'What on earth is she drinking?’ Doing femininity through drink choice on the girls’ night out

Emily Margaret Louise Nicholls

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In a supposed ‘post-feminist’ society of gender equality, engagement with contemporary spaces such as the Night Time Economy (NTE) may offer young women positive opportunities to redefine femininities through leisure activities and alcohol consumption. Whilst the NTE is depicted as an increasingly ‘feminised’ space where women’s drinking is normalised and expected, this essay will demonstrate some of the ways in which alcohol consumption remains highly gendered and women continue to be expected to buy into normative femininity through their beverage choice by looking at a specific mode of engagement with the NTE - the ‘girl’s night out’. Drawing on the findings of my PhD research with young women in the North-East of England, I will highlight some of the ways in which young women manage drinking practices and choices in the potentially highly gendered and (hetero)sexualised contemporary leisure spaces of the NTE when going out with female friends. With the consumption of more ‘girly’ drinks such as wine and cocktails both normalised and positioned as a key way in which to ‘do’ gender and femininity on the girls’ night out, I argue that women’s scope to rewrite the dominant scripts of femininities in these particular contexts is limited and constrained. However, other social occasions or drinking contexts and settings may potentially offer women more opportunities to resist, challenge or ignore gendered expectations and norms around alcohol consumption. Highlighting specific examples of resistance from the data, I will draw attention to the important role of context in shaping the ways in which women manage and negotiate their drinking choices in contemporary leisure spaces.
Key words:
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)77-91
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of International Women’s Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2016


  • alcohol
  • gender
  • interviews


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