Is Binge Drinking a Feminist Issue?

By Dirk Hanson 06/03/11

Drinking plays a huge role in rape and violence against women. So why aren't feminists up in arms?


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Girl Interrupted.
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Kate Torgovnick over at The Frisky wants to know why bouts of extreme drinking among women aren’t considered an issue, on a par with other feminist issues like equal pay and the need for more women in government. Sound silly to you? “Extreme drinking,” writes Torgovnick, “the kind we see on Jersey Shore, the kind we know goes down on college campuses all across the country, the kind we see around us in bars on weekend nights, the kind that fueled The Hangover, the kind that inspires all those 'last night, I was so drunk' stories that people like to tell—regularly puts women in danger in the name of a good time.”

Not convinced? Torgovnick has some numbers for you: In 47% of reported rapes, both the woman and the perpetrator had been drinking. This compares to an additional 17% of cases where the perpetrator only was intoxicated, and 7% of cases where only the victim had been drinking. In light of this, the author’s conclusion makes sense: “This has me wondering if changing our culture—from one where binge drinking is allowed, normalized, and in many situations even encouraged to one where people are urged to know their limits and always have their wits about them—could lead to a significant drop in the number of women who have to endure sexual assaults.” 

So what should women do? Stop drinking, partying, and having a good time? Nothing so extreme is required, she writes. “We need to learn and stick to our own alcohol limits. We need to stop equating celebration with getting blasted…. And perhaps most importantly, when we’re out, we need to watch out for our friends and other women who may have had too much.”

Girlfriends don’t let girlfriends get stupid drunk. Sounds like a wise dictum to us.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]