This is one of those books that you just read and are like; yes, these things do happen to real people. One of the most frankly told memoirs about the real life of Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget is a book that will dive deep into many societal issues that ail us in the 21st Century such as addiction, cynism, misogyny and how the society expect us to handle it all. This book reveals, creatively and laughably, yet still very serious, the devastating effect of alcohol addiction in a modern-day woman who seeks to affirm her place in the society. Some few things that stood out for me as a male reader in this book include the deep struggle that women go through to try to make an impact in a male-dominated society and how they sometimes get themselves in awful ‘manly’ behaviors in an attempt to certify themselves as strong but end up losing all the strength in their femininity.
A common occurrence in modern times is women desiring to be cool, fit in and be empowered by picking up all the bad habits in men. These women will never hide their wine or drinking habits. They would take shots and be praised for it. This memoir talks of how this drug equality affects women; about the impact drinking as one of the boys has on women.
The author clearly shows how the different perceptions of women and alcohol affected her drinking making her an unruly addict, and how this habit can affect other women. The book carefully explores how young women are encouraged by their peers to drink excessively and how the blame persists even for all the things that go wrong within the drinking spree. Sarah reveals how much she struggled and used alcohol to fit in even in her first job where she drank with her colleagues almost every evening. With the habit of going for beers after work, she felt empowered because it was not feminine to do such an activity and she was breaking the norm.
By adopting such behavior that is perceived by culture as hyper-masculine, women want to be taken seriously and considered equal. Women do the same in other places. Sarah Hepola points out the electric suits or short hair that are popular with power-conscious women. Our culture undermines what is considered feminine and promotes what is considered masculine. There are a lot of problems with this power plays and deficiency associations, but the important thing this book highlights is that what alcohol does to women’s bodies is just not what it does to men’s bodies and Sarah Hepola goes into this in detail. In reality, women get drunk faster than men, which means women get drunk more easily and eventually black out way faster. This puts women on the path of predators such as rapists and other people who prey on drunk women- and there are lots of them.
This book led me to see that the reality of women and alcohol has changed in the 21st century, and cultural narratives have totally changed. Women no longer drink in private to alleviate their secret feminine discomfort in a rather masculine world. They drink heavily and take pride in themselves because they want to be empowered and taken seriously and yes until they are considered cool. While we can talk about finding more ways to empower, I think it is also important that as a culture we strive to stop putting negative masculine traits on women. Things should be respected based on their impact on the world and not on the gender of the perpetrator. Young women should no longer feel compelled to act like a man when men and women are treated equally. All these toxic masculinity, I dare say, also affects men and their drinking habits too. If you think guys don’t drink too much to hype their masculinity, you are terribly mistaken. Men are equally pressured by society to drink more as a masculine trait. How devastating!!