Sunday, January 6, 2008

Have we come a long way, baby?

As many of us are nursing New Year’s Eve hangovers and making resolutions, I think it’s a good time to put my two cents in regarding an issue that seems to be a popular concern: those young hussies and their excessive drinking. Now, as a female who enjoys tossing back one or two, or eight, vodka tonics on any given Friday or Saturday, or Wednesday, night, my first instinct is to vehemently defend this behavior that’s so popular on college campuses across the country. Girls just wanna have fun! Stop being so uptight about it.

An article I read on last month made me stop and think, however. “Young women drink, party, post” focuses not just on binge drinking among young women, but on the fact that these women seem to be proud of their behavior, posting what the older and wiser might deem rather embarrassing for all the world to see – whether that be mom, dad, grandma or a potential employer.

Partying a little too hard? Not a big deal for most, I thought. Binge drinking and posting pictures of yourself engaging in illegal activity (if you’re underage), which could prevent you from getting your dream job? This did concern me a bit. Then I read a quote from a moderator of the Facebook group “Thirty Reasons Girls Should Call it a Night,” and I became very concerned.

She told CNN she knows some look down on girls who post to the site, but she doesn't care – she knows some consider their partying “unladylike,” but when boys act the same way, they’re just being boys. Okay, maybe I’m reaching here, but this sounds like somewhat of a feminist statement. Are these girls posting with pride because they want to prove they can party like the boys? Is this another case (remembering the Spice Girls) of Girl Power gone bad?

It reminded me of a famous 1920s PR campaign I read about in college, through which father of spin Edward Bernays successfully linked women’s rights to cigarettes. While working for the American Tobacco Company, Bernays told the media that a group of women’s rights marchers would light “Torches of Freedom,” and then on his signal, had them light Lucky Strikes in front of waiting photographers. I’ve read differing accounts as to whether or not these women were genuine activists or hired models, but regardless, Bernays helped break the taboo of women smoking (which had been the territory of men, and perhaps “loose” women) and increase the popularity of smoking among women … and all of the related addiction and health problems that followed. Virginia Slims kept the trend going with its “You’ve come a long way, baby” slogan.

Now, I’m all for breaking taboos and ushering women into worlds traditionally inhabited by men only – but the worlds I’m thinking of include the Oval Office, the C-suite and the Norton Anthology – not emergency rooms and frat houses.

I think a good New Year’s resolution is to have another cocktail because you feel like it, because it really is fun, not because you want to get into a club that – in the harsh light of morning, or post-graduation – you probably don’t want a membership to anyway.


Zipporah said...

Interesting insights. Thought it seems we'll still be waiting a while for the oval office... Do you think Hilary knocked back a few in her day?

Anonymous said...

I'm so proud of my blogging best friend!! I liked the article. Can't wait for the next one.

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