Tonight…We’re Drinking from the Bottle!

Shots shots shots shots shots shots EVERYBODY!! Who doesn’t love a good bit of alcohol? Unfortunately, the government has announced its plan to introduce warning labels on bottles of alcohol, similar to those found on cigarette packets, in a bid to warn people of the health implications that drinking could possibly cause. However, I think the government is doing more harm than good by even contemplating such a strategy.

It’s not as if anyone goes into drinking blindly. From a young age, we’re taught that drinking and smoking have serious consequences later in life and that if you drink too much alcohol in one go, you could potentially die. The onus is on us to make our own decision about how we socialise and the impact it may have on our health. We shouldn’t be living in a nanny state with a moral code that guilts us into not enjoying a little treat here and there.

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Of course there are far wider implications on alcoholics. I partially believe that the government’s push for these health warnings is to dissuade people from trying alcohol because of the danger of alcoholism. Although the government has good intentions – or so it seems – people will always try things they are told they shouldn’t. The temptation of the forbidden or frowned upon is seductive and it’s one that very few can resist. Being made to feel guilty because of alcohol consumption is not what the government is for. That is entirely down to the person who has had a drink (or a few).

Another point to contemplate is that the majority of people go to clubs or bars to drink. The health warnings are only put on bottles and realistically, in a dark club, you are not going to be able to see the health warnings if you’re on the other side of the bar. Bartending is a stressful and fast-paced job and bartenders barely have the time to shout you the price of your drink – they are not going to give you a drink and tell you what the warning on the bottle says. So really, drinking is still going to happen and arguably, the worst kind of drinking is going to continue – binge drinking. Binge drinking has been proven to be dangerous and detrimental to one’s wellbeing but if drinkers are put off by warnings they can visibly see in the supermarket, surely they will consume more alcohol in clubs and bars where the reminder of the damage to their health is hidden.

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For argument’s sake, let’s say that consumers do take note of the health warnings and suddenly, alcohol sales drop dramatically. Has the government thought about the economic consequences that a decrease in alcohol sales would have? Much like petrol, the majority of the money that we pay for alcohol is actually tax. We can speculate about what the government does with that tax money but inevitably, the country as a whole would suffer. Inflation would increase because taxes would have to be generated to cover the deficit caused by a lack of tax from alcohol sales.

Even if this silly notion is introduced, people will become apathetic towards the warnings. Last year, I had a rather stressful job and took up smoking for the first time in my life, despite having many lessons in secondary school about the dangers. The first packet I bought had an off-putting picture of someone with damaged gums as a result of smoking. I regarded it for all of two seconds, went outside and smoked three cigarettes consecutively. There is so much propaganda, on cigarette cartons, television and radio, that people have actually stopped caring. We are bombarded with information about how dangerous legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol can be and we simply don’t care. Constant exposure to such dramatic, sometimes over-exaggerated, hype just generates apathy to the point that people stop being shocked and simply regard the warnings as another part of the packaging, not even acknowledging them.

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I don’t doubt that the introduction of health warnings on alcohol packaging will come at a cost to the public and to the consumer. To modify the packaging, I wouldn’t be surprised if the public are somehow punished for it; most likely, the cost of alcohol will rise.

Personally, I feel that putting health warnings on alcohol will not achieve anything. Very few people will be deterred. Drinking is a social past-time of many and it brings people together. It is seen as a way to relax or to celebrate and generally gives people a bit of a buzz. Yes, there are health problems associated with drinking, but the decision should be left to the consumer, not the government. The government seems to think that it can try and dictate, guilt and be a moral beacon for the public. We should be left to make our own choices without aesthetically displeasing warnings tarnishing bottles of booze.

Cisgender Privilege

I am privileged to have quite a few friends who are members of the LGBTQ+ community; friends who have enriched my life and understanding of the world, friends whom I couldn’t live without. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I came across the term ‘cisgender’.

Cisgender: Denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender.[1]

Intrigued, I delved further into the depths of the internet (particularly Twitter). I came across many straight, white people who claimed that being called ‘cis’ was an insult and how would the transgender community like it if they used derogatory terms towards them? I could feel my blood boiling. Here’s why.

I am cisgender. I was born a female and identify as such. I am privileged that my vagina is the genitalia I identify with. I don’t feel as though it is out of place. I don’t feel as though my chest should be flat and that my boobs are on the wrong body. That is what life is like for someone who is cisgender. Our bodies seem like the correct bodies. We identify with the sex we were born and raised as. We lead relatively normal lives and society never really has it in for us (well, there’s a lot of intersectional discrimination but I’ll save that for another article).

We don’t constantly wander around feeling trapped and suffocated by our bodies. We don’t have to go months and months waiting for an operation to change ourselves and then have to have a regular dose of hormones.

The above is just a snippet of what non-cisgender people have to go through. As cis people, we have privilege. How can ‘cis’ be an insult when all it does is denote privilege? We will never experience the heartache and hardship that trans+ people go through on a regular basis. The fact that some cis people actually think ‘cis’ is an insult shows just how much privilege we truly have. You can’t insult something that innately means ‘privileged’.

So to all the cis people who think it’s an insult: grow up. Get real. We have the world in the palm of our hands. Stop getting on your high horse and getting offended, start accepting that you have privilege and start using that privilege to help those who suffer because society discriminates against those who aren’t cis.

[1] Oxford Dictionaries, (2014) www.oxforddictionaries.com, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/cisgender, 2/8/14

Fashion Faux Pas

‘Nirbhaya’. It’s a word that means so much to those in the Hindi-speaking world. It translates as ‘fearless’ but since the Delhi bus gang rape, it has taken on a much greater meaning. The victim has been labelled ‘Nirbhaya’ and deservedly so. It’s just a shame that two years on from the tragedy, the name ‘Nirbhaya’ has been tarnished.

Images of a fashion shoot, produced by photographer Raj Shetye, have appeared online over the past couple of days and have gone viral. Understandably, many people have denounced Shetye’s work as insensitive and disgusting. The images depict a woman surrounded and harassed by men. She is groped, kissed and appears to be struggling against them. Arguably the most disturbing image is of a presumably naked man dominating her whilst she is on the floor defenceless.

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Shetye has defended his photo-shoot but I can’t accept it. What he has done is insensitive and insulting. It’s trivialising the horrific gang rape suffered by a young student who had her whole life ahead of her. It’s trivialising what happens on a daily basis to women in India. It’s trivialising how Indian women can’t even board public transport without fearing for their lives.

Of course, Shetye will never know what Indian women have to endure every day of their lives. We’re not supposed to walk alone after dark for fear that we’ll be raped, we’re not supposed to dress a certain way and we’re not supposed to have a voice. When a crime is committed against us, we’re treated like the suspect. Justice is never carried out and no one does anything. India has a rape epidemic and yet the victims are perpetually blamed.

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The ‘Nirbhaya’ inspired photo-shoot does nothing other than glamorise rape and gender-based violence. It reduces the idea of rape into something fashionable and diminishes how devastatingly destructive it is. In the majority of the photos, the female model doesn’t look slightly bothered by the fact that she is being molested, as if to say that rape isn’t really a crime, it’s just a little pest that you have to endure as part of being a woman and really, you should just accept it and even be flattered by it.

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Shetye took to Facebook to defend his photo-shoot, saying that it ‘was intentionally done in a bus to cause men to think of what gives them the right to assume that well dressed women in public transport (signifying public spaces in general) can be targets’. Whist those intentions are good, couldn’t there have been a tactful way of doing it? Doing a fashion photo-shoot is not remotely appropriate and instead makes rape and sexual harassment look like something to aspire to because it’s so glamourous, according to these photos.

With such a mediocre representation of an atrocious crime which violates every part of a woman’s life, it is no wonder that there is a rape epidemic in India. If glossy pictures such as those that Shetye has produced are bandied around, no one will ever accept rape as a serious crime. Despite trying to raise awareness, Shetye has only added to the rising cult of misogyny in India, which deems it perfectly acceptable to sexually assault and murder someone solely because they are a woman.