Lessons from a night on the town…

2 Jul

Last night, when I went to the pub, I had a couple of revelations and I felt that I ought to share at them with you as they relate (like everything in life) to feminism. As a very occasional drinker (Im talking like 1 glass of wine every six months) I am often the only sober person on a night out. I don’t really have a problem with other people drinking, in fact its sometimes nice when other people are a bit drunk, as they can become more sociable. It’s just that I, myself, have a number of reasons to steer clear.

Hanging out with a bunch of drunken musicians, I had a moment to reflect on the situation I found myself in and came up with what I think is a brilliant analogy.  I realised that being a feminist in contemporary society is similar to being a sober person in a room full of drinkers. Being sober you are conscious of everything going on around you, from the guy who thinks he’s subtly coming on to you to the woman who is being coerced into going home with a stranger. Though often times you can have just as much fun when you’re not drunk, sometimes it does get you down that everyone around you has stopped articulating words or making full sentences. It becomes particularly uncomfortable when people do anti-social things or you see others, particularly women, finding themselves in vulnerable situations and there’s nothing you can do.

In identifying yourself as a feminist you automatically become the sober person in the bar at midnight. You are still very capable of operating normally in society, having fun and participating, sometimes more fully, in every aspect of daily life. However you are always alert. You notice when things are not right, when someone makes a sexist slur or there’s a story in the newspaper about a subject particularly relevant to women’s rights. As a feminist you can still enjoy yourself but you have a heightened awareness, its difficult to have the same reckless abandonment that you may have if you didn’t think deeply about social injustice.

The feminist is the sober person in the pub who is often frustratingly aware of all that is going on around her. So, though I don’t mind alcohol in some situations, it is in this analogical instance where I take issue with the drinkers. I really don’t think its fair that feminists to have to constantly play the moral police, or for women to have to be on constant alert purely because of their gender. And, unlike being the sober person in the pub, the feminist can never just leave and go home. Being a feminist in a patriarchal society is a 24/7 experience and that’s what makes it so disheartening and exhausting at times.

The second thing I noticed on my night out is how alcohol serves as a perfect amplification of sexist tendencies. Not only does it bring out a sometimes nasty, sometimes affable character in the person who has consumed it, it also does away with inhibition. Some think everyone should be free to speak whatever is on their mind, however I would prefer people abide by some form of societally encouraged behaviour. This includes political correctness, restraint and diplomacy. This does not include sexist jokes, lingering unwanted body contact or drunken lectures. Unfortunately for me, last night was a whole lot of the latter and not so much of the former. Now, one can’t blame alcohol for assholes. However, just like religion, alcohol provides a cover for people to do ass-holic things with a fair amount of impunity.

On my night out I was followed around by a man double my age who insisted on lecturing me about how to live my life. It wasn’t enough for him to keep putting his hand on my waist or say inappropriate things trying to make me blush, no no no, he then had to tell me how to live. Now you can’t have it all Im afraid, you either want to pretend you’re my age to try and lure me home with you OR you can try and be the parental figure. But the two will never, and should never, mix. This lethal combination of condescension and objectification is a common mix for relations between men and women but is forcefully displayed, in all its glory, on a night out.

So, on my night out I was ever so privileged to view our society through a magnifying glass. The soberest person in the pub AND the woman who ‘needed minding’ were two roles I played last night and I didnt enjoy either of them very much. It’s one thing to be fighting for women’s rights with other like minded people but its a totally different thing experiencing the issues in real life. Last night made me further determined to try and eliminate gender inequality. If nothing else, Ill be grateful when the day comes that alcohol isn’t served with a side of patronising objectification.

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