Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Drinking and feminism - one feeds another?

I recently came across an article in NY magazine. I started reading it as a general glance through but slowly got interested. By that article, it says more and more women were drinking and those that drank, are drinking more. Since I'm a woman, I started applying it to my friends and other women I've seen.

When I was in school, drinking was a big no-no and very few(barely 5 or 10 out of 100 of my friends) did it once(maybe two, not more). Moreover, those drinking experiences were more a part of an experience or a wager with their brothers and cousins and friends. None was done for the sake of drinking.

Then came college. As far as I know, some of my friends were regular drinkers(not alcoholics). They drank because it was part of their house culture. So it was not a big deal for them. But most friends tried it out just for the heck of trying it out. Even then, the percentage hadn't crossed 20%.

Then came (pseudo)work life(I know, it was a short 6 month stint, but still corp life). Even here, it was not a big percentage. I had a few friends who frequented the bars of B but they knew when they had to stop and it was more a social reason(going to the bars and hanging out with friends) rather than drinking for drinking's sake.

My masters life saw a huge jump in the percentage to 90-95%. This was mainly because I went from a culture that frowns on it to a culture where people didn't mind about it. Also, the people I knew here were more willing to try out things and felt that drinking was just another habit. A good or bad connotation to it was stupid by their thoughts. Some of my closest friends drink moderately. One of my friends' dreams is to try out all the different types of drinks and to taste the best known concoctions. I know that she saved money through her internship to get a bottle of fine wine that came to $500. Yeah! She spent $500 for ONE bottle of wine. I'm not sure if it was worth it but she said it was and she was on top of the world for a week about it. I'm happy that she loves it but I also know that I wouldn't do it. Also, here, I started seeing people who drank for drinking sake. I also saw people who treat it as a hobby and invest in expensive stuff for it. My friend above was one such person. She tells me that her house in future would have a well equipped and well stocked bar and that she would take great pride in it. And I'm sure she would do too.

Further came my internship time. My company regularly hosts beer parties and freshly brewed beer is served there. I know that a lot of my friends love it and that it is part of my company's culture. When I think of how well I'd fit there once I go back as a full time employee, I'm not sure about the beer parties aspect. I don't really care about all this stuff as long as I'm not forced to drink. Its not that I think drinking is bad or good, its just that I don't want to do it because of a personal reason. As long as my friends don't go overboard, I know that they understand the risks and returns of their drinking and wouldn't force them to stop. True, I discuss about it with some friends, but in the end, its their call. But, going back to topic, I found that the percentage of women drinking in the corporate world was a bit lesser than the percentage of women in college. This might have more to do with the corporate setting that I've seen most women in the corp world than the actual numbers. College, having a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere, is more apt to drinking with perfect strangers. Who knows? Once I start work, I might find that the women in corp world actually drink more, albeit in a non-corporate or semi-corporate setting.

It also shows a big difference in the cultures, the one I was brought up in and the one I live in now. So, is cultural difference the only thing to blame? Or, does misguided views of feminism, more stress for women, social acceptance problems, etc also play a part? Also, does drinking induce one to feel more feminist? And being a feminist implies that one should drink? This seems like a recursive loop with no way out. However, I love that women get to choose in this country, whether to drink or not, and if so, by how much, when, where and with whom? True, people pay different prices based on their choices. But the freedom to choose, ah! That is true liberation!!


vissu said...

Drinking, like many other issues a personal choice. Be it a feminist, a corporate worker or college goer or for the matter of fact any individual, it all finally boils down to the fact whether or not you want to indulge in it. Why blame cultural difference for it? Your figures of barely few (5 or 10) seem a bit outdated. There are many women in our country taking to drinking, as u said, Just for the sake of it. They want to show that they can do it. As they say ' why should boys have all the fun?'. I tend not to attribute drinking to any of feminism, stress or social acceptance and other stuff but to pure individual choice. The choice is whether or not you do it.

Arun said...

Corporate culture seem to cultivate this social drinking. Naturally all the weekly beer bashes give more oppurtunity(=more temptation) to drink than in college I guess.

I've seen many people starting there socially, just to fit in(?). My co-workers encourage me not to start although they tease, so its definitely not "fit in" - a made up justification. I have found that people "fit in" with their interesting or funny conversations, not by drinking.
Anyway it depends on the friends/co-workers, but I've hardly heard anyone who started drinking due to compulsion. Its always been thier curiosity to try things which I dont think is wrong. Some people are afraid of whether they would get addicted if they try,some have self control, some dont etc. Its really a personal choice based on your understanding of self-control and risks.

ps:Although I think your 90-95% is bit way too much. I dont think this is this high even among guys(I bet more guys drink than girls). I can guess atleast 20% of US dont drink(not even socially). Or maybe Im living in the past.

alpine path said...

Vissu, true! Drinking is a personal choice. But research shows that more women, in particular, were choosing drinking over not drinking. Simple reasons: try-out attitude, social acceptance(try sitting as the only person in a room of girls :D That is as hard as a girl trying to jell into a party of guys!), etc. I've just put in my observations about the research findings. But I totally endorse that, all said and done, its a person's individual choice. The question is, how is the choice influenced? :)
And yeah, the figures are a bit outdated because my school life was some 5 or 6 years earlier :D I'm not sure of present figures related to school-level-drinking among girls.

Arun, the figure of 90% is based on the people I see. I live in a college town that goes to party on Thursday nights and comes back to real life only on Sundays. May be when I start to move among a more general population, the numbers might go down. And, true! though its a personal choice, the research tries to show what influences these choices. For nothing in this world gets done without any influence, right? And yeah, more opportunity might make it easier. Erumbu oora kallum theyum! But if a person knows why they want/don't want to drink, then any amount of opportunity would not affect them. This is my opinion, strictly :)