Thursday, 21 July 2016

Alcohol and Feminism

Isn't it extraordinary how, as the world becomes more and more chaotic, women are taking over?

In Germany they have the formidable Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Christine Lagarde is running the IMF. Theresa May is now Britain's second female Prime Minister, and Nicola Sturgeon is Scotland's First Minister. Even in the USA a woman looks set to take the reins.

Our generation were the ones bought up to believe that we could do anything, that it was our duty to keep up with the boys in honour of those who fought the good fight before us.

My Cambridge college (eagle eyed readers may spot that I referred to 'Oxford' earlier in this blog in a bid to stay anonymous. I now realise that this was somewhat futile) was all girl's.

It was founded in 1872, but whilst women were allowed to study with men, and sit examinations alongside them, they were not given a formal degree certificate until 1947.

The college had a strong suffragette tradition, and even today the suffragette flag, carried by Newnham girls during the protests, hangs proudly (if somewhat bedraggled) in the Formal Hall.

So, when I graduated from Newnham I was determined to beat the men at their own game. Anything they could do I could do better.

Including drink.

I wasn't alone. This was the era of the ladette, of Bridget Jones and Sex in the City. We were all drinking Cosmopolitans in fancy bars with our girlfriends, and drowning our romantic sorrows over buckets of Chardonnay.

(Was that what our sisters fought for? Our right to get drunk?)

But the truth is you can't beat biology.

Women are affected by alcohol at much lower levels than men, as they metabolise alcohol more slowly, due to lower body weights and higher fat percentages. We become addicted faster, and at lower levels of drinking.

Plus, men seem to get away with bad behaviour as a result of drinking (being described as 'bon viveurs' or 'one of the boys') whereas women who drink too much (especially after a certain age) are viewed as unstable and bad mothers.

(See my post on Alcohol and Sexism for the difference between the media reporting of a drunk Kate Moss and a legless Gerard Depardieu).

Times, however, do seem to be a-changing.

During the recent Brexit campaign, Nigel Farage (leader of the UK Independence Party) was constantly seen with a pint of beer in his hand (even before midday).

One of the quotes that helped scupper Michael Gove's leadership ambitions was this one: Michael Gove has an emotional need to gossip, particularly when drink is taken, as it all too often seemed to be.

Theresa May, meanwhile, came across as a steady, sober, hand on the tiller.

During her leadership campaign she said: I know I'm not a showy politician. I don't tour the television studios. I don't gossip about people over lunch. I don't go drinking in Parliament's bars. I don't often wear my heart on my sleeve. I just get on with the job in front of me.

And that's me now too. I'm done with gossiping over boozy lunches, getting legless in bars and drunkenly emoting. I'm just getting on with the job in front of me. Steadily. Soberly.

If you're struggling, then think of Emmeline Pankhurst and her mantra Never surrender! Never give up the fight! 

They didn't win the right to vote and for equal pay so we could sit at home drinking and having a pity party for one. They did it so we could get out there and change the world.

So, go do it!

SM x


  1. Dearest SM - go girl. Great post. Wish I realised how strong I'd feel without the vino prior to now. 200 days done - onwards and upwards. Better late than never. Take care my sweet. Thinking of you. Love SFM x

  2. Wow! That is a great blog to read as I face a tough day at work. I certainly feel a lot more energy and focus now I am off the booze . Looks like I'm getting promotion too. I am very conscious of all the women in the world today who don't have opportunities and rights . I am convinced they wouldn't flush away the chance to improve themselves and have a better life in a river of Sauvignon Blanc. Xx

  3. "I am woman hear me roar!" (soberly of course! :) xo

  4. Brilliant! I used to think I had to drink to impress people,now I know that it's so much better to not drink and impress yourself instead. If you are proud of yourself, other people will see that and be impressed.

  5. Hi SM, great post as I am sitting wondering what direction to take my new sober self, children nearly flown the coop....been stay at home mum for 19 yrs...was big mistake not keep myself involved.....gave the wine witch far too much time to mess with my head.....not any more....THANKYOU...

  6. Great post !! Today I had a special sober moment. I took the kids out for a walk around a reservoir and across some moors.... not too far, only about 6 miles. This is the kind of activity I avoided in "Hungover" years..but it was great, I really enjoyed it.... as we walked I thought... "if you were still drinking, you'd have spent the day hungover, I would have growed at the kids at some point in the day, and we certainly wouldnt be out hiking". This sober life keeps on giving !

  7. Apologies! I deleted someone's comment in error, and not even sure whose it was! If it was you, please forgive me and repost! X

  8. Great post. I've never felt more empowered as a human being and a woman since giving up wine. I think I must be the same age as you because cosmos and Chardonnay featured heavily during my drinking career.

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