The central focus of this shocking, despairing documentary shot with the emergency services in Blackpool is that the gravest danger facing young girls, right here in Britain, right now in 2012, is not from a stranger or a violent partner, but from themselves.She continues:
More young women than ever are deliberately crippling themselves with binge drinking, putting themselves in real peril by fighting and carrying knives, and using their fists and foul language as offensive weapons.
And I have to ask, echoing that police officer and speaking as a mother of daughters myself, where are the mothers of these loutish, brutalised girls?
These extremely young women seem so determined to self-destruct that it makes me wonder if they ever had a loving role model — namely, their own mother.
...Is it because they have been brought up to believe themselves to be so utterly valueless that they numb themselves with huge quantities of strong drink, spending £100 a night if they have it, drinking ten or 12 glasses of ‘Jager Bomb’ until they vomit or pass out and have to be rescued?
...Most shocking is the violence perpetrated by some of these girls. They don’t just hurt themselves, they injure others.
...The Channel 4 documentary showed men with blood running down their faces, stabbed by women who the police said habitually carried knives, ‘like mobile phones’, said one officer, ‘in their handbags’.
Esther Rantzen throws out a number of ideas in trying to explain the rise of this ladette culture. I thought her instincts best when she asks,
Is it liberation to behave like a violent, brutal, drunk man? The police in the programme who deal with girl binge drinkers said they seem to set out to be even worse than men. If men have ten or 12 shots lined up, women will try to keep up with them.
That's a key question. What does it mean to be a liberated woman? Liberalism assumes that our sex is a straitjacket, that it is something that we didn't choose and therefore constrains our autonomy. Liberalism further assumes that men are the privileged group in society, the ones with the gold standard autonomous lifestyle.
Put those two beliefs together and what you get is the idea that women are liberated when they can prove that their sex doesn't matter and that they can match it with a male lifestyle. If masculinity is coarsely associated with drinking and violence, then that then becomes a measure of liberation.
Against this, Esther Rantzen correctly asserts something decidedly non-liberal, namely that there are feminine qualities which are both innate and admirable and which provide "boundaries" (i.e. a direction) for women's behaviour:
If a girl becomes a banshee, something has gone terribly wrong.
Watching my daughter with her new baby son confirms my belief that women are instinctive nurturers, that we naturally respond to tenderness.
The young women in this documentary seem to have lost that instinct and, with it, all their boundaries, exposing their skin to a grabbing, drunken stranger, vomiting without shame. With proud grins, they boast how much they drink, and proclaim they never get a hangover, or claim that being stabbed by a girlfriend was just a ‘drunken mistake’.
What kind of mothers will they become in their turn? Is there any hope for their children? There may be: if they are given different role models, they may be able to change their behaviour and their thinking. The revealing ITV series Ladettes To Ladies showed girls like these, drinking and then throwing up, using every swear word, fighting and having mindless sex, believing that way they proved themselves ‘as good as men’.