Wine, Women & Why the Alcohol Industry’s Focus on Us Is a Big Problem
A quick Google search for “the best alcohol ads right now” pulls up a page on adforum.com that lists its rankings of the top 5 alcohol ads in March. From that list, 3 of the top 4 spots feature images of women:
- The first, a Jameson whiskey commercial, depicts actress Regina Hall as a working executive who’s ready to party and take PTO to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
- The second, a Cutwater spirits campaign, depicts stylishly clad women (and men) living the après ski life drinking canned cocktails at the “alpine bar of our dreams.”
- The third, which ranked #4, is a Nütrl seltzer ad that shows a woman cradling a pineapple like a baby, nurturing it to become a pure and fresh drink ingredient.
Collectively these marketing campaigns touch on the ideas of gender equality, having it all, aspirational ideals (“I want to be her/them”), motherhood, and more.
The targeting of women in alcohol ads has been examined and debated for decades. Some experts have linked it to a rise in high-risk drinking among women and other alarming trends.
Jean Kilbourne is a longtime critic of the alcohol industry who has written several books on this subject. “The rise in hazardous drinking among women is not all due to the ads. But the ads have played a role in creating a cultural climate that says it’s funny when women drink heavily,” Kilbourne said in Washington Post article. “Most importantly, they’ve played a role in normalizing it.”
Recently the industry has shifted its focus to the promotion of organic and “clean” wine and cocktails, which, again, is largely geared toward women.
This has prompted newer voices like author Holly Whitaker to chime in on the conversation. Whitaker’s book, Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol, became a national bestseller, thanks to endorsements by celebrities like supermodel Chrissy Teigen.
In an Instagram post, Whitaker called out “clean” alcohol brands like Bev and Avaline wine, saying, “Regarding this idea that there is healthy alcohol, there isn’t, and anyone using the words “clean” or hyper-feminized-sanitized imagery … is predatory.”
“Sugar-free organic arsenic is still arsenic; sugar-free organic ethanol is still ethanol,” she added. “Calling it what it is, knowing the risks and trade-offs, and not having really confusing advertising that plays off our existing insecurities and gives us a sense that some alc[ohol] is a superfood that will make our lives better by consuming it vs what it is (a drug, a depressant, a substance correlated to increased rates of intimate partner violence, etc.) is important.”
This touches on another issue related to alcohol marketing: women are getting mixed messages. The myth that some alcohol is ok persists (e.g., a daily glass of red wine is good for your heart). However, most researchers agree that alcohol is bad for a person’s health.
For women, this is especially true. Women tend to be smaller than men, and their bodies process alcohol differently than men, often leading them to get drunk faster and stay drunk longer.
Alcohol consumption is also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, as well as higher incidences of liver disease, heart disease, depression, stroke, stomach bleeding, and other cancers.
And yet, recent data suggests that women are drinking more than ever. In 2021, more than 20% of women (or 27.3 million) admitted to in the past month.
If you or someone you love has lost control of their drinking, professional treatment can help. Our inpatient alcohol rehab in Orange County, California, offers high-quality, personalized addiction treatment designed to meet the individual needs of each patient.
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.
While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.