Closing time at the Melbourne Cup
Punters keep the party going as the biggest day on the racing calendar, the Melbourne Cup, winds down for another year.PT2M40S 620 349
Pop quiz: when I say "Melbourne Cup", what's the first image that springs to mind? Is it a drunk young woman teetering on one high-heel, the other in her hand, her fascinator slipping somewhere down around her clavicle?
If so, chances are you'd be in line with the collective unconscious' take on the Spring Racing season, which was handily summed up this week by the appearance of the Instagram account, Drunk Girls of Melbourne Cup.
This rather uncharitable riff on Humans Of New York-style "street photography" features, you might have guessed, photos of people - mostly young women - drunk or passed out at Flemington. As they put it, "We are celebrating the young fillies and colts that love to party at the Melbourne Cup. Keep up the great work girls and boys!"
"The idea that drunk young women are a definitive blight on Cup Day is not new." Photo: Getty Images
The clowns behind this account are also not above passing off a Walkley Award-winning photograph - in this case, Angela Wylie's 2006 best daily life photography winner, A Windy Oaks Day - as their own work, which is an indication of the level of imagination at play.
Blatant copyright infringement and sinister overtones of sexist misanthropy aside, Drunk Girls Of Melbourne Cup illustrates a commonly held view: that nothing says "Spring Racing" like chicks getting blotto.
Perhaps I am old fashioned, or maybe it's the lingering memory of watching one birthday girl being stretchered out of her 18th in order to have her stomach pumped while the band played Give It Away Now, but I've never found the sight of women teetering on the brink of alcohol poisoning particularly "hilarious".
"men are more than pulling their weight when it comes to trackside alcohol consumption." Photo: Justin McManus
The idea that drunk young women are a definitive blight on Cup Day is not new, but somehow they shoulder much of the distaste directed at the Race That Stops A Nation, and not, say, the questionable ethics of racing horses quite literally to their deaths, nor the correlation (long known) between soaring rates of domestic violence and major sporting events.
This is also despite the fact that, as Drunk Girls Of Melbourne Cup's own Instagram feed demonstrates, men are more than pulling their weight when it comes to trackside alcohol consumption. And men, unlike Drunk Girls, are far more likely to punch on when sozzled. (Though it turns out 2014 was a good year in Police eyes, with "only" two arrests and 10 evictions from Flemington.)
Rather than laughing at drunk girls who fall off their high street Louboutin knockoffs, perhaps our time would be better spent wondering what it is, precisely, about the Spring Racing Carnival that makes people, regardless of gender, act like utter guttersnipes.
The account says it's celebrating the young fillies and colts that love to party."
One need only look at the photos and tales of the rubbish (including condoms, bras and cocaine) that explodes over Flemington's rose-ringed lawns come the end of Cup Day to wonder precisely why we continue to laugh off this banal bacchanal as a bit of harmless fun.
When it comes to the big race, I'm as much a card-carrying Australian as the next person: despite my increasing concerns about the realities of horse racing, I still get caught up in the slow-motion-montage poetry of Cup Day; I have a framed photo of Phar Lap and Tommy Woodcock in my kitchen. "Bobby" was our first superstar athlete (well, neck and neck with Bradman), and the nation reacted with appropriate grief when he died in 1932.
But flash forward to 2014 and there's something Nero-esque about 'the nation' partying themselves into a lather while the favourite Admire Rakti, who suffered the indignity of staggering into last place and was therefore no doubt cursed as he crossed the line by those who'd poured their money into his short odds, expired quietly in his stall.
As more and more horses die, people plough unprecedented amounts of money into the betting ring, and hundreds of thousands of people sink piss until they exit this plane of consciousness, it begs the question: is "a bunch of drunk chicks" really the most offensive thing about the Melbourne Cup?