Degeneracy Disguised As Empowerment
It should be a surprise to no one that I find the CBC to be a rather mediocre news source. Unlike some of my more libertarian inclined friends I have no issues with a public broadcaster in and of itself, my beef with Canada’s is that it spoils the unique ability it possesses as one to promote arts, education, and culture programming by instead focusing on run-of-the-mill news broadcasting and tacky sitcoms (no offense to Being Erica fans but did that show really need to be paid for by our tax dollars?). In spite of this, even the CBC will produce the occasional gem and one of them was its recently aired documentary on the alarming rise of binge drinking among today’s generation of millennial women.
Now, before we go any further, I will pre-emptively hold up my hands and acknowledge I’m the last person to lecture anyone on occasionally having a few too many. I like my glass of red wine with dinner……and after dinner scotch and bourbon……and before bed nip of port…….well you get the picture. However, even to a lush such as myself the CBC made a very compelling case that something very disturbing is going on here. Binge-drinking is an epidemic across the whole country (we Canadians apparently like our liquor eh); nearly a fifth of high schoolers admitting to going on a bender at least once a month with that number rising to a third amongst young adults and it should be noted that this is one of those questions that people sheepishly tend to not honestly disclose even to anonymous surveys meaning the number could well be higher. These people are not alcoholics in the conventional understanding of the word (they’re not getting shaky hands in the morning if they don’t force down a coffee cup of vodka or day drinking out of a flask in the office bathroom) but instead more fall into the category of someone who’ll go all week without touching a drop and then get absolutely blitzed on Friday night.
As concerning as this is for the population in general, the numbers for the female half are even grimmer. Rates of binge drinking are rising at seven times the levels they are for men. They also tend to consume hard alcohol to a larger degree. Men apparently enjoy a wide spectrum of drinks with beer being a top favorite, but for the ladies (while wine does remain a strong contender) it appears vodka shots are where the real action is. Women also are apparently more likely to engage in risk-increasing behavior like drinking on an empty stomach, or purging then repeat drinking (sometimes multiple times), AND are at higher risk of developing alcohol related health problems like liver cirrhosis or cancer. All in all, this makes for a not particularly pleasant picture.
I’m not even going to bother going over the dangers that this kind of behaviour represents (so for any fuming feminists reading this about to start ranting about me being a rape apologist, save it for another post). Instead I want to pose the question of why this phenomenon is taking place. I’d argue that a good deal of it can be laid at the feet of popular culture, in particular how it tends to equate the concept of female identity with drinking. Think about it for a moment and go through shows or films that tend to portray “strong female characters”. How is this often signalled to the audience? Sometimes it’s by showing the character in question smoking the occasional cigarette aka House of Cards or Political Animals, but far more often its by drinking. Take How To Get Away With Murder, the two main female lawyers (who we are constantly reminded are tough ladies) drink like fish! Practically every other scene shows them pouring a glass of vodka down their throats. The Big Bang Theory is another excellent example. Virtually every scene featuring “the girls” prominently, and not interacting with the male leads in some way, tends to involve them getting tipsy over a bottle of wine (or three). The message is very clear; drinking goes hand in hand with being empowered. With shows like The Vampire Diaries or The Originals it’s even more blatant when you think about it. Female characters when they’re human (aka weak and dependant on their supernatural significant others for protection) never seem to touch a drop, but their vampire versions, now shown on more equal standing to the pre-existing male vampire/werewolf/witch characters, join in with the boys on day drinking bourbon as they discuss how they’ll foil whatever the latest big bag of the season is.
In many ways this is just a part of the broader problem I have with modern feminism, the tendency it has to equate female equality with basically assuming many of stereotypical attitudes and habits we associate with masculinity, and almost always the more negative ones. Aggression, promiscuity, workaholicsm and now it seems semi-alcoholism are all traits we tend to associate with men (though not positively in my own personal mindset), and somehow they’ve been equated with being equal by proponents of women’s advancement in society. To paraphrase the comedian George Carlin, feminists say men are stupid, bullying, career-obsessed jerks yet they turn around and tell their fellow women they should act exactly like them (why they never seem to advocate adopting some of the more positive attributes associated with masculinity are beyond me). What tends to get brushed aside in all this is how it is possible for women to be equal to men while still maintaining a distinctly feminine identity of their own.
Am I being hypocritical here? Possibly so. After all, when I first started drinking scotch it wasn’t because I particularly enjoyed it (the first time I tried it I thought the taste was beyond vile), but rather because I liked the image and persona that was associated with it. However it does worry me how modernity has essentially tied equality of the sexes with the erasure of most gender differences, because on a fundamental level I do believe that while men and women are equal they are also different in their own ways. This has been the case for most of history up until now, even in societies that we tend to acknowledge were matriarchal, such as ancient Native American or African tribes. Celtic women, in the days of ancient Rome, might have dominated the politics and decision making outside of war time….but men were still the ones who primarily went out to fight while their wives stayed home to care for the children. In our haste to throw out all concepts of femininity (the good and the bad) while embracing only, it would seem, the most toxic elements of masculinity, we have created, unintentionally, some very negative consequences.