magic Mirror thing going myself; I couldn’t imagine why all those nasty photographers had been so determined to put my sylph like image through a Fat-Hall-Of-Mirrors distorting machine, or why all the size 12 waistbands had size 22 labels on them.”
“But be that as it may, my body-dysmorphia-in-reverse was simply a harmless personal foible.”
“Even if I was living in a fool’s paradise, it seemed an interesting and rather more mentally healthy twist on the usual delusion of the beauty who thinks she’s a beast – you know, Uma Thurman insisting that she looks like a hammerhead shark, or Michelle Pfeiffer practically drawing diagrams to demonstrate that she’d be better employed as Jemima Puddleduck’s body-double. We are so used to beauty apologising for itself, and forever finding itself wanting. But that way lies poor dead Marilyn – and as a female-friendly feminist, I know which way I’d prefer a girl to go.”
“Generally, as I’ve said, men think they are better-looking than they are and women worse – hence my belief in the widespread epidemic of Magic Mirrors.”
- – - Dear readers of this blog!!! What’s written below is a fragment from the new book by Julie Burchill and is not written by Miss Provocateur. Please pay attention to that when leaving comments.
Julie Burchill writes :
“Way back in 1998, scientists reported that the more a man rode a bicycle, the greater his chance of becoming impotent. You might want to look away now, but apparently, when a chap sits on a bike seat, an artery that runs through the perineum, delivering blood to the penis, is squashed. Generally it bounces back – but if it’s squished one time too many, it stays squished. ”
“Is this the reason cyclists often seem so vile-tempered? (The men, that is: the ladies tend to be more civilised, as per usual.) All that spitting and swearing and knocking down tots and oldsters alike with their determination to dominate both pavement and road. Doesn’t it rather smack of a monstrous regiment of Mr Softees seeking to impose their masculinity on the road in away they’ve failed to in bed? ”
“Cyclists are hypocrites because they hate drivers – yet they are drivers! Albeit drivers with extreme prejudice. Two wheels good; four wheels bad. And, like a lot of drivers, they have nothing but contempt for the snail’s-pace pedestrian, whom they sometimes accuse of being ‘selfish’. ”
“Are such people really so cretinous that they cannot grasp how threatening large, fast, wheeled metal objects appear – particularly to the very young and the very old – when they are coming towards a pedestrian? Of course, we have Green thinking to thank for the rise in the thoroughly selfish sense of empowerment of cyclists. ‘I don’t cause pollution, therefore I can do as I wish,’ the thinking appears to go. ”
“One particular aspect of many of their number’s behaviour puzzles me beyond all others, though. Cyclists, as they never tire of letting us know, are in so many ways superior to the rest of us. Indeed, they’re so very caring and responsible that we non-cyclists should be truly ashamed of ourselves for even existing. ”
“Just before we flog ourselves to death in sheer molten shame, though, can we please ask: What’s with these baby carriers that some cyclist parents stick on the backs of their bikes? Perhaps mere mortals like us ‘leggies’ have got it wrong, but does a tot really enjoy being positioned where its lungs can take in the maximum amount of traffic fumes from passing cars? How environmentally aware is that? ”
“And, if we may be so bold, oh superior cyclists, can we ask what happens if your mean machine goes under a car while your little darling is strapped into their seat? You’ll be lucky enough if you have a few seconds to scramble away. Tot, strapped into the baby carrier, doesn’t stand a snowball’s.”
“Everyone loves a few weeks off in new surroundings and hypocrites are no different. ”
“Always remember, however, that the hypocrite is never a ‘tourist’ but always a ‘traveller’. Got it? Good. Pack your bags and prepare to visit the destinations of double standards.”
1. SOUTH AMERICA: With all those jungles, this region is the place to go for the Green hypocrite.
You can even plant a tree in your name to help the environment (because it is, after all, all about you). And thanks to fuel-guzzling air travel, it’s all only a matter of hours away.
Remember to take your Sting CD to listen to on the flight.
2. AFRICA: My goodness, you’re right on if you go to Africa. Remember to haggle with the locals during every financial transaction. You’re there to enjoy yourself and, after all, there’s no greater feeling in the world than haggling a poor African man out of three pounds.
3. ARAB STATES: You love the culture and believe that the sheer authenticity of it makes Western values seem so corrupt and futile in comparison. And if you ask around in the right places, you will be able to find those underground bars that illicitly serve alcohol, while you watch pole dancing. Cheers!
4. INDIA: The Taj Mahal, the deserts, the mountainous Himalayan regions and the garden city of Bangalore. It’s lovely. Those bloody beggars almost ruined it, though.
5. WARSAW: They say this city is ‘the new Prague’. Anti-semitism and homophobia thrive in this city – yet the modern hypocrite will still flock there for ‘the marvellous culture’ (read: cheap booze). Not that their love of travelling to Poland will prevent them from moaning about Poles coming to the UK.
Adapted from Not In My Name: A Compendium Of Modern Hypocrisy by Julie Burchill and Chas Newkey-Burden (Virgin, £12.99)
- modern hypocrites
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