Stop Singling Out Women for Their 'Unladylike' Binge-Drinking


British tabloid culture loves to gawk at shitfaced (is that a term across the pond? Knackered?) ladies. In response comes “The Drunk Woman’s Manifesto.”

After yet another Daily Mail article lamenting the ladies these days, and their binge drinking, replete with photographs of them in various states of drunken distress, the Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are saying enough to the combination fascination/pearl clutching that comes with public female drunkenness. In their manifesto, they write:

Friends and readers, as we know, there’s a thin line between love and hate. Somewhat incredibly, Platell’s piece manages to feature almost every aspect of drunken female behaviour that tabloids simultaneously loathe and desire. Yes, this article has the whole shebang: long lens photos of young women with their fishnets torn up to the bum at a fancy dress party in freshers’ week; phrases like “barely leaving anything to the imagination” and “neo-feminists behaving like men” and creepily voyeuristic descriptions of “pretty young girls lying comatose on the pavement”. Not to mention hotpants, girls giving each other piggy-backs, and themed nights at the local clubs – all of which, it has to be said, looks like a pretty cracking night out, especially as no one appears to have even been sick. Yet during the course of the piece, Platell glides seamlessly from her condemnation of a “Dirty Doctors and Naughty Nurses” party to a discussion of NekNomination, the competitive drinking phenomenon that “so far seems to be mainly confined to men, although it can only be a matter of time before girls feel they need to get in on it.”

Coslett and Baxter then go on to name examples of women who are already in on this “NekNomination” game, and to chide the Daily Mail for promoting the notion that drinking isn’t something that ladies are naturally inclined to do:

Because men invent things, and then women jump on board because they feel like they have to – that’s the way of the world, isn’t it? It’s not like those of the female variety enjoy a pint, after all, or even – God forbid – enjoy the sensation of drunkenness once in a blue moon. It’s not as though our decision whether or not to drink has anything to do with us or our own lives.

See, sometimes Daily Mail photographers catch men in compromising positions after they have had a few too many pints at the pub. Where are the writers wringing their hands over their behavior though? Maybe they’ll admit that male public drunkenness is not pretty, but since when were men expected to be that way in all aspects of their behavior?

In addition, American tabloids don’t seem to share their UK counterparts’ interest in printing pictures of otherwise anonymous drunk people, but it seems that both countries have the “women who drink will get raped” game on lock. In their manifesto, Coslett and Baxter quote famous agony aunt Irma Kurtz imploring such women to “take responsibility” for such a risk:

“Please remember that your new freedom to go out and play with the boys requires you to employ an even greater freedom new to women, the greatest freedom … the freedom to take responsibility for ourselves,” she continued, as though going out and “playing” with the boys is all that’s needed to unleash the underlying Neanderthal rapist just biding its time in the subconscious of all menfolk around the globe.

Doesn’t this sound like our favorite American agony aunt, Emily Yoffe?

I will present myself as an example that it’s possible to have fun without being drunk. I enjoy moderate drinking and have only been hung over three times in my life. I have never been so drunk that I browned out, blacked out, passed out, or puked from alcohol ingestion. Still, as a young person, I did my share of fun, crazy, silly, stupid, and ill-advised things. But at least I always knew that I was responsible for my behavior, not the alcohol.

And Yoffe is at it again, this time poo-pooing bystander intervention programs in favor of shaming would-be rape victims for their drinking. Again, where are the men in all of this? Coslett and Baxter cite a statistic that men are at more risk of being violent crime victims in the UK that most ignore in “teh ladiez are pissed” articles, and according to Yoffe, drunk men just have to make sure they’re not accused of rape, instead of making sure they don’t rape at all, whether drunk or sober.

This is all to say that binge-drinking may be a risky behavior, but that it is one that we all engage in no matter our gender. The voyeurism combined with the condemnation of the women who do this is hypocritical at the very least, and ignores effective solutions for actually making sure that people who binge are safe. In their manifesto, Coslett and Baxter ask for a “new conception of acceptable female drinking,” and for women who do this to be left “in peace.” I think we can all get behind that.

Image via Shutterstock.

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