We originally ran this story in 2015, and it remains as relevant today as ever.
Drunk girls at the races: it’s a topic that has become as synonymous with the Melbourne Cup as the frocks, the marquees, and the horses themselves.
So why is everyone so fascinated with our sozzled sisters with their shoes in hand? And when will we let it go?
Horse racing in Australia is a tradition as old as our nation itself. The very first thoroughbred horses were shipped here for racing with the First Fleet in 1788 aboard the Lady Penrhyn, kicking off a long and boisterous tradition of gambling, drinking, and general celebration. The famous Kalgoorlie races were first off and running in the year 1900 — and were rumored to run for three days straight with unlimited wine and beer. Moral of the story? We were doomed from the start.
Fast forward to 2015 and horse racing has become a curious paradox: On one side of the fence (literally) there are the designer-clad celebrities and racing royalty, sipping Moet and tweeting sweetly from the Birdcage. On the other side of the fence is everyone else, dressed in their finest and trying to balance sunstroke and the urge to vomit from too much beer.
As someone who has vast experience on both sides of the fence, I can tell you one thing: a day at the races is a long day for everyone.
So why have young, drunk, girls become the subject of our mocking?
The now infamous “Drunk Girls Of Melbourne Cup” Instagram account has 25,000 followers lined up and ready to laugh at today’s antics. Already tagged are a handful of photos hinting at what’s to come: girls passed out on picnic blankets as the lads look on and laugh, girls sprawled on the concrete with their underwear (and more) on display, girls with defiant looks on their face as they swig from bottles of cheap champagne. It’s not pretty, nor is it inaccurate. But is it fair?
Beyond the nasty antics of social media — which, honestly, goes with the territory — the topic of drunk girls is now smeared across traditional media, too. In Sunday’s Daily Telegraph, seasoned gossip columnist Ros Reines has penned the charmingly titled “Please Melbourne, don’t embarrass us again”, slamming Melbourne for their drinking at The Cup.
It’s not a pretty picture she’s painting: vomit in rose bushes, sprawling fields of garbage, passed out men in expensive suits, and sozzled ladies holding their heels:
“One louche woman was attempting to pole dance on an umbrella, while a bloke in a suit and hat lay face down on a set of stairs with one arm stretched out as though he had mistaken this most public of surroundings for his own bed.
“All in all it was a shuddering display of bogan buffoonery — and as for those once fragrant rose bushes? They were covered in vomit.”
At least she was fair-handed in dishing out the disparaging looks to both men and women. Other media outlets have published articles directly addressing the topic of drunk girls at the races. As if their male peers at the races are all stone cold sober and sensible.
I reckon it’s time we just leave the drunk girls at Melbourne Cup alone.
At 18, I attended my first Melbourne Cup in a skintight, strapless, white minidress; paired with stratospherically high shoes, no underwear, and a complete lack of confidence. I was young, shy, intimidated, and by way of association, mercilessly drunk. I fell down a flight of stairs, had mud and garbage flicked all over my frock, lost my friend (read: lifeline), lost my wallet, and ended up on a train in a push so frantic I wondered if I would make it out alive. Oh, and I definitely had my shoes in my hand. That happened much, much earlier in the day.
As I got older, I finally found my feet — and a pair of shoes that fit them — and made my way in the nicer areas of Flemington. Places with seats and shade and lovely drinks that didn’t taste like battery acid. I came to enjoy the Cup Day, without throwing up in a portaloo or stumbling for the train at sunset with bits of glass and cigarette butts stuck to my feet. But no shade was thrown at those who were… because, ya know, ~sisterhood.
So for everyone tempted to snap an upturned lady with her heels in the air, or a flattened filly amid a sea of beer cans, think again. Don’t be the bully. Be the person who offers them a hand and tells them quietly that there’s a bit of vomit in their fringe. Give them a napkin, and walk away.
BE THAT PERSON.
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