April sees the return of the Grand National and the British media are always hungry to report on a particular spectacle – Ladies Day. For years, the British tabloids such as The Daily Mail have focused primarily on the behaviour of Aintree Races’ female attendees, tapping into negative stereotypes associated with the recreation of women from predominantly working-class areas. In recent years, the tireless shaming of Liverpudlian racegoers has come under scrutiny for its sexist and classist sentiment. But the ridicule of the publicly intoxicated woman is nothing new. The nineteenth century ‘drink question’ bore a wealth of material culture portraying drunk women as especially deviant, and researchers have noted that the Victorian temperance movement has had a lasting impact on the way in which we think about the relationship between drunkenness, gender, and class.
Welcoming our new Contributing Editors
Points is delighted to introduce five new Contributing Editors who were welcomed to the Editorial team this month. Here’s a sneak preview of who they are and the topics they’ll be writing about in the coming months.
Sobriety as self-care?
Since the turn of the 21st century there has been increasing popular engagement with the phenomenon of self-care. By this I mean those (sometimes everyday) activities that individuals carry out to manage and restore their own health, both mental and physical. This is how self-care has been most commonly understood within Western healthcare and clinical settings (Levin and Idler, 1983). However, themes of self-care have been co-opted by consumer brands within marketing campaigns, particularly targeted at women. Products and services are sold with the promise of relaxation, fulfilment and wellness – sometimes with a substantial price-tag attached, and with the expectation that consumers are able-bodied. Alcohol brands have also been found to draw upon similar, feminised themes of respite, reward and time-out within their marketing in order to present a healthful interpretation of alcohol-consumption. Wine or gin is sometimes portrayed as a key, constituent part in a woman’s self-care routine (Atkinson et al., 2021). Indeed, this is quite the departure from the self-care that was practiced within radical feminist circles of the Women’s Liberation Movement (Dudley-Shotwell, 2020) and Audre Lorde’s writings on living with cancer: Lorde described her self-care as ‘a political decision as well as a life-saving one’ (1988 , p. 130).
This rise to prominence of self-care has coincided with the emergence of women-founded, UK-based online sobriety communities that utilise social media platforms to help people change their relationship with alcohol, such as Club Soda, Sober Girl Society and Sober & Social. These communities primarily facilitate peer to peer support and sometimes provide additional services, including coaching and social events. The majority of their members are women, compared to men, who are less likely to utilise traditional, evidence-based treatment programmes (Davey, 2021).
In a recent open-access, peer-reviewed article (Davey, 2022), I explored the ways in which women, who utilise or lead online sobriety communities, conceptualise their sobriety as a form of physical and mental self-care. I found that women draw on discourses of wellbeing to position sobriety as a practice of individualised, embodied self-care whereby they experience improvements to their physical, mental and menstrual health. Women used sobriety as a strategy of care for their minds and bodies when medical assistance was lacking or not forthcoming.
At War With King Alcohol: Debating Drinking and Masculinity in the Civil War
On Tuesday February 21, 2023, 7:00 – 8:15 p.m. U.S. ET, the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech is hosting a free online lecture and discussion with Dr Megan Bever, titled “At War with King Alcohol: Debating Drinking and Masculinity in the Civil War.” Click here for more details and to register.
“The Inimitable Outdone:” Selling Punch in Eighteenth-Century London
PhD candidate Tyler Rainford catalogs the emergence of punch in 18th century London, including the key players behind its popularization and its implications for drinking habits at the time.
Healing Disruption: Symposium
Dr Maziyar Ghiabi has announced the proceedings of a two-day symposium titled ‘Healing Disruption: Histories of Intoxication and ‘Addiction’. The symposium is to be held on 26th-27th January, 2023 at Reed Hall, Exeter University, UK. For more details please email email@example.com.
Points Interview: Individuation and drinking culture among young people with Henry Yeomans and Laura Fenton
Today’s post features an interview with Henry Yeomans, a Professor of Criminology at the University of Leeds and Laura Fenton, a Research Associate at the University of Sheffield. Their work focuses around contemporary alcohol culture and regulation in Europe.
The two, along with the University of Kent’s Adam Burgess, recently authored the article “‘More options…less time’ in the ‘Hustle Culture’ of ‘Generation Sensible’: Individualization and Drinking Decline Among 21st Century Young Adults,” which appeared in the British Journal of Sociology. Find out more about their work in this interview.
Gay and Alcoholic: A Lost Autobiography
Robert Hutton’s Of Those Alone (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1958) may be the earliest memoir of a gay alcoholic writer.
I came upon the book’s existence serendipitously, while browsing the papers of Marty Mann at Syracuse University. Mann was the first woman to achieve sustained sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous and the founder of the National Council on Alcoholism in 1940. In a letter, Hutton thanked Mann for her help and revealed that he had portrayed her, thinly disguised, in his autobiography — as a character named Temeraire (an anagram of Mann’s nickname, Mart).
During the 1920s, when Hutton encountered Mann in London, she “was apt, when in her cups, to become belligerent and would have taken on and probably defeated Joe Louis.” When sober, by contrast, “she was a sagacious and amusing companion with a raffish insight into other people’s foibles.” Hutton also divulges that Temeraire “prefers women to men,” as did Mann herself, though she fiercely shielded her private life from public scrutiny.
Of Those Alone was written in the wake of the Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (1957) — familiarly known as the Wolfenden Report — which recommended that such acts, conducted in private between consulting adults, should no longer be proscribed or prosecuted. There was enormous controversy about these findings, and they did not take effect for a decade.
Published during the long interim, Of Those Alone decried the ignorance and intolerance of the British public. “The average individual,” states the dust jacket, “is baffled by something which appears to him to be both unnatural and vicious, and the tendency is for society to ostracise the offender.” The book, described as a “social document” as well as an “enthralling” human story, poses an issue for every “intelligent reader”: how much was the author a victim of “an outmoded and unimaginative legal ethical system, and how much was he himself to blame for the disasters which came upon him?” Hutton also takes up the prior question: whence homosexuality itself? Congenital or acquired? Destined by Nature or created by Nurture? Or both?