Young Women’s Relationship with Alcohol Melissa Stepney

On a cold December night in 2008, I was returning from a night out. For the most part it had been like any other ordinary night; Reading is a large town in the South East of the UK with a bustling night-time economy comprising several hundred well-known bars and nightclubs like Revolutions and JD Wetherspoons, where the usual heady ingredients of dancing, crowds, music, chatter, encounters, fights and drunkenness regularly occur. I had spent the night in the police station ‘observing’ all this from the setting of a CCTV room. This research, which was a qualitative study on young women’s relationship(s) with alcohol in the UK and the Netherlands, felt timely: young women appear to be at the centre of a number of anxieties and concerns about drinking, drunkenness and debauchery on city centre streets at the weekend. Indeed, the persistent and dogged media coverage of ‘young women’ as a troublesome group is both commonplace and relentless, particularly in the UK (Day et al. 2004; Measham and Østergaard 2009; Jayne et al. 2011). At the police station, I had entered into familiar conversations: do British women drink too much? How much is too much? Do European women (and men) have ‘better’, or more sophisticated, ways of drinking? Should bars be open all night? And so on.