Following on from my TV work on this, I wrote this for a specific look at girls and drinking.
It’s published on Holly Peacock’s fantastic blog here Alternatively, you can read it below. Thanks!
Don’t let the angsty poetry fool you. Teenage girls aren’t that complicated.
The metaphors of flowers (hark!), the birds (lark!), are smokescreens. We’re trying to hide the fact that we’re quite simple. Well. When it comes to why we binge drink we are. Don’t ask me to explain our metaphysical relationship with deities. Or waxing.
I am reaching the end of the final ‘een’ year, and look back I realise that most of my drinking is done for simple reasons.
Firstly, because I thought drinking made me confident. It makes me forget about my lack of thigh gap, my snort /laugh, and my bunny teeth. I am fun! Interesting! Seductive! (Ironic really. Most of my drinking nights ended crying in the loos, because yesterday my friend said my dress was too orange.)
It’s not a great mind set. Firstly, it means that you don’t build up internal, enduring sources of self-confidence. You’re reliant on the red. Plus, Alcohol Healthwatch’s 2013 report on women and alcohol, found that women who drink to become confident, are more likely to binge drink.
It’s understandable. We see alcohol as the cause of confidence, why wouldn’t we want it by the crate?
Secondly, I drank because I wanted to be one of the guys. A lad. In the gang. Yo. It’s not uncommon. In New Zealand, recent research has suggested that women are drinking to be more like men. In 16-17 year old girls, binge drinking is more common than 16-17 year old guys. I know the feeling. Once I was trying to impress a guy by boasting about how much I could drink. Turns out he was Russian.
So if we want to tackle girls binging, we need to start with social change.
Firstly, we need to increase young women’s confidence. I think the most influential way of doing this is through the family. It’s all about building us up to believe that we are better than binging.
My Dad sat me down when I was 15, and told me that I didn’t need to drink to be fun. I was fun and interesting as I was. And any boy who didn’t realise that was a prick.
But I don’t think we talk about this between us enough. So parents, sit down your daughter, tell her she’s beautiful, interesting, and worth so much more than vomiting in the bin outside McDonalds.
When we build up teenage girl’s confidence, they’re also less likely to want to be one of the guys. We’ll be happy as we are; as women, not men.
But I think that society has a role to play here as well. We need to celebrate being female more. That way we won’t see being a guy as something to aspire to.
How do you compliment a brave, strong woman? You say she has balls.
The highest compliment is to compare her to a man? How liberating. I’m not saying guys aren’t great. The whiff of Old Spice is enough to make me dance around the manliness totem pole.
But we need to celebrate women too!
We have to make ‘woman’ something to aspire to. And we can start by getting a phrase that rewards strong women with a female trait. Something like “wow, she’s got ovaries!” (except less..cringeworthy). We need a female word tiara we can crown people with. The language has to acknowledge femininity as a desirable state.
Otherwise, we’re stuck trying to be one of the lads, and proving it by booze.
When we start celebrating women, we won’t have girls feeling they need to be a lad to be cool. Being a woman will be equally good.
So parents, god parents, God (if you’re listening), if want to stop teenage girls drinking, tell them they’re fantastic. Tell them they don’t need to drink to be confident. Tell them they don’t need to be one of the guys to be fabulous.
Tell them that they’re just so AWESOME.