My whole morning was redirected by Amy Gutman’s article about women & drinking, which led me to this piece in New York Magazine on the same subject. As I read these frustrating tales of how the right to get absolutely sh*tfaced and not suffer any consequences is now being touted as a feminist platform, I had a major WTF? moment.
Ladies. I think we’ve lost the plot. As a woman who’s enjoyed many a drink AND the countless benefits of women’s progress in this country (Law school, somewhat equal pay, professional opportunities and at least two jobs I won because I was a woman and the business needed to hire one, credit in my own name, the ability to sign contracts and buy cars, houses, etc., not to mention the right to leave an abusive marriage and start over) I want to say: this whole “the right to decide when to lose control is part of having control” idea is absolutely TRUE. But I also think that individually and collectively, we need to smarten up and figure out what we really want, and how to use this right accordingly. Short-term escapism is not a long-term plan.
One of the reasons men have been accorded respect and power throughout time and history was because it was believed that they alone had the ability to think long-term. Women were seen as silly, unwise and untrustworthy; unable to take big picture concerns into account when making decisions.
When I look at these articles about the way women are using booze to justify doing whatever they want for a few hours and then deny any responsibility for what happens, because, well, “I was so wasted!” (while expecting men to maintain complete self control) is silly, unwise, and untrustworthy. It fails to take the big picture into account.
One of the basic tenants of society is that if you act like an idiot, you will be treated like an idiot. And while no, I do not in any way think this justifies things like date rape, I do think that maintaining control over your mind and body is part of earning respect, for everyone. So ladies, if you want to be respected, don’t go out and get totally sh*tfaced.
But what if that’s not the issue?
My guess is that many of the women profiled for these articles already feel plenty respected. What they’re not sure how to get to is being loved.
When I was in my 20s & early 30s, I did fine work in the office; I knew that I was worthy of respect. What felt more up for grabs for me was whether or not I was worthy of love. Was I good enough for someone to choose me to spend a life with? In those flirty drinking moments, I was trying to get to some of the interactions & responses that exist on the continuum between respect and love: admiration, appreciation, value, desire. I wanted both, not either/or. I think most of us do.
Feminists today RAIL at this, claiming not to want or need love. I think that’s a lie. Sometimes it seems easier to give up on something you want because it seems so unattainable. Hooking up with random guys might feel like it will fill this need for romantic connection and relationship. But I don’t think it does. And given how this lie is leaving millions of women in a brutal cycle of drowning in alcohol and hookups, then trying to recover the next day and keep up the facade that everything is “fine,” feels like a ship that needs to be turned around. I don’t think we should sacrifice love on the alter of control. It’s not worth it. And it’s not necessary.
I completely understand going out to let off steam after work or on weekends. I get what a total charge it is when you’re single to flirt with guys, to feel the rush of power and attention; how at it’s best, witty banter can be a total turn on, and having a glass of wine or a martini in your hand frees you up to say some things you might not let yourself get away with otherwise. But you don’t need to get drunk to do this, and you don’t need to hookup. Part of the power women have fought so hard to get is the ability to rewrite social equations when they’re not adding up. Collectively, our current use of booze and sex and our bodies is not adding up.
The world is filled with these messed up equations. It’s not just single women trying to build a life with the pieces within reach. It’s all of us, across every facet of life, tempted by lies about what we want and how to get there.
I don’t know how much (if any) overlap there is between the women profiled in these articles and my blog readership. But I know for sure this blog is read by lots of people who care about other people, and who pray. I think this might be the answer. My opinions won’t help anyone make different choices. But I’ve experienced firsthand how God can speak to you, one-on-one, in a way that is so individual and so filled with hope that changing course seems not only possible, but like the best idea ever.
This is my prayer for every one of us, young and old, who is trying to cobble together a life from the pieces we see within reach: May God bless us, speak to us, inspire and guide us. May he show us what to hold on to and what to let go of. May he show us who we are, and fill us with a hope that surpasses understanding, an inner faith and strength of belief that makes no sense, but lights a clear path from where we are to the life we were created for. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
I don’t know how to solve this. But I believe God does.