I Am Woman, Watch Me Drink You Under the Table Misled Post-Feminism and Alcohol at Southern Methodist University
By Leslie Todd
The women of Southern Methodist University can certainly hold their own...when it comes to alcohol. On my walks across campus to and from class, I hear boastful accounts of wild nights of drinking and partying full of drunken mishaps and lighthearted debauchery. It has become a way not only of relating to peers but apparently a bragging right, which acts as a pastime of equal opportunity. As I walk past these less than modest conversations I have taken note that just as many women are the narrators as are men. I am not trying to reemphasize or identify an alcohol problem on this campus because the mere existence and necessity of the SMU Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention acts as evidence enough. What I now want to look at is the way in which the women on this campus interact with alcohol in relation to post-feminism.
After reading Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs I now understand why the media would refer to our times as a post-feminist age. Why wouldn't we believe this is a post-feminist world? We live in a place where we have achieved sexual revolution. Strippers can now proudly tear off their clothes in front of a crowd of drunken men and call it empowerment. Porn stars no longer have to hide in the margins of society ashamed of their profession. So much of what feminism was fighting for in the early years of its formation was a right to our own bodies, a right to female sexual liberation. The clitoris came into existence and we suddenly had to right to an orgasm with the book Our Bodies, Ourselves. It would be easy, therefore, to mistake such forced societal subjugation in a male dominated world of strippers and porn stars as empowerment.
Women want to be respected and viewed as having power over their own bodies and displaying them between two pages of Playboy has somehow become an expression of that power. It's my body and I'll do with it what I want. I'm not spreading my legs for the men that read this magazine but for myself, because I can. It appears obvious to me, however, that these women are merely giving into the patriarchy and living to please men. As Ariel Levy explains it, these women are female chauvinist pigs. They despise the thought of being girly-girls and the classic view of femininity because they want to be like men as a means of gaining their respect. Not only are we not in an age of post-feminism but we have taken a step back with the existence of such "raunch culture" into what I am tempted to call pre-feminist post-feminism. Women who support acts of "sexual liberation" such as posing in Playboy, producing G-String Divas , or stripping off their shirt for a 30 second clip on Girls Gone Wild no longer love their vaginas as the Vagina Monologues hope to inspire. These women hate themselves and wish they were men because men have the power. In Levy's book a woman named Erin Eisenberg represents this point in a quote: "You have to understand, a man is a man; it doesn't matter what position he's in...I have a lot of male friends. I feel conflicted being a woman, and I think I make up for it by trying to join the ranks of men. I don't think I have a lot of feminine qualities." Erin participates in raunch culture and buys magazines like Maxim and Playboy all the while doing so because she doesn't identify as feminine and wishes she were a man. By saying "join the ranks of men" she unknowingly pits women against men in the context of war yet betrays herself by trying to join the other side.
How did we arrive to such a misled position? The women of this campus knowingly or not are active participants in the raunch culture of opposition to feminism. The sexual revolution of post-feminism to which the media clings has translated on SMU's campus through alcohol and the behavior surrounding it (among many other things). They binge drink and party hardy with the best (or worst) of them. Women get drunk to the point of vomiting or putting themselves in danger in the pursuit of gaining men's respect as equals; a behavior rapidly changing from female drinking habits of the past. Men gain respect from each other, among other more respectable ways, by demonstrating the amount of liquor they can hold before losing control. A "real" man can drink anyone under the table and has control of himself despite the bottle of whisky working on his brain cells and filtering through his liver. The idea of being a lightweight is incredibly disrespectful. Women are reacting to this on SMU's campus by attempting to gain respect in a similar way through alcohol and entering into what before has been regarded as a man's world. Women are kicking down the barricade to the men's only blood alcohol level in an attempt to gain equal footing with them in any realm of their life possible. It's as if SMU's women are saying, "I can be just as stupid as you are."
And truly they are achieving the same level of stupidity in a blatant attempt to gain a foothold as one of the guys. Women are putting themselves in danger because in reality very few women can drink as much as men and are naturally lightweights. Furthermore, and let's face it, women are putting themselves at risk of sexual assault. Men don't have to worry about rape like women do and by drinking to the point of not being able to take care of much less defend oneself is taking Erin Eisenberg's idea of self hatred to a whole new level.
It's time for the women of this campus to open their eyes to the world of statements their drinking habits are making. Every action we take today reflects not only upon ourselves as individuals but also on women as a whole. We need to be honest and critically analyze not only our actions and how they speak as representatives of our gender on this campus but also how we treat ourselves. The media may say whatever they like about their post-feminist world, but the reality is that we are in more trouble than ever. SMU women do not recognize that they are participating in the raunch culture by means of binge drinking and therefore are perpetuating a step backward from feminist equal rights in a step toward efforts to please all men.
i Levy, Ariel. Female Chauvinist Pigs. Free Press: New York, 2005. 99.
ii Levy 99.
iii Levy 91.
iv Levy 101.