Good girls don't drink

Good girls don't drink

I was having a wee dram of whisky the other day with some friends on a balmy afternoon. The women present decided that they wanted to switch to wine. Not all of the women present were drinking, and so the host assumed that perhaps it was because the whisky was a bit harsh (we all have our preferences). When we switched to wine, the host then politely asked if one of the women who was not drinking would like a glass. Her boyfriend quickly interceded, saying ‘no, she’s fine. Good girls don’t drink.’

The room was silent for a beat, because obviously, there were other women drinking present, which meant that, clearly this boyfriend was saying these girls were the ‘bad’ ones. I gave him a look and he laughed uncomfortably, saying he was joking. She declined anyway, not because she is a good girl, but because she doesn’t drink. But that phrase…it sat with me. What exactly do we mean when we say good girl, and what does that look like? Why do we want to be good girls?

I’m also curious about the larger conversation around women who drink – whatever they drink. What is it, first of all, that is so sacrilegious about women who do imbibe and secondly, why can’t society seem to decide what version of women they want? You are kind of damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, honestly; for example, the same man who says good girls don’t drink will be just as likely to meet his wife in a church aisle, or in the club. Don’t deny it: the same way we are not all going to the club, is the same way we are not all going to church, but mysteriously, we are meeting each other somewhere, no? So do you go to the club and have water – in which case you’re still condemned for being in the club – or do you go to church and hide that you’re going to the club? You can guess, for wife material reasons, which one most women do. We’re out here lying left right and centre, so that someone thinks we’re a good girl enough to marry. And that’s what irks me. When someone says ‘good girl’, it sounds like they mean ‘doesn’t do unladylike things like drink’, and ‘demure and submissive’, or, ‘doesn’t care about politics’, or, ‘fits in to the mould that won’t rebel or reject the unfairness of patriarchy.’ No?

Because women DO drink. It doesn’t make you a demon, it makes you someone who likes alcohol, what it does to you, the vibe it creates, the culture – whatever. And yet, we are demonised for it – women, far more than men. Yes, I understand the rationale of how sloppy people can get when they’re drunk – but don’t all genders do that? Drunk sloppiness is gross, across the board. And yes, some people are more at risk than others when they completely lose all their bearings, but again – there is such a thing as responsible drinking, once again, across all genders. We’re all largely trying to protect ourselves against anything that happens after a pint, and doing the best that we can.

So which is it, good people? Is alcohol available to all but not allowed for all? Have we so easily forgotten that it was often women in charge of producing and passing on the skillset for our traditional brews, or was that too only for the convenience of labour? Was Timothy wrong in his gospel when he said a little wine is good for the stomach – you know, the wine we can all agree Jesus made from water? Is it ok to drink as long as you’re not a woman, because women shouldn’t drink, because…you tell me. Why in the world shouldn’t women drink? My next question will be why only men ate the chicken drumstick in the home…

Feedback to the editor: [email protected]