All the girl's fault

CBC blames college women for binge drinking and campus rape

In light of the recent media storm surrounding Jian Ghomeshi and his apparent disregard for basic human rights, CBC decided to produce a documentary that left us completely certain of who was to blame for sexualized violence. If you’ve been alive for any of the past millennium you’ll know right away that obviously women are to blame, with their constant campaigning for equal rights and their desire not to be raped. Thanks to the CBC Firsthand documentary “Girls’ Night Out”, however, we now have a highly accurate and in-depth exposé into drinking culture at university and how females are still the source of everything that is wrong with society. Of course, when I say highly accurate and in depth I mean poorly researched and incredibly biased, and by exposé I mean bunch of baloney.

The documentary, filmed partly at Acadia’s homecoming (with a weak attempt to mask the identity of the school), spends 44 minutes trying to convince that rape culture is in fact a product of young women consuming alcohol, and not a flaw in social order. Inspired by the book “Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol” by Ann Dowsett Johnston, the film treats us to an inside look into the life of twenty-something females and they way they like to spend the weekend. Here at StFX we are no strangers to the campus drinking controversies, so we can just let that issue go for the moment and turn instead to what CBC calls the “risks of alcohol consumption for women”. Approximately 17.5 minutes into the skewed testimonies and questionable filming, a short slide depicts a collection of words intended to be the “consequences” of drinking as a woman. Among biological diseases such as breast cancer and infertility, as well as semi-legitimate options like stroke, liver disease, and alcohol use disorder, the words “rape” and “sexually transmitted diseases” appear, with rape in the largest font of all the words on the page. The implications are alarming to say the least. CBC is here equating the debasement of actual human beings with biological abnormalities and things that occur as a result of genetics and chemistry. 

This ever-so-helpful revelation comes after the interviewing of 21-year old Acadia students, well into their academic careers, who hosted and then attended a party during their university’s homecoming. The film did not focus on the girls’ attainment of university degrees, their extracurricular activities or their volunteer work, choosing instead to spend a significant portion of time zooming in on bra straps and hemlines, silently condemning their weekend choices. The film also neglected to point out that there were just as many boys at the parties as there were girls; they all seemed to be holding solo cups as well and yet it was seemingly ignored, as though it was to be expected, and even encouraged. 

While the overt sexism is obviously not complimentary to girls, the underlying message that we expect boys to rape is not exactly a pretty picture either. Every single female interviewed in 44 minutes made some kind of statement excusing males for their sexual exploits because “that’s what boys do”. I hope that males are just as offended by these insinuations; they assume males to be incapable of basic self-control, as though we are all purely animals without the capacity for complex thought and critical thinking. One statistic highlighted indicates that “9 out of 10 rapes on college campuses has alcohol involved”, but doesn’t that say more about the predators than it does about the victims? Why would we turn that around to mean that girls shouldn’t “go to the bar and have a drink”, like one interviewee suggested. I just want to take the time to thank that girl for personally returning all women to the 1920’s and the kitchens we worked SO HARD to get out of. But by “thank” I mean “remind her that women have every right to go out to a bar and have a drink without fear of being preyed on”. 

A significant portion of the film is also spent berating girls for their susceptibility to being influenced by the media, accrediting it to low self-esteem and a desire for male attention. The absolute hypocrisy of this message coming from a major Canadian media outlet is laughable, but concerning at the same time. There documentary supplements its testimonies with apparently any and every picture they could find of a woman holding some form of alcohol. My personal favourite is an image of a successful-looking woman sitting in what appears to be a first class airplane seat holding glass of champagne. I’m not sure what I was supposed to take from that image other than I hope one day my career is lucrative enough that I can afford first class tickets, however given that I will only make 72 cents for every dollar my male counterparts make, I’ve accepted that I will be significantly older than the woman in that photo by the time it can happen for me.

Ultimately this film was a messy conglomeration of statistics that weren’t cited and testimonies that felt rehearsed and manipulated. Even one of the “experts”, author Sarah Hepola, comes across as hypocritical and self-serving. She says that “drinking like a frat boy” is “offensive”, which is derogatory to both men and women at the same time (#equality), and goes on to put other women and young girls down for “straightening their hair, putting on make-up and wearing heels”, all the while looking like a Julie Bowen wannabe, sitting in a staged kitchen with her hair perfectly coiffed and her teeth chemically whitened. She constantly asks vapid, useless questions like “Why do women want to drink so much?” and “Why don’t girls listen when we tell them drinking is bad?” while placing the blame for sexual assault squarely on women’s shoulders that are apparently asking for it anyway.

Until recently there was still some discussion about having the film shown on campus, until pressure from the Student’s Union appropriately put the issue to rest and the film will not be shown.