For most Americans, drinking is no big deal. Some see it as a right of passage, others as a natural everyday pastime. A few years ago an experiment made us do a double take.
25-year old Louise Delage was everything any young woman could hope to be. She had great friends, impeccable style, and an enviable jet-setting lifestyle – all of which she documented on her Instagram. In just a few months she had amassed over 65,000 followers.
This was more than just another social influencer finding success. There was a dark theme beneath the perfect facade which the social platform hid so well.
As it turns out, the profile of Louise Delage was a fake. Set up by an ad agency in Paris to highlight the prevalence of alcohol use in young people. You see, in almost every single photo that was shared, she was holding a drink. Or there was one casually placed in the background just so.
What was most troubling about this experiment was not that she was drinking but even as her audience grew no one seemed to notice the pattern. It became a photo diary demonstrating how easy it is to miss the signs of alcohol misuse.
As drinking levels in the US are reaching public health crisis territory, researchers have found that women are particularly impacted.
Women, Stress, and the “Wine Moms” Movement
Alcohol has long been used as a way to unwind and relax. A crutch that allows us to deal with the hardships, stress, and monotony of life – especially for moms. Memes that read “Mommy drinks because you cry” or the wine glasses with the words “Mommy Fuel” emblazoned across them have become commonplace.
“Those “I need wine to parent” memes might be funny, but they are offensive to people who have struggled or are currently struggling with sobriety.”
And she’s right. It’s not funny for people in sobriety. But also, it’s not funny at all.
What it really comes down to is we’re not dealing with the core issues. Women are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, alone. The easiest thing to do for many of these women to cope is to pop a cork and pour a glass of merlot. It’s all backward. A recent article in the New York Times titled Being a Sober Parent in a Wine Mom Culture, notes that “Parents who don’t drink are not offered such a simple solution to stress.”As drinking levels in the US are reaching public health crisis territory, researchers have found that women are particularly impacted. Click To Tweet
As women, we’re constantly getting the message that drinking is the answer to all of our problems. Bad day? Pour a glass of wine (or three, or five). Girls night? Let’s do shots. Going through a breakup? Drown your sorrows in a fifth of gin.
Drinking at the Barre?
You can’t swing a yoga mat without knocking someone’s wine over. From bars to book clubs and now yoga studios, no social space is safe. Laura Silverman, the founder of The Sobriety Collective, voiced her concerns recently in a two-part blog post about how alcohol is sneaking its way into our wellness routines.
A narrative that is, unfortunately, familiar to women everywhere.
Is social media to blame? Was it this bad five years ago? We could probably have an entire episode about the impact that social media has had on our drinking and drug use as a country. It’s a loaded topic. But let’s just skim over the essentials.
A recent article in Time Magazine noted that Americans, specifically women and older adults, are drinking more alcohol. The article cited a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism which compared two groups of people; one between 2001-2002 and one from 2012-2013. For women, high-risk drinking increased to 60% and alcohol use disorder increased to almost 84%. Men increased by 15% and 35% respectively.
Why is this happening? Individual, environmental and societal factors come into play but it could point to added stress as a result of income and educational disparities. Not to mention, cultural norms have changed over the years.
Using Male Signifiers to Empower Women
Looking again to the media, we see a lot of women in power – or vying for power – embracing risky drinking behaviors. Popular shows like Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and The Good Wife grasp and exploit the trope. Alcohol isn’t just a part of the scene, it’s a part of the main character’s persona. A pillar of the character’s life. One can’t think about Olivia Pope without picturing an overflowing bowl of popcorn and a filled-to-the-brim glass of red wine.
We are starting to see incremental shifts toward more positive messaging for women and mothers specifically. Movements like Tell Better Stories 2018, are working to do just that – tell better stories – and challenge the media to produce more thoughtful messaging around alcohol.
Just last week we saw three mothers on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today talk about their struggles with alcohol.
What else can we do?
We can look to these women and follow their example. Share our stories, call out the media when we see something isn’t right, and reach out to other women and mothers when we see them struggling. Like Sarah said, we are disconnected. So, let’s do our best to reconnect.
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