Our admiration for New York Magazine is well-documented, and when that fondness combines with a topic we are also have a keen interest in (binge drinking), we sit up and take notice. This week’s magazine contains a thought-provoking feature on women, especially young women, and their drinking habits. Its thesis certainly gels with what we observe on campus on a regular basis: ladies love their drinks. And we don’t necessarily begrudge social drinking, but on the other hand, we do worry about the larger implications of it. To wit:
For many women, heavy drinking might be only a blip on the radar, a youthful folly, if it weren’t for higher education. The transition from high school to college marks the greatest increase in substance abuse among women, and the more educated a woman is, the more likely she will be to drink throughout her life. “College campuses are the place where drinking norms are set for educated individuals,” says Jon Morgenstern, a professor of psychiatry and vice-president at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. “The rate of drinking is astronomical. College is really a training ground for becoming an alcoholic.” And these days, the gender gap on campus is reversed: Fifty-five percent of college students who meet the clinical criteria for alcohol abuse are female.
Several more illuminating quotes, and our take, after the jump.
So on the one hand, this is just a retread of this year’s “drunkorexic” meme, which is itself an echo of what we read about in Smashed, Koren Zailckas’s poetic memoir of boozing her way through Syracuse. But still, read the following and ask yourself if it sounds familiar.
Not all of my female friends drink [heavily], but most of them do drink—and not just in a glass-of-wine-with-dinner way. Drinking is our go-to activity. Meeting a friend implies going to a bar. Having a meal implies a round of cocktails beforehand. A party implies a serious hangover. Drinking feels like our prerogative—if we want to get blasted at the company Christmas party or nurse a bottle of scotch through the holidays, no one should, or can, stop us.
Hey, yeah, it does kind of seem like drinking has some sort of unspoken hold on the rhythm of Penn social life. And even if drinking doesn’t overwhelm your experience, doesn’t it kind of feel like it’s a factor in everybody else’s? Why might that be?
It’s about women going after the things they want and feeling that alcohol, variously, can help them. If men come into the picture at all, it’s only because what women sometimes want is sex, the final frontier of gender equality, and the socially sanctified follies of alcohol set the stage perfectly for the type of sex women may want but fear is unacceptable to seek.
“Drinking gives you an excuse to do something you wouldn’t want to believe you would normally do,” one young woman told me. “You can be on a mission because you’re not self-conscious.”
Oooh, scandalous! And again, also kind of true. One lady sums it up:
“I feel like I’m the shit when I drink. I feel invincible. You kind of get beer muscles. The bullshit falls away.”
Just something to ponder during your last reading day–use it wisely!