“I feel like I’m the shit when I drink. I feel invincible. You kind of get beer muscles. The bullshit falls away.” This is a quote from a New York Magazine article on young women and drinking, but it could be a quote from anyone who has ever been drunk, male or female. The thesis of the article is that drinking, sometimes to excess, is the last frontier of gender equality, but it seems like a case of correlation without causation.
The author quotes statistics about the rise of drinking among young women — "more than 48 percent acknowledge having had at least one drink in the past month (up from 42 percent in 1992). But beyond that, the women who drink are drinking more. The number of women who identify as moderate-to-heavy drinkers has risen in the last ten years, while the number of women who say they are light drinkers has declined" — and then uses anecdotal evidence from her peer group to show that upwardly mobile urban women are the ones who are doing all the drinking, out of wanting to do well at work or wanting to express the fact that they cannot be controlled by social mores.
Full disclosure: I am quoted in the article, and this site generally and two editors specifically are mentioned as examples of the fact that "drinking has become entwined with progressive feminism." I don't really think that's true at all, and say in the article that drinking in and of itself is not a feminist act.
Indeed, much of the New York social world revolves around drinking, but it has, well, pretty much forever. Tales of Dorothy Parker getting shitcanned at speakeasies in the 20s are part of writerly lore. Rather than increased hard drinking having much to do with gender, I think it has more to do with career and circumstance. New York describes a woman named Kate, who works in finance, and started drinking with her colleagues after hard days of work so she could be "one of the guys." The anecdote seemed so dated, and reminded all of us of the scene in Mad Men when Peggy goes to the strip club so she can ingratiate herself with the boys.
But wouldn't a male teetotaler feel much of the same pressure to be included if he worked in the same industry? Somehow, I doubt that medical students and residents, male or female, feel any of the same social pressures to booze it up, since their work colleagues are not indulging in the same way. This is New York Magazine, and so they are only talking about New Yorkers, but I also find it difficult to believe that the drinking of urban upper middle class white women is the only reason drinking has gone up for women across the board. The article doesn't even mention the fact that the writer interviews only young, childless, unmarried women: i.e., the kind of women who have the extra time on their hands to hit the bar on a weeknight... and are young enough to be able to work through an alcohol-induced haze more easily. There must be more complex issues (like the marketing of booze that the author mentions) than just a desire for some sort of misguided equality.
Gender Bender [New York]