Young women & their growing drinking problem

It’s time to sincerely consider what women’s increased drinking is saying about our culture.

Jill Chen | Stocksy United

On the night of my 21st birthday, I ordered a beer for the first time. When the waiter took my order, he laughed, “It’s your first drink right?” and winked. I surprised him when I said it was my first ever drink. Shocked, he exclaimed, “How did you make it this long without it?”

When I turned 21, I quickly became aware of the American drinking culture that young women are now a part of. It seems that when tough situations arise, the cultural response is to quickly recommend alcohol: Long paper to write? Better pour a glass of wine. Conference presentation? Reward yourself with a flight of craft beer at the end of a long day. Fellow students joked, “Thank goodness you turned 21 before your final year of college—you’ll need all the shots you can get your hands on.”

Even outside of school, when it’s time to relax and spend time with women friends, it seems that alcohol is a necessity. Women are swimming in alcohol. Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter are crowded with the anthems of women who rely on alcohol to make it through the work week: “I love the days when the only choice I have to make is red or white,” “I am woman, hear me pour,” “Now watch me sip on chardon-nay-nay.”

I’ve found that drinking wine is considered sexy and alcohol is considered a sure way to “improve” one’s personality. Coffee dates have been replaced by wine sipping. I’m often encouraged by friends to “treat myself” and order a cocktail with dinner. I even began to think that my ability to throw back a beer made me more welcome to social events I’d been excluded from before—like being invited to parties and even drinking with the guys.

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Gone are the days where we view alcohol use and abuse as just a men’s issue. Historically, women have been more moderate drinkers than men. However, a report from a recent British medical journal suggests that the millennial generation is closing the drinking gender gap. But the playing field concerning drinking is not leveling because men are drinking less these days—rather, women are now drinking almost as much alcohol as men.

The major catch? Women’s bodies don’t process alcohol in the same way that men’s bodies do. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women can achieve higher blood alcohol content levels and become more impaired than men who drink the same amount. Women also suffer a greater risk than men when it comes to organ damage related to alcohol, trauma from alcohol-related car accidents and interpersonal violence. So while we may be drinking the same amount as men, we’re suffering greater consequences.

Yet the real question is this: Why are women closing the drinking gap? I suspect it has to do with our cultural values: that women now feel pressure to succeed in the workplace, to make money, to climb the corporate ladder. These are all goals that don’t account for the needs of the spirit, and we drink to mask this disconnect.

The modern woman juggles work, school, family, and other commitments—but has to numb herself with a large glass of wine at the end of the day.

I’ve seen women in my life adapt to new workplace environments by using alcohol as a social tool in after-work get-togethers and meetings with clients. And the drinking is not confined just to work. Women drink excessively when socializing as well, supposedly celebrating the ability to throw back alcohol just as well as the guys and stay out as long as we want. Yet is this truly an advancement? Is this what gender equality is all about? Women achieving equality doesn’t mean that we should adopt all the bad behaviors that traditionally have been the purview of men.

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Telling women they can enjoy massive amounts of alcohol to cover up the emptiness they are experiencing in a consumerist, work-driven world isn’t liberating. It’s paralyzing. The modern woman juggles work, school, family, and other commitments—but has to numb herself with a large glass of wine at the end of the day.

It’s time to sincerely consider what women’s increased drinking is saying about our culture.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, you can find more information about alcoholism at Alcoholics Anonymous.

Chloe Mooradian
Chloe Mooradian
Chloe Mooradian is a recent graduate of Washburn University, where she studied history. She loves Pope John Paul II, listening to Ben Rector, and hiking mountain trails. When she's not buried in a stack of books, you'll find her writing on her blog, hanging out with her seven awesome siblings or spending time with her fiancé, Joseph. Her life goal is to become the patron saint of coffee addicts.

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