There was a time when there was no love lost between women and the alcohol industry. Way back when, it tried for 42 years to deny women the right to vote by funding politicians who would keep the woman suffrage amendment out of Congress, perhaps in retaliation for women’s support of the Temperance movement of the 19th and early 20th century.
Today, however, the alcohol industry can’t get enough of us, and is instead targeting women in their marketing efforts to boost lagging sales of men and the alcohol industry as a whole, especially with traditional “male” drinking such as beer. Plus, they are following the general trend of women simply drinking more. The results speak for themselves:
For years, alcohol consumption has been on the rise for women in the U.S. for the past three decades, with women today making up 37 percent of whiskey drinkers as opposed to just 15 percent in the 1990s. Not only that, but a recent study found that high-risk drinking rose about 58 percent among women (from 2002 to 2013) and, more frighteningly, alcohol and dependence increased by 83.7 percent among women during the same time period.
The alcohol industry can’t get enough of us, and is targeting women in their marketing efforts to boost lagging sales of men and the alcohol industry as a whole.
It’s hard to deny that the increase in drinking for women has coincided with an increase in alcohol advertising towards women, especially since an early 2000s spike in women’s consumption of alcohol though the uptick has been apparent since the 90s.
Alcohol advertising specifically targeted towards women is largely problematic for those who are sober or attempting to quit alcohol. Those ads of a woman having the time of her life with a drink in her hand make vulnerable women feel as if they are missing out by not having that glass of rosé with dinner, that “smart” cocktail during a post-work happy hour or unlimited mimosas during brunch. The story of alcohol that the alcohol industry feeds us and is perpetuated by social media is always the same: Drink and you will be happy. But for those suffering from alcohol use disorder, the possibility of being happy while drinking is simply untenable.
Still, the sexy, persuasive alcohol ads targeted towards women can manipulate us into wanting something we know we can’t have — and fool us into thinking that “just one won’t hurt.” It’s precisely this kind of thinking, largely aided by alcohol marketing and societal expectations, that keeps women from exploring their problematic relationship with alcohol. It seems normal to scream “mommy juice!” on social media or have that shot at a friend’s birthday party because alcohol marketing tells us that this is what life is all about. It isn’t.
Take a look at this list of the obvious alcohol advertisements and products aimed solely at women. Whether it’s pink drinks or flasks in the shape of “girly” objects, here are 10 gross examples of gendered alcohol marketing.
If learning that pink was for girls was our first rule of gender norms, that you had to hide your tampons was the second. We’re taught that taking a tampon out of your purse is embarrassing—that tampons in general are totally gross to men and you shouldn’t talk about them. From your first surprise period in middle school, you must cover up the fact that it is totally natural that you you bleed every month.
So how does this relate to a tampon flask? The exact same way. The whole point of a flask is to sneak alcohol, and since no one wants to get near your tampons, they’re the perfect camouflage for your secret habit. So not only are advertisers encouraging you to stay ashamed of your feminine products, but also to get messed up in secret.
2. Amzwt Flask Bracelet Bangle with Handmade Rhinestones Lid Hidden Alcohol Flasket Best Gift for Women
Similar to the tampon flask above, this jewelry isn’t really jewelry. Instead, women can now adorn themselves with a bracelet that, yes, hides alcohol. This bracelet is intended to be used to sneak alcohol into an event or bar so you can drink more for less money. As you probably know, sneaking anything, especially mind-altering substances, should be a big sign that you’re trying to do something you’re not 100% comfortable with. However, the road towards healing and recovery (whatever that means for you) starts with getting comfortable following what you want to do and not what society (or clever marketing) tells you what you should want.
Yes Way Rosé is a wine and lifestyle company that takes this glamourization of drinking all day every day to the next level. The company’s Instagram is filled with women on the beach, traveling across the country, relaxing in spas, and feeling “the rosé vibes” always.
It’s incredibly idyllic and that’s the point. Over recent years, sipping rosé has become a symbol for the social elite on Instagram and the coasts, specifically. The rosé slogan and wine itself is being used to convince women who may not feel that their lives are glamorous that they too can look like this, be this carefree—with the help from their pink liquid friend.
Of course, living the “rosé all day” lifestyle in the Hamptons or taking “treat yourself days,” as these images depict, is out of reach for most women—it’s expensive and of course, drinking all day (even pink wine) isn’t taking good care of yourself. Promoting the idea that staying buzzed makes you fabulous compromises your chances to learn to unwind naturally, without numbing yourself. It’s performative self-care and discourages you from finding a routine that feels right for you
Although there’s no shortage of alcohol brands that cater specifically to women, Skinnygirl deserves a special shout-out for being one of the most damaging since it is also perpetuating shitty diet culture.
The name “Skinnygirl” serves as a reminder to women that not only should we feel bad about drinking too much, but we should also feel bad about those extra calories going to our hips. Even more insidiously, it says you can get as hammered as you want and remain “skinny,” as if either one of those is a good thing.
I have a particular distaste for anything that refers to wine as “Mommy juice” and this six pack of wine bottles is a prime example of why. For one, the implication in this product’s advertising is that a woman who is a mother is also a “mad housewife” as opposed to, say, a woman who works hard to provide for her family — whether that means being a homemaker or earning a living, or both.
Secondly, this product also claims that she needs to numb out because her kids are acting up, her husband isn’t helping with housework, the domestic life is getting out of control and all of her friends are telling her that “mommy juice” is the only way to quell that deep anxiety about her life.
What about asking for help from your partner, assuming you have one, or your family, rather than alcohol? Or even better, how about brewing some really top-notch tea that helps you feel restored instead of hungover the next day while you do the laborious work of taking care of the kids, the house and whatever else.
For women who might wish they had more to show in the boob department, now you can drink your troubles away AND get bigger tits at the same time—by wearing a wine-filled bra. It’s not clear if this is something a woman would buy for herself or that one of those guys who wears bear cans on his hat would buy it for his girlfriend because the idea of her lactating wine is a turn-on, but either way, it’s gross.
Smirnoff, the vodka brand that brought you all of those college nights getting drunk on Smirnoff Ice now has a rosé version because of course anything pink must mean that women will swill it. This particular ad boasts that it has “zero grams of sugar,” for all of those aforementioned weight-conscious ladies. Pink and slimming! Sign me up.
Self-care has lately been touted as a must for all women, but a wine holder for the shower that’s filled with pink liquid takes the concept of a healing bath to unwind to a problematic place. The idea that women need wine to relax is practically shoved down our throats. I’m all for anything that reminds us to take better care of ourselves, but bathtime already a treat, without the addition of alcohol.
It’s difficult to look at this “Chick Beer” without wanting to throw my computer against the wall. Pink labeling? Check. A little black dress on each bottle? Yup. But the most frustrating part though is the name itself. Specifically, the “Chick” part. It feels as though labeling it for women gives said women the permission to partake in something that’s usually for men—which they don’t need permission for in the first place, and if they have alcohol use disorder, needn’t be encouraged to do. But hey, this packaging is all girl! Did I mention the carrier is shaped like a purse. The whole thing is insulting.
In early 2018, Johnnie Walker unveiled their faux-feminist line, “Jane Walker.” The company redid their macho label into what looks like the Carmen Sandiego of whisky exploration, supposedly in honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day this past March.
Jumping on the trend of women who “drink like men” (ugh), the company is also donating money to women’s causes in a clear ploy to market themselves as THE whisky for feminist women who want to be able to do the things that men do — like drink whisky. Of course, this completely ignores the fact that “women drinking like men” is a gigantic problem.
We don’t need to prove that we can do it all—or drink it all. And certainly do not need to act like men in order to prove we have some semblance of power. Binge drinking is not a feat— it’s actually keeping many of us silent and complacent as we groggily cheer with our rosé, not noticing that the world around us is burning and that our own lives are falling apart? Hard pass, Jane.
The alcohol industry was against the women’s vote, and now they have figured out a better way to keep women down: By telling us that we “deserve” our pink drinks served up 24/7 in our sparkly flask bracelets. Don’t fall for it, ladies. The only thing we deserve is to make up our own minds about drinking and sobriety… and to burn the patriarchy down.