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That moral high horse of a newspaper, the Daily Mail, has many and varied preoccupations, but none seems to get its goat as much as the so-called binge drinking culture, particularly in relation to women writes Ros Dodd.

‘One festive binge' screamed one of its front-page headlines this week above a story that claimed this Christmas will bring ‘unprecedented' levels of drunkenness, according to ‘experts'.

‘It will mean a peak in thuggery on the streets and put massive pressure on police and hospitals,' said the newspaper. It went on: ‘Research has found that millions are planning their heaviest-ever Christmas binges, to take advantage of round-the-clock availability of alcohol'. Err, alcohol has always been available round-the-clock if your wine rack is full!

Mostly I'm amused by the diatribes - which pass for objective reporting - of the Daily Mail and its ilk, but occasionally I get more than a little hacked off.

For example; the paper appeared to take great delight in reporting - though it wasn't the only one to do so - the recent results of a global study in alcohol consumption that revealed women in England and Ireland as being officially the world's biggest binge drinkers.

Without condoning binge drinking (though I'm known to indulge myself), the tabloid press has two problems: firstly, its journalists - who once would have counted among the most sozzled members of society - are now chained to their desks, so feel aggrieved they're not out on the p*** with everyone else.

Secondly, the popular press - which, largely, is still run by un-reconstructed males - patently has a problem with modern-day women and their desire and ability to emulate the traditional macho behaviour of men.

What the media has difficulty in accepting is that women have all but caught up with men in terms of employment, earning power, sex, sociability and, yes, drinking.

Why is the drinking bit such a problem? Men have always gone ‘down the pub' in an evening and come home steaming drunk without anyone - even the Dickensian Daily Mail - raising so much as an eyebrow. It's what men do!

But now women are at it, too, and suddenly it's an issue. Photographs appear in the Daily Mail on a regular basis showing women falling about all over the place. The paper doesn't always say it, but the message it conveys is that this is unseemly and distinctly unfeminine.

Yet the fact remains that the vast majority of drink-fuelled criminal, violent behaviour is committed by young men. Sure, women get arsy when they've had a few, but how often do you read about tanked-up females perpetrating ‘glassings' and street fights? The answer, of course, is very rarely indeed.

Binge drinking might be a social problem that needs addressing, but singling out women indulgers is not only unhelpful, it smacks of the kind of rank sexism feminists might have imagined had long been banished.

So what should women do? Stop drinking in order to conform to the ‘little woman at home' stereotype, or sup up with the boys?

I advocate the latter - hic - because men will only start to take women seriously, on every level, when women show they're one of the boys. So, raise a glass (no, several) all you girlie girls and have a very merry Christmas indeed.


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