I love a whisky or a bottle of wine with dinner. Why the drip-feed of negativity and judgment towards women who like a drink?
‘Women are blamed for anything bad that happens if we have had so much as one eggcup of wine.’
Booze is a feminist issue. The first time I encountered anti-alcohol sentiments from the sisters was as a teenage activist during one of my first proper meetings. A discussion was taking place about holding a conference on male violence towards women, and somebody asked what we would do afterwards – would there be a party, and how would we pay for the food and drink? One of the sisters sitting cross-legged, sporting a “Meat is Murder” T-shirt, said, “Alcohol should play no part in an event on male violence,” before going into some detail about the links between domestic violence and booze. Quick as a flash, a woman who from that moment become a close friend piped up, “But women were the first brewers – we would be denying our foremothers!”
Reading Rachel McCormack’s new book on whisky, Chasing the Dram, makes me recall all the negatives about women and booze that drip-feed into our daily life. As I have often observed, alcohol is the new “short skirt” in that the booze consumed by females is blamed far more readily than a rapist when a sexual assault occurs, and women are warned not to drink when pregnant, taking a taxi, or, as some medics argue, hardly at all.
Chasing the Dram reads like the telling of a love affair in all its glory. The intoxicating feeling that comes with the initial discovery; the good times, the laughter, and the highs; the hellish fallout when things go wrong; and the conflict when friends don’t share your passion.
I love Scotch whisky, and in particular the delicious, grown-up cocktails such as John Collins and Manhattan. I drank these cocktails with McCormack during a trip to Scotland when we met senior women in the whisky world; saw how it was made; and met the women who spend their life extolling the virtues of this iconic spirit.
Women are blamed for anything bad that happens if we have had so much as one eggcup of wine. Furthermore, our drinking is constantly policed by men. I once went to a restaurant alone while working in Rome, and asked for a bottle of white wine to accompany my meal. I had planned on eating three courses and taking my time, having nothing else to do that evening. The waiter refused to give me a bottle, telling me, with not a trace of irony or humour, “I will give you a glass. A bottle is too much for a lady,” at which point I got up and left.
Working-class women who drink are readily judged. Last year, on a flight from London to Australia, myself and a colleague (also a northerner and clearly not privately educated) were refused a gin and tonic by the cabin crew and told that, “You have had enough”. It would have been our third drink during our long flight. Both of us were completely sober (we really can hold a drink), but we had been laughing and telling stories to each other – in other words, having fun. The assumption that we were drunk was based on age-old prejudice towards women who like a drink.
Having said this, I am not naive – those of us who have a habit of slinging sauce down our necks on a too-regular basis can be in real danger of chronic health problems and even death, as this newspaper reported this week, and the burden on the NHS is one we can all do without. But I still maintain that many of the scare stories fed to women are, at least in part, informed by paternalistic sexism.
Once, when I was having dinner with the crime writer Val McDermid, we asked for a bottle of red with our meal. The waiter repeatedly tried to serve us a glass each, possibly concerned for our wellbeing in light of the fact that we had already necked a couple of cocktails. Polite but irritated, Val looked him straight in the eye and asked, “Do we honestly look like women that would order a glass?” The waiter got the drift, and the bottle appeared miraculously within seconds.
I am currently four months into a six-month period off the sauce. Why? To cleanse my liver, get a bit healthier, and try to solve my insomnia. For all that I absolutely love booze, it has its downsides. I’m sure I don’t need to list them here, because women are force-fed this information on a regular basis. I have periods away from alcohol so that I can avoid being told at some stage in my life that I have to stop for good. I love drinking, and I do so with the knowledge that it isn’t all that good for me. But neither is stress, which booze is brilliant at reducing. Many a woman stuck in domestic purgatory lives a bearable life thanks to the bottle. Let’s hear more praise and less negativity about one of life’s glorious treats.
Source By https://www.theguardian.com