The article Giving up alcohol opened my eyes to the infuriating truth about why women drink has been up for a month now – and already been subject to, I’m sure, numerous takedowns – but people keep asking me about it.
I think they’re asking me about it, like “Uh … when are you going to get around to tearing this thing apart?” (I am, after all, the author of How to Be Productive When You’re a Little Tipsy.)
Article summary: If you’re sober and you live in Seattle, as this author does, alcohol is everywhere – from communal bars at the office to beer on tap at the local pharmacy (weird). If you are sober (as in, Sober) and your friends and social media followers don’t know about it, they’ll constantly recommend wine to you (no one recommends wine to me when I fall down or sit by a pool without wine, and honestly I would like that if it also came with actual commitments to getting wine for me). Networking events can also be a problem, like one wine tasting that didn’t even have water available (that’s just rude). Oh, also women who drink don’t notice sexism or fight the patriarchy because booze makes us complicit in our own oppression. Really.
Let us begin.
The first part of this would have been a fine article on its own. The author seems to live in an unusually alcoholic reality (and I say that as a New Yorker). Agreed that maybe events that are required for your job shouldn’t take place at wine tastings! Fine point!
One person who sent this article to me asked for my perspective since I frequently say things like “Fun! Networking! Mojitos!” in marketing copy for The Bullish Conference. One year, the conference featured a scotch tasting performed by The Scotch Broad. Women can drink scotch because it’s not 1910, but are sometimes intimidated by it, and in fact have at various times been prohibited from enjoying the finest alcohols that the world has to offer. I support scotch equality! Although I am personally more likely to have an Old Fashioned with Bulleit Rye, so if you do not have an alcohol problem, perhaps you too would like to try that sometime.
I don’t have big worries about alcohol at my own events for one very important reason — literally no one is required to attend The Bullish Conference for their job. A few people persuade their boss to pay, but for the most part, attendees at my conferences have paid their own money, rearranged their schedules, and otherwise gone way out of their way to attend. So I assume they like or at least don’t mind the prevailing aesthetic, which involves celebratory booze and unicorns. (In actual practice, women at the Bullish Conference consume an average of 1.5 drinks each per networking mixer, which I know because I’m the person who plans everything and decides whether to commit to an open bar or a consumption bar in my contract with the hotel. The consumption bar is by far the better deal.) What if people don’t like unicorns either? Then they can ignore them, or go to a different conference, and that’s okay! Different people can like different things!
It’s a little like fire walks — perhaps you saw the news item that a bunch of people burned their feet walking on hot coals at a Tony Robbins seminar (apparently because the trick is walking quickly, which doesn’t work if you stop to take selfies). Anyway, if people want to pay to go to a Tony Robbins seminar and walk on hot coals, okay, have fun with that. But I don’t think anyone’s boss should require them to do that.
Back to the article, though — if the author had stopped there, okay. But she of course goes on to claim that women who drink are uncommitted to fighting structural inequality, which is insulting, unfair, and a MASSIVE projection of the author’s personal problems onto other people. Which I’m pretty sure is against the feminist constitution, the vagenda, etc.
For instance, here is an okay topic for an article:
“For Years, I Ate Too Much Cake as an Emotional Eating Response to Unsatisfying Casual Sex”
Here is a bad topic for an article:
“Women Who Eat Cake Are Just Drowning Their Sorrows About Unsatisfying Casual Sex”
The first article describes one author’s problem, which others may share or otherwise identify with.
The second article is factually incorrect.
And it’s not a big improvement if you change the title to “SOME Women Who Eat Cake Are Just Drowning Their Sorrows About Unsatisfying Casual Sex,” when the “some” women you’re referring to are just women you don’t know who eat cake in your presence. You don’t know why they’re eating cake. You don’t know how they’re living their lives. Sure, you said “some.” That’s good. But you can’t project your own personal problems on those women either.
And just as some of us eat cake and still make emotionally satisfying sexual decisions, plenty of us drink alcohol with zero effect on our commitment to feminism and social justice. I can’t believe I even had to type that. In fact, I haven’t had a drink since March because I’m six months pregnant. You know how easy it was to stop drinking? Easy, because I’m not an alcoholic. You know how hard it is to see people drinking at networking events? I would say I’m occasionally wistful, but not if it’s just wine poured into plastic cups, because I am a grown-ass woman and I only drink out of real glassware. I don’t drink bad alcohol. It is easy for me to resist bad alcohol because — le sigh — not everyone has an alcohol problem.
You know what difference my radically changed drinking habits have made in my noticing and responding to sexism? Literally zero. This is kind of my jam.
We all live in radically different bodies, which is why people should watch themselves before dispensing flippant weight-loss advice, for instance — or assuming that everyone else will have the same response to wine, or Wellbutrin, or birth control, or anything else. Surely it is written in the feminist constitution that “We all live in radically different bodies, and thou shalt not assume or project thy experiences on others.”
As for having a tough time finding nonalcoholic networking events, sure, I see that. That also would’ve been a fine topic for an article.
Practically speaking, most networking events are run by volunteers, so in general I think whoever does the unpaid work decides how it’s gonna be. (With some exceptions for “official” institutions, like university alumni clubs, the AAUW, etc., where you’d hope the slate of events would be highly inclusive — but again, you might have to get involved yourself to make your needs and preferences known, because these organizations’ local chapters are still generally run by unpaid volunteers.) But when networking events are more like “Badass Women Networking with Yoga and Wine!” and this is something started by two friends that runs off a Facebook page, yeah, they get to do whatever they want. Someone who wanted more nonalcoholic options could start their own thing, or focus more on breakfast and lunch events, or sports and fitness-themed events. Events with a speaker or formal program often involve much less drinking. Or you could just go wherever you want, don’t drink, and say something totally unapologetic like, “Oh, I don’t drink alcohol, it just doesn’t agree with me” instead of silently stewing every time someone tries to get you a drink.
And also on a practical level, it’s not overboard to have a strategy for everything going into a networking event. You wear your power outfit or whatever, you have your elevator pitch. It’s an inherently artificial situation already — let’s not pretend otherwise. The wine tasting that didn’t even have water? Rude. But bars are easy. People are sad for you if you’re like, “I’ll just have water/Coke.” It’s the “just.” If someone thought you really enjoyed Coke, it would be fine, especially if ordered confidently. Order something very specific in a confident way — for instance, “I’d like a seltzer in a highball glass with a lemon AND a lime.” Now no one is sad for you, because it sounds like you are getting something you are happy with. Women are trained to make sure everyone is taken care of; some of this is an unsurprising outgrowth of that tendency.
I mean, I said much the same thing to a guy I was mentoring (weird story) who had just arrived from India, didn’t drink alcohol, and had never been on a date. Your date just wants to know that you’re taken care of. In very many cultures, it’s rude to enjoy something in front of others if they don’t also have something to enjoy. If you demand your cranberry juice a certain way, it sounds like you really like cranberry juice, and then the other person at the bar with you doesn’t feel awkward that you aren’t enjoying yourself. I recently planned a bar meeting for the W Hotel on Union Square in NYC because I knew they’d serve me a Blueprint Juice but with a real glass. Cold-pressed kale juice is kind of the “scotch, neat” of juices. I felt perfectly badass. Also, if you’re going to sit at a bar, you should buy something that costs money. (If you get a seltzer with lemon and lime, leave like a $5 tip.) Done.
But just like I wouldn’t tell people who eat a lot of cake that it’s distracting them from activism, it’s super not cool to suggest that every woman who’s drinking is somehow dissipating her precious feminist lifeblood.
You are not a mind reader. Don’t tell other women they’re bad at feminism because of what they put in their bodies, whether that’s food or dicks or alcohol or anything else.