Is Wine Culture Actually Toxic?

Lisa Martens

Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

Wine culture is tied to the idea of self-love. To go against it is almost to deprive women of joy, to commit a grave sin.

Moms, have a glass of wine. You deserve it.

Had a hard, long day of Zoom meetings? Have a glass of wine.

Divorced? Married? Single? Every woman can partake in a glass of wine to soothe any of her terrible relationships statuses, whatever they may be. Drink because your ex hasn't paid alimony. Drink because you're married and he doesn't listen. Drink because you're single and don't know when you're going to get married.

Drinking alone during lockdown became a joke for many. Don't worry—I'm not having a party! All of this wine is for me! But more and more, people I know are having trouble...stopping the joke. The joke goes on and on, until it isn't so funny anymore. The occasional self-love glass of wine turns into—Wait, how many days in a row have I been drinking? How come all my friends are sending me memes about being drunk? And why is Instagram constantly recommending wine-themed shirts, corkscrews, and glasses to me?

In March 2020, online sales of wine soared. Many US cities relaxed their public drinking laws. My roommates hosted Netflix parties. People drank and watched Tiger King "together." People lost their jobs, applied for unemployment, and drank at home as they awaited results. Moms didn't know how their kids would go to school. Nobody had answers, and the unease could only be calmed and quieted with a glass of wine.

As this winds down, and now that we are more than a year into Covid life, we must ask ourselves...did this fun treat become a coping mechanism?

Is this expression of self-love actually...toxic? A stepping stone on a path toward alcohol dependency?

Excessive drinking is often fueled by excuses and exceptions. I can drink, because I had a hard day at work. I can drink, because I am going through a hard time. I can drink, because it's a special occasion.

I can drink, because there's a pandemic.

Lockdown drinking was driven by the idea that it was temporary.

When we agreed to shut down for two weeks, many of us thought life would go back to normal after, and so some people turned their lockdown into a mini-vacation, complete with alcohol. Two weeks off of work! Working from home! Let's just change how we party!

But as the weeks turned to months, and then into a whole year, the funness of the lonely day drinking began to wane. Instead of being fun, now it was maintenance. And since we didn't have to physically go to work, who would hold us accountable? Who would know if there was wine in our coffee mug?

And the habit crept in and in. The pandemic was becoming normal, and we didn't quite realize. The drinking, too, was becoming normalized. If it was acceptable to drink after a hard time cooking dinner for the kids, it was especially acceptable to drink after a day of online school...a day of struggling to get your four-year-old to leave his shirt on during a Zoom call, or your eldest child ignoring classes entirely. Wine went from self-care and self-love to a god-given right. It was beyond reproach.

How can you say I shouldn't be drinking so much? Do you know what I'm going through?

And women in America did go through it, and are going through it. Women were more likely to lose their jobs. They were already disproportionately in charge of the housework and child-rearing, and remote learning only added more stress.

The response, instead of to help alleviate these issues, became to ignore these very real problems and solve them with wine marketing, snarky shirts, and funny wine glasses. Women's stress is a joke, and alcohol is the answer.

It's a joke that women are overworked and overtired. It's a joke and a punchline that they're driven to drink to cope with their daily lives. Want to love yourself? Pick up a bottle of red wine. Don't want to drink? What is wrong with you?

What's more, wine culture for women becomes an identity. If you have been let go of your job, and you don't want to be defined solely as a mother (or if you don't have children), then you can define yourself based on...what you drink when the kids go to bed.

Is this healthy, necessarily? Separating oneself from what they consume—food, drugs, alcohol, or shopping—is often a difficult path. Rebuilding an identity during recovery and therapy, and reframing the narrative around one's own life, is often extraordinarily it is positive to encourage people to build an indentity around their consumption of wine?

An identity tied to drinking is a dangerous thing.

During lockdown, we were and are limited in what we can do. What do we do after work? Gyms are closed, and there are no fitness classes. There are no parties, concerts, or movies.

Drinking looks like a fun solution. But really, is it that fun to drink all alone? Is it that fun to drink once the kids have gone to bed? Is it an activity that makes us feel productive? Useful? Proud?

Self-love has been hijacked by capitalism.

Once again, marketing has convinced us that the way to happiness and self-love is to buy something. To consume something. It's not about what we do or's about how we spend.

If we are frustrated in our identities as women because we are not achieving the career or financial stability we crave, we can drink. If we are sad because of lockdown, we can online shop. Or we can do both...drink while online shopping.

The idea of radical self-love...of loving yourself no matter your size, ethnicity, career, marital status, etc.—has been taken by marketers sniffing around for a piece of your stimulus check.

Wine culture is no different. We love ourselves by forgetting ourselves and our problems. We love ourselves by checking out of our lives. We buy something to put a band-aid on a much bigger problem that we cannot solve alone—a problem of inequality that seems so vast, oblivion seems easier.

Avoidance, or putting off problems to temporarily relieve stress, is a maladaptive coping mechanism tied to anxiety and trauma. Is that what we want our identity to be?

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