In this time where everyone is talking about mental health and “tell somebody,” I think about the story I was telling my family and friends when I was starting, or continuing, my slip into the darkest time of my life. One that started out with pretty glasses of wine and ended up in dependence, depression, and a spiritual death. Raise a glass.Read More
This is what I believe these memes are about. Underneath the attempt at humor is content that women relate to. For instance, with Good Housekeeping’s Elf meme: it’s not really about wine. It’s about how come summer, mom is the one who is often trying to figure out how to create an entertaining and educational break for her kids, while she continues her daily responsibilities, be it working inside or outside the home or both, which is the likelihood.
It’s tougher to create content about the fact that the world isn’t set up for parents who are trying to manage their responsibilities. Memes about childcare and economic realities are a bit more complicated. And perhaps that’s not the mission of women’s lifestyle media.
Or perhaps it is.
For people who run recovery/sobriety spaces, doing a few things to actively show that you are a space for LGBTQ+ people can make a huge difference for newly sober queer and trans people.
Right now a woman is weeping because she has zero days without a hangover. She is posting to a secret Facebook group that she is back to day one. She is under the covers, beating herself up; replaying her greatest failures. She is dehydrated, filled with shame, and unsure of how she will make it through the day. You might see her in the carpool line or at the office, wiping her eyes from the fatigue. You might see her behind the register, or waiting tables. She does not have a cute letter board that proclaims “Zero Days Since My Last Hangover!”Read More
Between Cinco de Mayo and Mother's Day, there were plenty examples of content that perpetuated the thought that one has to drink to a)celebrate b)be a mom.Read More
Among the many topics discussed at the SheRecovers Atlanta event was the organization intentionally working to spotlight more and diverse voices of sobriety and recovery. We believe this is vital, and share this intention as we examine messaging involving alcohol in media and marketing.Read More
“The mommy drinking culture is the number one issue I see. The rise in this mom culture is happening as we see the data around binge drinking and more alcohol-related ER visits skyrocket.” Ann says she is frequently sent images and products playing off wine-related themes and humor. “Humor is subjective. But when you stack the numbers and stack the data we have now, it’s very clear what’s happening.” It’s the normalization of risky drinking. Mother’s Day s coming up, and our national book chain is selling wine glasses emblazoned with the words “Mom Fuel.” This is not rare.Read More
"Because it turns out the story about the health effects of moderate drinking is shifting pretty dramatically. New research on alcohol and mortality, and a growing awareness about the rise in alcohol-related deaths in the US, is causing a reckoning among researchers about even moderate levels of alcohol consumption."Read More
Among topics highlighted: the pressures that modern day moms and women face, the escalation of drinking after the birth of a child, the impact of social media, and anxiety and depression amongst moms.Read More
Because ultimately our mission isn't just about surfacing wine memes -- it's about creating real awareness of the issues surrounding women, alcohol, marketing and media. It's about helping women find words to use their voices and say: I am not comfortable with this and/or this doesn't align with my values. Some of us are fighting of our lives. And our voices are getting louder. We are not withdrawing into the shadows.Read More
It seems innocuous enough, right? It's just a hashtag on a photo of a glass of wine. However, did anyone in their marketing group, be it internal or agency/partners, consider the ramifications of using a tagline like this in associated with wine? Did they think about what the implications could be in creating ad that says a drug makes someone "whole"?Read More
So here's the deal: people have been coming up with hangover "remedies" and "cures" since the beginning of time. We've received submissions for other "solutions" in the form of things you can drink before, during and after. These are our thoughts;
If you have to drink Pedialyte to counteract the effects of alcohol, maybe you need to rethink things.
There is another way to live.
One in which you can create a life in which you don't need to drink Pedialyte to function after a night out? One in which the party that you attend doesn't cause you to get so drunk that you have to drink this stuff. And the part is called your life. A life in which you are healthy and well.Read More
What I like about the Edit Podcast work is that it explores what they call "gray area drinking." Historically, all we've ever heard about are people who have a problem drinking with alcohol and those who don't. And while some of us have more risk factors than others for dependence and addiction, alcohol can have consequences for anyone who uses it. But that's another story.Read More
Today, on International Fact Checking Day, we ask people to consider taking a pledge to get the facts on the impact of alcohol, and to consider that when creating, consuming, and sharing contentRead More
Weight Watchers helps a lot of people. We have lots of friends and family who have found their tools to be helpful as they work to become more healthy and active. And oh yeah, weight.
They do some things right: providing community for people to share their health journeys, basic nutrition information, and evolving with the times (the Daily podcast did a good podcast in August of 2017.) Of course there's also another side, and WW has been criticized for practices including their new program for teens.
We are here because of this post from their IG. Saving points for wine?
- This messages alcohol as a reward. It implies that you deny yourself of something else to be able to "indulge." Why do we message alcohol as a reward, as a treat for women to enjoy if they've "been good." (Then again, all of WW seems to operate around this system: eat these foods, save points for those. The difference in this case is that it's alcohol, which can have significant health implications, e.g., even one drink a day raises your risk for breast cancer, and studies that tout the benefits of moderate drinking are problematic.)
Weight Watchers shares messages about how to drink. Like this story: Boozing and Losing (thumbs down to that headline alone), in which a writer says she knows alcohol keeps her from meeting her health goals (weight) but she doesn't want to stop and here are all sorts of tips to keep drinking and lose weight. "I don't want to say no to happy hours, marathon Saturday-night birthday parties in New York or playing drinking games with my big Irish family." Girl, you can still go to those things and not drink. Well, maybe not the drinking games with your big Irish family.
On weight & alcohol: "Excess alcohol can also turn to fat in your liver and can raise the amount of fat in your blood, says Sonya Angelone, R.D., a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It’s also more likely to be stored in your body as fat, she says Add all of this together and it’s easy to see how drinking heavily can cause you to gain weight over time. (source: Women's Health)."
Finally, there's this idea in women's lifestyle media that you can trade x for y, which really simplifies the truth. I will admit that when I was an editor at a women's lifestyle magazine, editing a health section, I wrote stories like this. "Walk for this many miles in New Orleans and then you can eat a beignet." It's a simple, time tested device. But the math isn't always simple. My friend Holly (Hip Sobriety) puts it beautifully in her piece "Yes, Alcohol Is Making Your Look Like Shit" :
"When I wanted to believe it, it made sense that workouts negated alcohol's effect, which was only caloric on some level. On this side of things I know there are no amount of yoga classes that will ever undo what drinking does to us because what drinking does to us is akin to what taking any drug regularly (and moderately) does to us: it alters our entire ecosystem.
The short list of what it does goes something like this: Alcohol causes inflammation (which leads to myriad other health issues), dehydrates, disrupts our blood sugar balance (which makes us mood swing, binge eat, get the shakes, disrupts sleep), gunks up our liver (which means our body can't detox and also means we have trouble losing weight - toxins live in fat cells), interferes with the metabolism of nutrients (absorption), replaces healthy calories (malnutrition), changes our pH balance (causing body odor), leads to loss of sleep (which leads to a host of other things that make us look like shit), disrupts the endocrine/glandular system (as in, adrenals/energy, sex hormones/periods/sex drive, sleep cycle), accelerates the aging process, worsens skin issues (like acne), causes bloating, brittles hair, causes memory loss, shrinks gray matter, induces or worsens depressive states, causes broken capillaries/rosacea, leads to other unhealthy and/or risky behavior (like poor food choices, unprotected sex, smoking), is directly linked to certain cancers (like breast cancer). There's also that whole other part about how it addicts us, kills 1 in 10 of us, robs us of years of our lives, our dignity, our freedom, and on and on. But that's not what this piece is about."
How can Weight Watchers tell better stories? This is a tough one. Because there are people who want to hear that they have permission to drink. And, as the reminder we need to say every time we write anything, we aren't prohibitionists, and of course women have agency to drink or not.
But these images that we see everywhere -- the reward, the celebration, the "go ahead, you deserve it," and you've been pounding it out on your SoulCycle bike so you "can" -- they're problematic. They add up.
One suggestion we'd have for Weight Watchers: show women who don't drink. Who choose not to drink, for whatever the reason. Say, health?
We want to see more of that, fewer glasses of wine lauded and celebrated.
"I have the freedom to treat myself & enjoy my favorite things."
Catherine Gray is one of our favorite voices. The author of "The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober," has done some great work flipping the script of the alcohol-as-lifestyle narrative on its head. In particular, these "ads" turn the story upside down.
Her new piece, "How To Resist Reaching For The Wine Tonight," for The Pool had us nodding our heads:
"To relax, we don't need to slide down a corkscrew and splish into a bottle of wine. To unbutton, we don't need to swirl ourselves into a martini glass like Dita Von Teese. The reason we think we do is because we're told that wine is equal to relief 100 times a day. At the risk of sounding like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory, I tell you, it's everywhere. Once you see it, you can't un-see it.
The “wine on the lips, baby on the hips” agenda pushed at mothers; gyms telling us that we need to detox and retox (my spin instructor mentioned post-class prosecco three times last night); memes saying “I can't wait to get home and pour myself some dinner”; and watching Olivia Pope in Scandal, Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife, Marcella in, er, Marcella or Jean Holloway in Gypsy all hopping on the wine waterslide on a nightly basis. Their hangovers are not televised. This gets inside our heads. It burrows into our brains.
But is drinking really relaxing? Damn straight it is! The first glass feels like finally breathing, having held your breath all day long. However, like any other drug, alcohol has a comedown – we just call it by a different name. Short-term, it works, but long-term, it makes us less able to cope with stress. The next day, there's a nasty surprise inside the Trojan horse waiting to plunder us. We wake up less capable, less cheerful, less clear-headed. Meditating in a candlelit bath may now be a self-care cliché, but heck, meditation and baths don't make our stresses bigger and blacker the next day. They deserve to be relaxation clichés. Drinking doesn't."
More and more women are starting to question not just their alcohol use, but the messaging around alcohol in media, marketing, and pop culture. More women are lifting their voices when it comes the link between how the culture glorifies alcohol as an accessory for women, but turns its head to the consequences.Read More
Starting January 1 of this year, I began to gather examples of alcohol-as-lifestyle examples in media and marketing. I launched an Instagram account (@tellbetterstories2018), and have shared these images along with constructive criticism designed to encourage dialogue. Those images are now displayed on this site, under "Examples. It's important to gather and house these images, as many as possible, to show the volume and nature of what we're dealing with.Read More
In January 2018, shortly after I launched the Tell Better Stories initiative, I received a message from my friend Kevin Naff. Kevin
"Here’s a challenge: Scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed and count the references to alcohol. Maybe it’s an invite to a yoga and wine class. Maybe it’s a reference to drinking over the current state of political affairs. Maybe it’s another story from a publication touting the benefits of tequila, or a social media influencer holding a glistening glass in the middle of a dreamy vacation spot. Alcohol is everywhere.
Problem drinking is on the rise at a dangerous clip, but we continue to create and consume media that celebrate the alcohol-as-lifestyle narrative like nothing is wrong. A study published last year in JAMA Psychiatry shows that problem drinking increased by nearly 50 percent in the U.S. between 2002 and 2013. Among women, alcohol abuse and dependence increased by 83.7 percent; among African-Americans, 92.8 percent; and among the poor, it rose by 65.9 percent.
But mommy needs more wine. That’s what the meme/dishtowel/headlines imply, right?
Before you look away and think this a statement against alcohol; it’s not. We have the agency to decide what we put into our bodies. Instead, it’s a challenge to consider how we create, engage with, and share stories related to alcohol within the greater cultural context. That context includes a nation grappling with a public health crisis of addiction (and not just to opioids).
My goal is to challenge us all—media and consumer (though the line is now blurred)—to be more thoughtful in how we tell stories and create spaces that acknowledge not everyone can or chooses to drink.
I quit drinking nearly two years ago because it was ruining my life. With this perspective I’ve become acutely aware of the pervasiveness of the alcohol-as-lifestyle narrative. As a former magazine editor, I used to tell those stories myself. I assumed everyone who drank was normal, and a small group of people who could not were abnormal. They were alcoholics. They were “other.”
Having worked in media for 20 years, I understand the things we do for eyeballs and advertisers. Stories about ways to sneak wine into a handbag or beer yoga get a response. Images of beautiful people enjoying a beautiful drink signify aspiration and freedom. But there is another world, one in which people do not drink. Some are fighting for their lives. Others are opting out because they don’t like the way it makes them feel or act. Sobriety of late has been publicized as a trend, but it’s really a revolution to reclaim our lives.
There are millions of us who do not drink, and many more on the edge, wondering, “Do I have a problem?” What if we acknowledged this, not just in the recovery and sobriety communities, but in media? What if content creators—editors, writers, photographers, social media influencers—were better educated to understand the depth and breadth of the impact of alcohol, and approached our storytelling with sensitivity and thought?
This year I’m collecting examples, good and bad, of stories that depict our alcogenic culture. My goal is to use these examples for discussion and collaboration with content creators about a better way to tell stories. Stories that don’t just glorify what comes from a bottle. Stories that are inclusive and reflective of a narrative that doesn’t always include a bottle."