The number of women convicted of various crimes has jumped dramatically in recent years. In one report the number of women offenders has risen 17 percent in the past four years and this is significant because in the same span of time, increase in the number of male offenders is only 4.5 percent (Jacobsen, 2009). For the longest time women are demanding for more freedom and equal status with men. Now that they have achieved this goal many are overwhelmed by the kind of freedom and empowerment that they received from society. In recent years women in highly industrialised countries are drinking more and behaving more badly than men.
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These women are called ladettes and they are ready, willing and able to show the world that they are masters of their fate and that no one can tell them what to do. This study will take a closer look at ladettes, why they are in a self-destructive path and how they can build on what the feminist movement has provided for them.
According to Alexander, “…female sexuality has traditionally had narrower boundaries than many other social roles and women’s liberation has been one of the most direct and threatening attempts to break such roles…” (2003).
Aside from the traditional roles assigned to females there is also a general understanding that they are of the weaker sex. There is also the idea that they are not only frail physically but also emotionally and that they suffer from irrational fears; they are therefore damsels in distress requiring the assistance of men so that they can live free and happy in this world (Mehta & Bondi, 1999). There are many women, especially in the West, who seem to rebel against these notions and desperate to prove to the world that they are not weak and that they can do whatever they want without the express consent of the male members of society.
In retaliation to how society has viewed them in the past, women are becoming more independent. They are doing things to prove that they are just as strong, as intelligent and as capable as men. There is no other way to prove this than to invade the traditional roles reserved to men. If men are allowed to drink in public then they would do the same. If men are physically rowdy when they have drunk a few bottles of beer then these women will do the same. If men can drink and drive then they would do the same thing. The only problem with these women is that they are trying to outperformed men and seems to be in competition with them.
The behaviour of these women can no longer be considered as isolated cases. Their actions are not done in secret. Their behaviour is so prevalent that in the newly revised Concise Oxford Dictionary young women who behave in a boisterously assertive or crude manner while engaging in heavy drinking sessions are called ladettes (BBC, 2001). In recent years the term has expanded its meaning to include assertive behaviour as well as sexual promiscuity even without the use of alcohol. It is now common to hear the expression ladettes as well as “ladette behaviour”, many are saying that it is not amusing and must be taken more seriously before these women go past the point of no return especially when it comes to drug abuse and crime.
Before going any further, it must be pointed out that “ladette behaviour” was supposed to be limited to post-school age young women (BBC, 2004). This seems to be not the case anymore as the phenomenon is emerging in secondary schools as well (BBC, 2004).
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This means that there is a much younger population of women who are more disruptive in class; they are louder and more open when it comes to talking about sexual intercourse. In one report, “Teenage girls are drinking, smoking, and taking drugs in greater numbers than ever before in a role reversal that has seen them overtake boys for bad behaviour” (Dobson, 2004). It is clear that the feminist movement bore fruit and that the 21st century females are enjoying the fruits of other people’s labour.
Enjoying their new roles will not be complete without heavy drinking. Illicit drug use is added to the mix as well as risky sexual behaviour. While girls are going out, boys prefer to stay home. It does not mean that boys are more well-behave than girls; they simply find more satisfaction in playing computer games and watching sport on television (Dobson, 2004). Still, this type of behaviour has created a significant amount of media hype that in turn will encourage more young women to experiment with this kind of behaviour.
Aside from the media hype “ladette behaviour” is also fuelled by alcohol consumption. A 2005 study predicted that alcohol consumption among young women in the United Kingdom will increase by one third in five years (Karikari, 2006). It is no longer enough to call it “ladette behaviour”; it is more apt to call it “ladette culture” (Karikari, 2006). It is therefore important to see it from this perspective, that it is a culture on the rise and before the decade will end it will attract more followers. If this is the by-product of the early feminist movement then these women has indeed taken it to the extreme.
This has alarmed many people in Britain, especially when Colin Pritchard, professor at Bournemouth University’s Institute of Health and Community Studies released the following statement, “Girls now significantly smoke and binge-drink more than boys. They truant, steal, and fight at similar rates to boys but have started under-aged sex earlier than boys” (Karikari, 2006). There are those who blame pop culture, such as TV series and lifestyle magazines telling girls that they must be independent, assertive and not let boys dominate them (Leahy, 2005). Others blame the feminist movement (Pizzey, 2001). Young girls were given the licence to do what they want but they have no idea how to control this newfound freedom.
It would be impossible to understand the rise in female crime without discussing the impact of the feminist movement into the lives of these ladettes. One of the most significant effects of the feminist movement is to force the media to find alternative ways of depicting women. The pressure not to portray women as helpless victims has spawned a variety of TV shows as well as movies that show women as capable as men. It is perfectly acceptable and in some cases expected to have a female superhero able to perform the same feats of courage and possessing the same superhuman capabilities just like the other male superheroes. It is normal to see female soldiers, female assassins, female Chief-Executive-Officers, female pilots, and female presidents in movies as well as in television.
It is a deliberate response to the idea that gender is a social construct and that for a very long time, the socially acceptable way is the subordination of women and the display of dependence, sexual receptivity, motherhood while at the same time demonstrating that they are technically incompetent (Cavender, Bond-Maupin, & Jurik, 1999). Aside from the fact that mass media depicted women as victims and weak compared to men, they are also blamed for their vulnerability (Cavender, Bond-Maupin, & Jurik, 1999). In other words women are not only the object of men’s violence but adding insult to injury they are also blamed because they attract this kind of treatment from men.
This biased view on women as well as the abusive behaviour of men towards their female counterparts led to the emergence of the feminist movement. But just like any other movement there are always extremists that would take valid ideas about feminism and transform it into something that demonstrate zeal but lacking any semblance of rationality. For them freedom is the absence of rules and equality means doing everything that a man can do and going further by duplicating not only their abilities but also their negative behaviour.
As a result women such as the ladettes became the very person that they hated. They became binge drinkers, sex perverts, and lawbreakers. Binge drinking can lead to alcoholism. The lack of inhibition when it comes to sex can lead to sexually transmitted diseases and petty crimes can lead to something more serious that can easily destroy their lives.
It is difficult to argue with leaders of the feminist movement. They have valid arguments. It does not require a genius in sociology to understand the despicable way that many husbands and many boyfriends treated their partners. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual assault and other forms of violent crimes come easily to mind. In addition, the concept called patriarchy can also remind of the many sins committed against women. Aside from the failures of men, husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons there is another aspect to the feminist movement that makes extremely difficult to talk some senses to women, especially the ladettes who make it a habit to break the law. This is the fact that they use abstract ideas such as freedom, equality, empowerment etc.
When women begin to discuss these concepts the discussion can easily be bogged down because at first glance the rowdy behaviour, the excessive drinking, the daring behaviour can be interpreted as expressions of freedom and their desire to demonstrate that they are not beneath men but they have equal status with the opposite sex. This is the predicament of concerned citizens who fully understand where these ladettes are coming from but at the same time wise enough to see the bottom line which is the fact that these young women are doing something that can destroy their lives.
For these people they are heavily indebted to Amanda Alexander who is sympathetic to the feminist movement and yet provided a way to break the deadlock. For Alexander there is no going around the truth about crime. Alexander pointed out that crime, “…becomes an island of reality in an inauthentic world…” (2003). This means that feminism can use complex words like freedom and equality but they have to pay for what they have done, especially when they are guilty of a crime.
It was indeed frustrating for many to find broken promises and unmet expectations. For many of them they came face to face with what Alexander calls the “…crumbling values of modernity and the disturbing freedom that results” (2003). Freedom is a good thing but unlimited freedom with unlimited power to boot is destructive. Power, they realised later should be reigned in like a powerful stallion that is able to harness power to catapult itself forward and win the race. This time unbridled power as demonstrated by the ladettes is like unguided missiles exploding in the wrong places and hurting many bystanders. At the end of the highway these women found disillusionment and pessimism (Alexander, 2003). It can be argued that many are too proud to admit that they are wrong.
There is noting wrong with the idea that women should observe traditional roles associated with women, especially when it comes to sexuality, how they behave in public and how they treat the opposite sex. There is value to adhering to the traditional expectations on what it means to be female. The recent upsurge in female crime strengthens this view. On the other hand there is also nothing wring with relaxing the bounds of tradition and permit women to explore and discover their true value and how they can contribute in creating a much better world. It is no longer acceptable to suppress the creative expressions of women and it is not wise to look down on their capabilities and their intelligence.
This simply means that in the post-modern world women must learn to find balance between the traditional roles of women in society and fulfilment that they have found when they attempted to break free from traditions. If balance is not achieved then women will find themselves in unfamiliar territory where they have all the freedom and all the power but no means to control it. In the process many of them discovered that they can be as destructive as men if given the same opportunity to act without considering the impact they had on other people.
In reassessing the traditional roles of women the feminist movement has provided the spark that became a wildfire in the early phase of the 21st century. Alcohol consumption has increased and together with it the negative behaviour associated with binge drinking as well as alcohol abuse. If the problem of “ladettes” is limited to alcohol consumption then authorities is faced with only a challenging problem. But when the issues of drug abuse and under-age sex also crops up then the problem is not only complex but requiring the help of all members of society.
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The first thing that needs to be addressed is how the feminist movement has shaped the discussion when it comes to equality, freedom and empowerment. There are those who remarked that instead of teaching girls to be assertive they have become aggressive. They are not only aggressive but boisterous and rude. They fight, they steal and destroy property. As a result many are in jail. This is not the goal of the feminist movement.
But this has to be clarified in order to encourage women to act more responsibly and to find fulfilment not in pretending that they are better than men but to demonstrate that they have the intelligence as well as self-control. In this way they can be taken more seriously by their male counterparts. If they continue with this behaviour, while boys are becoming better-behaved then the feminist movement has failed.
There is also a need to look into how the media portray women as well as how they are creating the idea of how a young woman should behave in a post-modern society. It is easy to understand why there are shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But what is the main goal of this type of TV show? Is it to empower women or to give them the licence to express their rage against men? The current “ladette” culture, fuelled by media hype and binge drinking may appear attractive to young girls in search of identity and stability in confusing times but the end result can be catastrophic to these young girls.
Experimenting with drugs and sex can never result in something that they can be proud of in later years. In fact, substance abuse as well as under-age sex can damage their health and their self-esteem. Even if they have proven that they can drink as hard as men and they can be as wild as boys there is no clear winner at the end. What is the end goal of all these activities? Sexually transmitted disease should never be treated lightly. HIV/AIDS is not something that they should toy with. Infectious diseases that can be transferred through the sharing of needles in drug use can be as fatal. There are valid arguments why the feminist movement was started but surely the sick and ravaged bodies of young women could never be the end goal of their struggle to be free.
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