Women have been drinking in increasing numbers over the past few decades, often times using motherhood as the excuse. When looking at the media you can see why drinking has been on the rise among women, as much of the advertising for booze has been aimed at women. Not only do you see advertisements directed specifically towards women, there are also a lot of pop-culture references that make drinking as a mother seem like the norm. Movies such as Bad Moms and memes that talk about Mommy Juice not only normalize drinking Moms, but celebrates it. There is the idea that after a long day of work and taking care of children, a woman deserves to sit down with a large glass of wine in order to relax. What the images ignore, however, is the rising number of women who drink and what type of effect this can have on our society.
Women, Drinking and the Media
The number of women drinking has been increasing for years, and with this increase comes a larger number of women who have a problem with drinking. Studies have shown that the increase in women drinking has been much higher than that of men, pointing to a change in culture. For years, alcohol was primarily advertised towards men, showing that with the correct brand of alcohol, the man would be more manly. The image was often of a man choosing a particular type of beer or alcohol and suddenly becoming more attractive to women. This type of advertising was common for both liquor and beer companies alike, and was the main way in which the alcohol industry portrayed their products. There was the idea that men were more likely to be the drinkers, and it was much more acceptable for a man to have a glass of whiskey at the end of the day than a woman.
This started to change in the 1990s, when the advertising industry started to realize that women had a huge buying power. Women were the ones deciding which products to buy for the household, and if women collectively thought better of a certain brand, the company would see a huge increase in sales. Once the connection between the buying power of women was discovered, the alcohol industry started to change the tone of their advertisements. Products such as light beer began to become popular as it was seen that women were more likely to buy beer if it had a bit less alcohol in it. Liquor companies slowly started to see that women influenced the marketplace, and the arise of flavoured alcohol came shortly after. Companies such as Absolut Vodka began to infuse their liquor with flavours like vanilla or grapefruit, to appeal to the female population. Not too long after that, alcohol brands made specifically for women started to show up. Brands such as SkinnyGirl and Girl’s Night Out began to show up on the shelves, and their popularity boomed.
Along with this explosion of female driven brands, the norms behind drinking also began to shift. Prior to this change in advertising and products, the general view in society was that women were not supposed to drink as much as men. Once alcohol started to be seen as something women wanted, that idea also changed. Women who could “drink like a man” were considered cool, and images of women drinking hard liquor with their male counterparts started to appear. The character Liz Lemon, for example, from the very popular 30 Rock, was often seen sipping on glasses of whiskey with her boss Jack as they discussed the goings on of NBC. The idea behind these images were actually aimed to show women that they could participate in the corporate world and be equal to men in every aspect of their lives – including what they drank.
Once it was more established that women drank as often as men, alcohol use among mothers became more acceptable. Up until more recently, mothers on TV and in movies were not really shown drinking. There were a lot of fathers who had a beer or whiskey always in hand, but never really many mothers. There are a myriad of examples of men being fathers while drinking in pop culture – Homer from The Simpsons, Dan Connor from Roseanne, Jay from Modern Family. The list goes on. Mothers, however, were rarely seen drinking, and when they were, it was never to excess. Recently, these images have changed, but instead of a beer in hand like their male counterparts, it is almost always a large glass of wine. Both The Simpsons and Modern Family have shown increased drinking by the mother characters, often being made fun of by their children who are aware of how much their mother drinks, but it not being a problem. It is more common these days to see mothers portrayed as drinking in pop-culture than as not drinking, which is a complete switch from previous years.
Celebrating The Wine Mom Culture
As pop culture normalizes mothers who drink, there has also been a huge upswing in products available that celebrate mothers drinking wine. There are large wine glasses that say “Mommy’s Sippy Cup”, Mommy Wine Festivals and even a popular wine brand named “Mommy’s Time Out” and “Mommy Juice”. With these types of products on the market, it is easy to see why a lot of people are talking about Mommy Wine Culture. Not only are there a lot of products to back this statement up, there are also a lot of social groups that cater to Moms who drink wine. By searching websites such as Meetup, a popular place to find people in your area who are interested in participating in a common activity, you can find many groups that are for Moms who enjoy drinking wine. The idea here is to get together with a group of Moms to socialize and still be able to indulge in wine. Some of the groups are more about the get together itself- a place for women to get together and talk about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. Others are more specifically about wine, where mothers can talk about the more subtle aspects of wine, such as which wine to pair with what type of food.
There is also a large number of social media accounts and groups that cater to mothers who enjoy drinking wine. One of the most popular pages on Facebook, called “Moms who Need Wine”, has over 600,000 followers. This group was set up with the intention of giving a space to mothers to share funny stories and perhaps even advice about motherhood. The posts are lighthearted and are intended to make people laugh, which can be difficult to do when in the middle of dealing with a toddler’s meltdown. This Facebook group also holds different events that mothers can participate in in person or online. It is important to note that having a community in which people feel comfortable talking about issues they may be having in their lives is very important when dealing with mental health issues. Being a mother can be very isolating, as you spend long days with your children and possibly have no other adults to talk to. This takes its toll on the psyche and finding people who you can spend some time with can help reduce the emotional roller coaster of parenting.
The Dangers of Women Drinking
All of that being said, using wine as a means of socializing can be very dangerous. Being dependent on alcohol in any form is problematic, and it can start as easily as using wine as a social lubricant. Some find it much easier to socialize with strangers once they have had a bit of alcohol. For these people, there is the danger of starting to think that consuming wine is the only way to socialize. This can become even more of a problem when you take into account that a lot of the Mom and Wine groups meet during the day. Daytime drinking can cause a multitude of issues and should cause red flags to go up. By normalizing day drinking, Mommy Wine groups can inadvertently make it seem acceptable for Moms to have a glass of wine while taking care of their children, which if not strictly monitored can cause a lot of problems. When looking through the different posts in Facebook groups such as “Mommy Needs Wine”, it is evident that a lot of women casually joke about grabbing a glass of wine when something minor goes wrong. If someone is using alcohol to cope with their problems, they are at high risk of developing an alcohol use disorder, as they will not be able to cope with difficult situations without it. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, and though all of these different circumstances may not cause the disease directly, if a mother slowly starts to drink more and more wine during the day, it is much more likely that alcohol will become an issue.
Having such a strong connection between motherhood and wine might explain some of the troublesome numbers associated with women drinking. Studies show that around 12% of adult women report binge drinking three times per month, meaning they would have more than five drinks in one session. This number is staggering, and comes with dire consequences. According to a study done by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) the rate of women who have died from alcohol use has gone up by 26% since 2001. For men, the increase in the same time period was only 5%. That is a huge difference, and points to the fact that there is a trend of troubled drinking patterns specifically among women. Though it is hard to say what has actually caused this increase, it is not difficult to see the connection between Mommy wine culture and the increased number of deaths due to alcohol. When our society makes it okay for women to drink during the day and encourages them to use wine when stressed, this can cause for more troubling drinking patterns. And though these drinking patterns may not lead straight to the most dire consequence – death – it has still led to more injuries and hospitalizations. From 2016-17, more than 25,000 women in Canada were hospitalized due to alcohol. This number suggests that at the very least, drinking behaviour among women can be very dangerous, and that perhaps we should not be celebrating Moms who drink wine.
When we look at the images on TV and what we see in the media, it becomes quite evident that drinking wine is synonymous with being a Mom. There are numerous pop-culture references to Mommy Wine Culture, and for the most part the images do not show any consequences of this type of lifestyle. Some think that having things such as Facebook Mom Wine groups is a bit of harmless fun. Mothers need places in which they can talk about the hardships of motherhood, and they should be allowed to find places in which they can meet other mothers. In fact, it is more healthy for moms to have a community around her so that isolation does not end up being an issue. But when the type of community that ends up surrounding these moms promotes drinking, these groups might actually do more harm than good. Having a culture in which dangerous behaviour is glorified is not good for anyone, and more needs to be done to ensure that women are no longer drawn into using wine to solve their problems. The more we are able to address the issues mothers might be having without the use of alcohol, the less likely we will be to see the deadly consequences of such behaviour.
Photo credit: AwayWeGo2010. This picture has a Creative Commons attribution license.