By Brigid McConville.
ISBN 0 04 440919 2
When Virago first published this book in 1983 it established an
orthodoxy for understanding the use of alcohol by women.
As one worker said at the time: ‘It was like Women Who Love Too
Much for the alcohol field.’
McConville tells four women’s stories to argue that women’s
drinking must be understood in its social and political
‘Whether social drinkers or problem drinkers, they talked about
their feelings of oppression, inadequacy, shyness, anxiety,
depression, and lack of confidence as women,’ the book
It asks us to take women’s drinking seriously – to understand
better the pressures that lead women to drink, and the need for
more accessible wom en-focused services.
But it also tries to put the problem in perspective – more men
drink and their drinking causes more harm.
Part two of the book shifts from social commentary to self-help,
describing the particular physiological effects of alcohol on
And the third part of the book contains guidance on how to
discover whether or not one has a drink problem and describes some
of the services that are available for those who want to do
something about it.
I felt it would have been better for McConville to write a book
for the mid-1990s than to revise this one. Women’s experience has
changed over the past decade, and its diversity has become more
And the target readership does not work as it used to. Women
drinkers can now access a range of more extensive self-help books,
and analysis of women’s position in society has developed to
reflect women’s strengths as well as oppression.
Services for women with drink problems are also far more widely
available, and not just to a few who live in London. Women
counsellors and women-only groups have become the norm.
Early intervention, brief counselling approaches and outreach
tailored for women are popular.
We have learned to listen to women’s real concerns and
circumstances, and create diversity and changing models of
The issues now are more about women accessing their fair share,
as scarce resources are more often targeted towards men’s
frequently more socially disruptive drinking as the priority.
And with pressure on costs, services for women are considered a
luxury that few purchasers are willing to finance, and few
providers can afford to carry.
Despite these reservations, McConville’s contribution helps
remind us of the distinct needs of women, whose voices should not
be overlooked in the ‘caring’ 1990s.
Wendy Thomson is chief executive, Turning