UK media depictions of binge-drinking unfairly stigmatise women, according to a recent Glaswegian study. Somehow the misogynistic, evil and sexist patriarchal media-bastards published 308 articles over two years in seven UK national newspapers, reporting what must surely be regarded as one of the great victories in the never ending gender-equality wars — the fact that young females are now getting shitfaced as often as young males.


Instead of celebrating this milestone, apparently nobody is allowed to talk about it, let alone take pictures. Arousing the backlash this time is a criticism that the offending articles present intoxicated women as “helpless, physically incapacitated and transgressive, and as burdens to male partners“. While nobody is alleging that this statement is wrong, the media are in trouble for pointing out that inebriation is not an attractive state of being for women or men.


Alcohol consumption is not a gender-specific activity, obviously. The risks associated with binge-drinking, on the other hand, aren’t necessarily gender-blind. For example, to many people, a drunk male staggering towards in the dark represents ‘danger’ whereas a drunk female in the same scenario screams ‘in danger’. That’s sexism, pure and simple. You shouldn’t stop to offer the girl a lift home because that brands you a misogynist. You wouldn’t stop to offer the guy a lift home because he might be a murderer. I’m sure one gender draws a shorter straw here but I’ll let you decide which.


For example, the annual furore arising out of our Melbourne Cup. Old news now, but this event nowadays is as much about fashion as it is about horseflesh. It’s certainly a bonanza for the retail industry–all those frilly hats and silly frocks–and on race day, a flute of bubbly is de rigeur for the fashionistas. Nobody howls when we take photographs of lovely women in beautiful dresses, but surely this is still sexual objectification? The fact they want to be photographed changes nothing at all.


But for many men and women, beautifully dressed or not, sparkling wine is more economical chugged straight from the bottle, and that (unfortunately) makes them just as photogenic as the soberly self-conscious supermodels, albeit for different reasons. These guys and girls are out to enjoy themselves, full-stop, whatever the cost, and I doubt any one of them would have considered the potential ‘gender stigma’ that might accrete to them should a passing photographer capture them at a low point. But (knowing us Aussies) they would have a good laugh about it afterwards, and start planning the next binge.


If the Glaswegian boffins had included mainstream Oz media in their study, I’m convinced the results would not have changed. In fact, they are likely to have been significantly reinforced. But unlike our uptight cousins in the norther hemisphere, our more relaxed antipodean mentality means we are less likely to link the participation of women in our  national day of drunken debauchery at the races to societal armageddon.


Mind you, there was this article in the Daily Telegraph shaming women for reducing the Melbourne Cup to “an orgy of inebriated fools“, a view echoed not just by some of the fustier local commentariat but also by intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic abroad. Our cultural cringe, redux. This article was skewered from all directions, mostly by the gender-warriors who insisted that women must not be unfairly judged for participating in vile drunken behaviours more traditionally ascribed to men.


I totally agree, equality means to be judged by the same standard. Resist the urge to worry that your daughter, sister, mother or wife might be in need of your assistance because that’s sexist-talk, buddy! So if we live in a society where it’s okay (and it apparently is) to mock a guy so physically incapacitated by alcohol that he’s passed out and pissed himself, then it must also be okay to snigger at a girl so drunk she’s vomited into her own hair.


Leave a Reply