Before reading this you may want to look at the excellent post by Helen here.
Now and again I like to unwind with a good drink. If I’m feeling sophisticated I’ll opt for a white wine, and if I’m feeling like well, me I’ll go for a vodka, lemonade and lime. Lovely. I don’t go out with the intention of drinking myself into the following Tuesday, but on occasion I have been known to drink to excess (partly because I get carried away and partly because I get tipsy by smelling a wine gum). I am not an exception.
But apparently we, ladies of the British Isles, are drinking too much. Fact. And to bolster this so-called fact the Drug and Alcohol Service have today initiated a new poster campaign on the London underground, designed to have the most success of any campaign that as ever been in the history of the world, ever. How? You ask, well, by appealing to the one facet of our personalities that apparently always has to be satisfied: our vanity!
Yes, today posters were placed on the underground of an elderly masculine man, his face covered in garish clown-like make-up, his head covered in a woman’s wig, with the warning “If you drink like a man you might end up looking like one!”
Despite the £10 million pound campaign initiated by the Government to warn young women of the link between excess alcohol consumption and breast cancer, research by the Drug and Alcohol Service has found that we are allegedly more concerned about the prospect of premature aging and weight gain through drinking than the long-term health ramifications. The report found that two-fifths of women felt that weight-gain would stop them from drinking, with just one-third claiming the prospect of heart disease would make them pour away the pints.
Excessive drinking is unhealthy. That cannot be disputed. And that the number of women dying from alcohol related illnesses has almost doubled over the last decade is something that cannot be ignored, but over-indulgence is not isolated to the female sex. While men have always drunk themselves to oblivion, there always seems to be disproportionate emphasis placed on the female drinker, as if having one-too-many makes us nothing more than transgressive beasts who have to be controlled.
The Daily Mail has been known to take an unhealthy interest in women’s drinking habits, and only recently published a number of articles discussing the alcohol intake of young women, using manipulated statistics to consolidate their arguments. But alcohol abuse is unhealthy for everybody, something this campaign ignores. However, perhaps the message this poster conveys is more damaging: the implication is that men are immune to these harmful effects. The message is not don’t drink too much because it’s unhealthy for a person to do so but rather women, don’t try and drink too much and emulate a man’s behaviour because obviously, as women, you cannot handle drink in the same way as men can. Men can drink to excess and still look beautiful, whereas you cannot, but, aww, don’t worry too much about it, at least you’ll still be pretty. Yeah, you’re a pretty girl. *At this point imagine someone tickling under your chin like you’re a fluffy poodle who’s just taken a biscuit treat.*
Is there not something inherently patronising about this? Not only the fact that a woman who drinks is instantly seen as a drunkard, but the assumption that we are so preoccupied with the superficial that we’ll listen to what we’re told. We can be beautiful non-drinkers, or gargoyle-looking bingers. Is this not just a more refined way of telling someone that if they pull an unhappy face it will stay that way if the wind changes? Is the essence of this argument not the same? Surely the Drugs and Alcohol Service realised the vast majority of beer-swigging women will be able to see through this argument?
Why is it that people are so preoccupied with the female drunk, girls who drink? Everyone has an opinion about how much we should consume, and what’s appropriate behaviour. It’s almost as if society’s saying, hey, it’s fine for all those guys to go out and get pissed, they’ve always done it, but you, you’re our responsibility if you’re going to get drunk and upset the normal order of things, and so we’re going to make you stop. Please, give us some credit for taking responsibility for our own welfare. Alcoholism is not something suffered by women alone.