By: Armin S.
I read an interested article on BBC News about three years ago. The headline of the article read as follows, “The stigma stopping Sikh women getting help with alcohol addiction.” As soon as I read the headline, I thought about the number of times I heard Punjabi males around me talk about the way a girl was drunk at a club, at a party, at a bar. How the girl was “easy”. Perhaps the girl was “difficult”. Perhaps she was “too available”. Just attaching such negative connotations to the woman who chose to have a couple of drinks in a social setting.
While the perception of Punjabi women drinking is slowly shifting, we still often see women tend to indulge drinks like wine, as opposed to the “harder” drinks their male counterparts are indulging in. We see that while it has come to be more culturally acceptable for women to engage in social drinking, without become intoxicated, a stigma is still associated with women drinking in large quantities, or consuming the harder drinks.
I went on reading the article and thought to myself, imagine being a Punjabi woman, as described in the article, and coming out as somebody who is battling alcoholism. A woman whose drinks in quantity can outnumber those around her. A woman who drinks to the point of becoming numb. Then, I imagined the shame she would feel. The shame society would impose on her.
I think back to the wedding receptions I have been to. A Punjabi man with a glass of whiskey on his head, dancing, sometimes tripping, with a huge smile on his face. I then look at his wife’s face as she looks bored and impatient at 1 in the morning, with a sleeping toddler on her lap. Then, I think about the roles being reversed. Have they been reversed? No – at least not in front of me.
I think about the people laughing and gently teasing the intoxicated male. What would their reactions be if the wife was on the one on the dance floor, with a glass on her head? And the husband sat there, bored at 1 am, holding his snoring toddler. I doubt the female would be met with smiles and laughter.
The point of these thoughts is not to encourage intoxication to any extreme by any gender. The rolling thoughts are to encourage dialogue of why alcohol, when consumed by a Punjabi woman, is still seen as problematic. And if it is considered problematic, is the root issue not then the fact that the intake of alcohol is viewed as problematic?
If we shift the focus on just alcohol, and the recognition that alcohol has come to be consumed most times by most people as a means to have a good time, will it not help more people obtain the help they need? Male or female, Punjabis, specifically in the UK, have long been recognized as a group whose select members may be battling alcoholism. So if we remove the shame, and remove the gender, should we not be able to have a more effective fight against alcohol?