Practicing The Pause

hree years ago when I started getting sober, I didn’t really practice discernment. OK, I hardly ever did. But it’s a gift I’ve thankfully come to know, and want to know more of. In the past few weeks I’ve been praying for discernment about the work that I’m doing through Tell Better Storie stories, and have come to the decision to take a break. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be writing about these issues again, but for now I’m not going to be updating the Instagram, or creating new content tied to this project.

Why? Many reasons. Mostly I just need a break. Running Tell Better Stories the way that I have been takes a bandwidth I don’t have right now. Also, honestly, I’m practicing this thing called discernment, sitting still with the question of how do I want to use my voice in this space now? And beyond this space, what about my own community?

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Erin Street
Do Companies Respond? Here's The Answer.

I get a lot of questions about this, and have been meaning to answer. 

It's a really good question -- what happens when we ask a company or brand to reconsider how they use alcohol as part of their editorial, marketing, or sales efforts. 

The answer comes in two parts.

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Erin Street
Why I Do This Work: The Funeral

At the funeral home, I feel ill. There are times I want to pack up my advocacy and focus on all of the other things I’m called to do. It would be easier. Oh how easy it would be to put aside the “dark” chapter of my past, to move on as some well-meaning people have told me. Why keep wrestling with issues around drugs and alcohol and addiction and dependence and pain and the stories we tell? Life is good for me now. I could stop. 

Yes, it would be easier to do that.

But I don’t do easy and the story is not over and I am still here.

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Erin StreetEssay, Addiction
Wine Is Not Necessary for The First Day of School

But the thing is, I started out my journey making the same wine jokes. I would have held a letter board or a chalkboard sign had they been en vogue when my son started school. I would have made the jokes too. But not now. Not knowing what I know: the story of how so many women start drinking, and keep drinking, and end up even more depleted when then they stared. 

Maybe this back to school we tell a different story.

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When Will We Stop Laughing At Alcohol Memes? And When Will Brands Stop Sharing Them?

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. 


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0 Days Since Last Hangover

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!” 

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Q&A With Ann Dowsett Johnston: The Woman Who Lit A Spark In The Conversation About Women and Alcohol

“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.

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Moms Don't Need Drinks

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.

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Makes Me Whole

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"?

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Erin Street