Some days ago I finished a book that has recently gotten lots of media attention. The name of the book is ”Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol“. It’s written by Ann Dowsett Johnston.
I would call the book my new bible. It sumarizes everything connected to women’s alcohol use:
It describes the culture that encourages and pressures women to use alcohol.
It describes alcohol marketing and Big Alcohol’s tactics of developing strategies specifically targeting women.
It looks deeper into personal and linked environmental reasons for alcohol use among women.
Ann shares about her own relation to alcohol, and interviews other women who have had to deal with alcohol harms in their lives.
She also describes very well the developments in the field of alcohol policy.
And she gives her picture of how it is to live alcohol free. She takes the readers out into the everyday life and guides them through our omnipresent alcohol culture. You simply won’t escape it. It will push you and pressure you and encroach upon you from all the sides.
I started reading the book while I was travelling to Thailand. Then the book accompanied me on my trip to South Korea and back to Sweden – several flights of more than 10 hours that were like motion pictures for the book I was reading. And simultaneously the evidence of what she was writing about kept coming to me:
Alcohol was present everywhere even in the air. It was served more often than water and juices. On 11 hours flight it was served at least 5 times. It has come with each round of offering alcohol free beverages and then there were separate rounds of only inviting the passengers exclusivey for wine. There were people taking it each time. If think about how heavy alcohol use is defined (males 4 unites per day and females 3 per day, in some countries) I can tell that there were quite a few heavy alcohol users only in my sight.
The flying company used alcohol as a symbol of quality. The attendents were walking around proudly holding the bottles as if they were holy.
What is even more interesting about all this is the development I observed throughout the years. When we look at smoking, it has disappeared from planes and none even questions that. Alcohol is on the other hand taking more and more space in aircrafts. I remember flying with the same company some years ago and I do not remember such a frequency of availability of alcohol. Moreover I remember that people had to have an active approach and ask for it especially. Now they get it served.
As I did not get my vegetarian food, and there was no meal to bring me, the stewardness wanted to raise my level of satisfaction by offering me a glass of wine.
And I was thinking: Ann Dowsett Johnston described vividly the struggle when a person is trying to quit alcohol use or even after some time of being sober after dependency has to fight the temptation. It’s a question of taking the decision and finding the courage every single day. It takes lots of strength to get back to the usual every day life without craving a glass of alcohol. The closer alcohol gets the more difficult the decision becomes.
For that reason I think it is extremely important to create alcohol free environments where people can catch a break without having to need to take the decision. Just to be, for once. To enjoy some freedom.
For further reading:
Lauri’s blog entry on alcohol culture in aircrafts: “Flying Should Be An Alcohol-Free White Zone“
Different IOGT Global Voices on: Alcohol culture.
Ann Dowsett Johnston article in The Guardian
An excerpt from the book in The Huffington Post
The Star article: “When one woman’s glass of wine turns to three or four. Alcohol is on my mind with the release of Ann Dowsett Johnston’s new book.”
The Daily Beast piece: “Mommy’s Little Downer. Is alcohol the new mother’s little helper?”