'Tis the season to be jolly - or rather, if you're a woman, 'tis the time to knock back half an egg-cup of egg-nog at the office party and spend the rest of the year wearing sackcloth and ashes and a large scarlet letter A for ALKIE on your back. Because sometimes it seems that festive drink can no longer be taken in this country without an accompanying sad-sack chorus nagging on from here to the New Year about how awful women drunks are and how we should leave imbibing to the boys.
I don't buy it. But then maybe I've known of too many women on the fist-end of a violent, drunken man, be it be it boyfriend, husband or far-from-perfect stranger. Drunken women can be sloppy, tell you you're their best friend until you wish you were their worst enemy, and slaughter 'I Will Survive' in a way that makes one crave the return of capital punishment - but a violent drunken woman is still the extreme exception.
We are fed a lot of swill about the rise of the feral female and the increase in violent crime by women, but the reality is that women still commit a miniscule number of violent offences compared to men - around five per cent. Men murder on average 8 times for every murder perpetrated by a woman. The homicide rate "gender gap" hasn't closed over the years; rather it has increased from 5 to 1 in 1976 to 9 to 1 in 1999. And this is equally true of offences carried out under the influence of alcohol.
Last year a young woman, apparently photographed legless in a Cardiff street with her knickers around her ankles, became a national symbol of drunken female depravity. I remember being asked to write quite a few denunciations of her for various newspapers, which I refused to do a) because I love to get drunk and b) because she wasn't hurting anyone. I remember saying to my husband 'That poor kid - I bet she's got some really worthwhile, stressful job, and now a bunch of cushy, drunken journalists are writing her the Riot Act!' Sure enough, 20-year-old Sarah Lyons turned out to be a teaching assistant who was larking around with a pair of 'David Hasselhoff comedy pants' which she had borrowed from a friend. WHAT a Jezabel!
If men don't like women getting drunk, then men shouldn't have made it look such fun. It's a fact that the minute women start to enjoy anything which men take for granted - sex, careers, divorce - there is an embarrassingly belated attempt to move the goal-posts and convince the ladies how horrid these things are. But it won't wash - especially not in the wine bars.
Generally, a big part of being a woman is still about wasting one's life pleasing other people. When we get drunk, we let everyone down – especially ourselves – and it feels so good that it comes as a shock every time; the one thousandth time as much as the first. And that's why we'll keep on doing it, till you prise the last empty alco-pop bottle from our stiff little fingers. Cheers!
Julie Burchill is a renowned journalist who has contributed to The Times, The Guardian and The Sun among other publications - she currently writes a weekly column for The Independent. She is also the author of several successful books including Not In My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy and Sugar Rush.
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