Friday 15 November 2019

Jessie J -- rock of sense or spoilsport?

LONDON - JANUARY 25: Jessie J performs at MTV's Brand New For 2011 at Koko on January 25, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images)
LONDON - JANUARY 25: Jessie J performs at MTV's Brand New For 2011 at Koko on January 25, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images)

The pop star recently criticised drunken Irish students -- with good reason, writes Larissa Nolan

The bile keeps coming. "Jessie J is a skank whos (sic) she think she is to slag us off. Bitch was shit anyway," wrote a male student.

Another online contributor, whose comment was later removed, said: "She shouldn't have f**king bothered. What did she expect, everyone sitting there drinking tea? F**king idiot."

The fury has gone on for over two weeks, ever since Jessie J, a 23-year-old English singer whose new album Who You Are has sold millions of copies worldwide, appeared at the Trinity College Ball in Dublin.

After coming on stage, the teetotal singer expressed disgust at what she perceived as the number of very drunk students, particularly young women, who seemed unable to look after themselves.

Later she used her Twitter account to say to her 400,000 followers: "Just came off stage at the Trinity Ball, probably one of the hardest gigs to date."

"Girls unconscious . . . literally trampling over each other, it wasn't easy. I just wanted to go into the crowd and help all the crying girls. It upset me to see so many young people so not with it. It's called caring about my fans... And it's not just in Ireland, it's everywhere. As a non-drinker, I just wanna spread the message that binge drinking is dangerous."

Counselling psychologist Leslie Shoemaker believes Jessie J was right in what she said. "She made an observation, she didn't lecture. What she said was worthwhile and we should listen," said Shoemaker.

"The statistics back up what she saw. We top binge-drinking leagues all the time. I am very uncomfortable with the Irish attitude to drinking, which seems to be: it's all okay. But it's not okay".

But critics say the singer, whose single 'Price Tag' went to No 1 in Ireland and the UK, is teetotal and should have known what to expect at a student social event.

Others have backed the star, saying she has shone an uncomfortable but necessary light on the extent of binge-drinking among Irish women -- which they say is reaching dangerous levels.

Ever since Jessie J departed Dublin, a debate has raged online about her comments, with many students either furious or embarrassed at being spotlighted in this manner.

Here's a sample of some more posts: "Well she's lost my support! There were drunk people but nobody was trampling on people! Bitch!" -- Laura.

"It was probably the only way they could get through her set," said Karen, but Lainy agreed with the singer: "It was an absolute disgrace! She had to stop her set!

"I was embarrassed to be a Trinity student there . . . I was thrown around like a rag-doll by MEN . . . This was my third time going and the worst so far. There's just no excuse."

A contributor called Six added: "Walk down Camden Street in Dublin any weekend night at 3am -- it's like Zombie Town; girls vomiting with their skirts up around their bellybuttons, people walking on the street in a stupefied state, falling over, broken glass, pissing in doorways (girls and boys)".

For the first time, someone with a strong, young voice had said our binge drink culture was not acceptable -- and it did not go down well with some of the students.

They might, however, pay some attention to the latest figures. Ireland consistently tops European binge-drinking tables, with figures showing one-in-four of us regularly knocks back five or more drinks in one sitting, double the European average.

Addiction counsellors say one of the main problems with binge drinking is that dangers can go unnoticed, because everyone else is out of it too. Austin Prior of the Rutland Centre for addiction in Dublin says blackouts are a sinister symptom of bingeing.

He said: "Students think they're bulletproof. It's a case of: it won't happen to me.

"There's a group of people out and everyone is as drunk as everyone else, the risk of harm is greater and no one is aware. It exacerbates the situation."

Prior explains that going on binges can have disastrous consequences for all aspects of your life -- family, relationships, work, your mental health and your physical health.

"I see people with serious injuries from getting in fights, totally out of normal character. Falls out of windows, broken arms and legs, or often the drinker can't even remember how they were injured."

Psychiatrist Patricia Casey explains that bingeing is far more damaging to the body and mind than steady drinking. And young women are particularly vulnerable.

Dr Casey said: "The effects are far worse. That quantity of a depressive substance can cause a sudden drop in mood. With women, it is known that self-harming is far more common after a drinking binge.

"And for those who suffer underlying depressive or anxiety disorders, it brings them to the surface. Some people are affected for up to three days.

"Remove the binges and the depression goes away."

Sex with strangers can leave women guilt-ridden and full of self-hatred. "If the girl is not some kind of easy lay, but gets drunk and ends up sleeping with someone she barely knows, that can be a very difficult time for her."

And in one way in particular, it is women who suffer the most from the realities of the morning after the night before, according to sexual health doctor Derek Freedman.

"Binge drinking is associated with higher rates of unintended pregnancies, terminations and sexually transmitted infections. Unplanned sexual activity, without protection, goes hand in hand with bingeing," Dr Freedman said.

When Jessie J returns to Ireland in July for a major music festival, she'll have another chance to see whether her words of warning have been heeded.

Irish Independent

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