We’ve all been there. Had one too many sherries at the office party and ended up screeching All I Want For Christmas with what can only be described as ‘gusto,’ or knocked back a few ill advised Jagerbombs with your boss. It’s an easy – and pretty common – occurrence for us to overdo it during the festive period. I’m an ex office worker and can honestly say that the enthusiasm of overworked, underpaid staff directed toward an open bar is akin to a toddler and a box of chocolates (or my housemate’s dog and cake). The blinkers are on. The off button is momentarily suspended.
The bar is FREE. There is wine – albeit, shit wine – on the table.
Before you know it, your boss is clutching an inflatable guitar and everyone’s feeling the festive love, linking arms and crooning along to Fairy Tale of New York.
Embarrassment and the office party go together like mac and cheese. This year’s Subway advert pays homage to that terrible morning after feeling with the familiar line, “there’s always one, and this year it’s you.”
Like I said, we’ve all been there.
I have definitely had my fair share of drunken festive nights out. Getting tipsy on mulled wine at Winter Wonderland before crashing a do at a fancy pub. Drinking far too much free plonk at a media party and almost falling in the swimming pool. Getting merry at a bar with friends and wobbling back through the Northern Quarter, clutching a tray of chips and gravy, only to spill it down my dress.
I’m not by any means saying that its right for the population of Britain to go out and get leathered on a weekly basis. I’m just as concerned by our country’s predilection for binge drinking as the next person. And I certainly can’t exempt myself from the problem. I have engaged in my fair share of booze glugging activities, particularly at Christmas.
I have occasionally looked back and thought. “Bloody hell, woman. You’re an idiot,” because when I’m full of wine, I can talk the hind legs of a donkey and fall over like only a drunken English girl can, but I have never felt ashamed of getting drunk because it might put me in a “dangerous situation.” Rather, I have felt ashamed of being drunk because I am colossal numbskull.
I’m a pretty amiable drunk. I more often than not recognise when I’ve had too much and I can get myself home with the clarity of a homing pigeon.
But that’s not my point. My point is there’s this overwhelming sense that, as a woman, I shouldn’t be drinking like this. I shouldn’t have a few festive mulled wines and a happy stumble home. I shouldn’t do it just in case. I shouldn’t do it because it puts me in danger.
But who is putting me in danger?
Where is the danger?
I haven’t created the danger. I haven’t been aggressive or rude. I haven’t done anything other than have one vino too many and need to get myself home to a Wotsit sandwich, a brew and my bed.
So why is it my fault? Why is it my responsibility?
Yes, I am an adult so my life is my responsibility and therefore my actions are too. But that’s my point. If someone is going to hurt, or target me, that isn’t my fault. It isn’t my responsibility. Its the perpetrator’s fault. It isn’t mine and I am sick of being told otherwise.
I recently read a great opinion piece in The Pool, where the comments of Judge Mr Justice Gilbart – who referred to a young woman as “foolish” because she was sexually assaulted when she was really drunk this summer – were discussed.
The author suggested we need to spend this festive season showing more compassion to each other. We all make mistakes and overindulge and labelling these incidences as foolishness is problematic for women everywhere. She states that by victim blaming we are letting those who commit acts of sexual violence off the hook.
People in glass houses, and all that.
And it got me thinking.
My problem isn’t the fact that people are pointing out the dangers of drinking too much – particularly during this time of year – I completely agree that we need to curb the enthusiasm and welcome and inclusive public media campaign to highlight the dangers of over indulging.
My objection is that I am being told that because I am a woman – not because I am a human and alcohol is a poison – I should not drink because it puts me in danger. And not only that, it’s this “foolishness” that played a part in summoning the danger.
It seems sad, and rather archaic, that our immediate reaction to protecting women – and men – against sexual assault is to put the onus – and the blame – on the person attacked, rather than the culprit.
“She was too drunk.”
“Her skirt was too short.”
“She shouldn’t have gone home alone.”
“She kissed him so, you know…”
“She put herself in a dangerous position.”
There is this unspoken bond between women on nights out. We take care of each other in a way that I don’t think men do because they don’t have to. We remove the bit of loo roll sticking to a fellow party goers’s stiletto. Give up our place in a taxi rank for someone a bit worse for wear. Help the girl with drunken Bambi legs find her mates. We do it because we recognise ourselves in each other. We have to take care of each other because there’s this big beaming neon light screaming DANGER.
What really irks me is the need for the judge to pass comment on this case. In the eyes of the law – and decent human beings – this young woman was violated. A crime was committed. It is not up to another person to pass judgement or comment on her behaviour. Sexual assault is just that. Its assault. If it had been a situation where a man walked up to a stranger on the street and punched him in the face, would it be the victim’s fault because they were drunk, or would it be the attackers?
As a society we wear blinkers when it comes to sexual assault where alcohol is involved, and it’s really not helping any of us.
It’s not helping women. Why should we constantly feel like we are going into battle when something terrible happens to us? Why do we always need to defend ourselves?
And ultimately, its not helping men. Its like a mother constantly providing excuses for a wayward child. Its always someone else’s fault.
For me, this is problematic, when it comes to educating men – and women – about consent, assault and relationships. It also paints men as something women should fear. Like Machiavellian baddies lurking in the shadows. We “good”girls should be on our best behaviour because we just simply don’t know what’s around the corner.
I really don’t like the argument this makes about women, and equally, about men.