NBC News recently posted an article about how much more Americans are drinking these days. It goes on to chronicle drinking statistics across the country—pointing out that heavy drinking is up 17.5 percent among women and 4.9 percent among men since 2005. To be clear, the number of people who drink alcohol hasn’t gone up—it’s holding strong at 56%—but the people who do drink are drinking more intensely. So what is going on that is causing women to drink more heavily?
Women Are—Duh—Not Men
While there are many reasons to speculate why dangerous drinking might be on the rise—an imbalanced economy, a poor job market, too much porn and not enough sex—it does raise an eyebrow to see that the rates of binge drinking is rising faster among women than men. This is problematic for several reasons: women metabolize alcohol differently, which is why binge drinking is defined as five drinks in one sitting for a man and four for a woman. Women also become more vulnerable to physical and sexual assault when they are drunk. But since women need to drink less to qualify, it could just be that women are now drinking as much as men. And why shouldn’t they? Oh right, biology.
Here’s how I picture it. You know how on Mad Men the guys wear pants and have bars in their offices and drink all day and the women wear skirts and maybe have one drink with the men but eventually roll their eyes and say something like, “Oh, you!”? Well, nowadays, women wear whatever the f**k they want and finish off entire bottles on their own. If we are still going to be paid less, we might as well numb the pain of misogyny with a box of wine.
I guess the real problem is not just that people are binge drinking but that binge drinking leads to some really not-great ideas like “I bet I can land in the pool if I jump from the roof” or “Let’s race our Priuses down this city street,” or “I bet my ex-boyfriend from high school really wants a text from me at 4:30 am.” This is both highly entertaining and deeply disturbing.
But What’s a Binge?
This might be why drinking on college campuses and in small towns where there is nothing to do but get drunk and pregnant is also rapidly increasing. Some US counties report more than a third of the residents are binge drinkers and more than 20 percent are heavy drinkers. What isn’t specified is the difference between a binge drinker and a heavy drinker. Is a heavy drinker someone who binge drinks every night? Or is a binge drinker someone who only heavy drinks on special occasions like birthdays, holidays and Wednesdays?
Either way, both sides pay. Chronic, long-term drinkers often face health problems like liver disease and many forms of cancer, while binge drinkers tend to see the damage to their jobs, marriages and friendships—not to mention the risks involved with drinking and driving.
Women Don’t Need to Step up to This Plate
So while I understand why women may be pressured to keep up with men in the bar scene—or that women now endure the same pressures as men in the workplace and therefore drink harder—I just feel we should lady things up a bit. I don’t mean be proper and wear underwear every day or anything but that we should take our 20% less binge drinking limits a little more seriously. All men might be created equal but women are biologically different and we need to be cautious of that. I’m a feminist but super boozing doesn’t need to be a category where we work so hard to prove we’re just as good.