What’s the Message?

If you ever wondered why Prohibition was made a law or why Islam bans alcohol and isolates women, you only have to witness the Brett Kavanaugh vetting process. While the U.S. Senate and viewers across the nation focus on the veracity of a man and woman, the real story is about “demon rum,” or beer in this case.

Like many Italian Americans who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, alcohol was no stranger to me. Wine was a family hobby – making it, drinking it.  On holidays, a dash of wine made it to my soda glass by age ten.  In my teens on weekends, my father had me join him in a homemade wine spritzer while we ate dinner (a lemon slice to “absorb” the alcohol).  This alcohol was always associated with family, dinner, and conversation – never to fuel aggression.

The Anglo-Saxons who settled America brought ale and rum; the Scots and Irish brought their whiskeys; and the Germans brought the lager beer that became our national drink. It was these immigrants who also brought the saloon and beer garden to these shores.  Men drinking with men was a tradition of northern Europeans, we Latins not so much.

Maybe this is why as a high school teen I never spent weekends sneaking a six-pack to get blitzed with friends. If such things happened I wasn’t aware of them.  Even parties and school dances weren’t much to remember, maybe because there was no alcohol to light them up.  College, of course, was a different story – everyone knew that drinking fueled the fun.

We don’t have to imagine what goes on today in high schools and colleges. Fraternity hazing with alcohol has caused death and illness.  A “bro-culture” fueled by alcohol has made boys and men into werewolves. The availability of drugs has supercharged the mind-distorting properties of alcohol.  The Cosby Trial exposed us to drug-rape techniques.  It’s a real jungle out there, for women especially.

But this is not the message in the Kavanaugh revelations.  Unless I’m missing something, what I am hearing is that women of all ages must be vigilant of being abused – verbally or physically – that they should not bury the assault but report it immediately.  Good advice.  But where is the warning to girls not to drink like boys?  Where is the warning to fear the presence of alcohol and testosterone?

If boys have changed for the worse, so have girls. Porn movies are available to both genders at very early ages.  Sexual enhancement through piercings, tattoos, and apparel has become common fashion.  Girls talk just as dirty as boys.  Yet, you cannot preach gender equality and pretend that physical differences don’t exist.  Girls are still more vulnerable.  Smaller bodies tolerate less alcohol.  There are differences between males and females in perceptions, in expectations, and in hormones.

Then, there is the reality of sober harassment – the kind adult females experience in the business world. Like alcohol, power can also energize male libidos.  But here, women make conscious and sober decisions based on economics – degradation or career?  The forthcoming trial of film mogul Harvey Weinstein may determine the parameters of consensual sex.  Did he seduce actresses or rape them?  We await the lesson.

Drunk or sober, one message is obvious: males must be reprogramed and females trained in avoidance skills.

I’m reminded of a sexual harassment film I saw back in the 1990s. It was one of those Human Resources productions produced by a major insurance company to instruct male and female employees on proper behavior.  I was sent by my real estate firm to see if it might be useful for our employees.  The film was a dramatization featuring a flirtatious telephone company repairman named Tony – an oversexed Italian American – making passes at insurance company secretaries.  Clearly, there were two messages conveyed in the story – sexual and ethnic.

I decided that this training film was inappropriate. -JLM

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