Every year in March, the world is proud to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women and girls, while simultaneously recognizing the barriers they continue to face. Today, the world is facing several significant challenges that disproportionately impact women and girls, including the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, humanitarian emergencies, climate migration, conflict, curtailment of rights and substance use issues.
If the level of alcohol marketing reaches the same intensity, frequency, and ubiquity as for men, alcohol harm in women will skyrocket.”Caroline Kahiu
Pink, glitter, “mummy juice” or “wine o’clock” time… alcohol selling strategies that can be patronizing and damaging have proliferated in recent years. The alcohol industry has shifted from using women to sell alcohol to men, to using feminine and feminist signals to sell alcohol to women.
And now we are seeing a shift in the culture of women’s alcohol use – driven by targeted alcohol marketing. For example, the liquor market has been able develop and market products that appeal to women’s tastes and lifestyle choices. We are now exposed to alcohol adverts focusing on slimness, weight, pink packaging, low calories and messages of empowerment in celebration of women in association with International Women’s Day, Valentine’s Day and even Mother’s Day.
Being told a product is “empowering” is not the same thing as actually being empowered.”Caroline Kahiu
Unfortunately, more and more women become addicted to booze and are increasingly suffering from the ill effects of alcohol. The female body is affected differently by the ethanol in beer, wine, and liquor compared to the male body – for reasons that go beyond mere size. For instance, female bodies break down alcohol differently and that makes women more vulnerable to alcohol related health risks. Women react more quickly to booze because the female body breaks down and digests alcohol more slowly before it circulates in their blood system and brain. The key is an enzyme in the stomach called alcohol dehydrogenase that breaks down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream. As a result, women are at a greater risk to suffer from liver damage and to experience other adverse effects of alcohol more quickly than men.
That is why we need to pull the alarm lever!
If the level of alcohol marketing reaches the same intensity, frequency, and ubiquity as for men, alcohol harm in women will skyrocket. We can also see such a trend in Western countries.
What we need to remember is that alcohol advertising normalizes alcohol use.
There needs to be a policy change by governments to ban or at least comprehensively restrcit alcohol advertising, sponsorship, and promotions to better protect women and girls from the alcohol industry push to turn them into alcohol users. This can curb some of the damage that marketing can do both online and in broadcast media, as well as bolstering organizations that promote alcohol-free lifestyles.
Alcohol use prevention, public health bodies and advocates have flagged out the fact that more women are using alcohol as well as a rise in female binge alcohol use and alcohol related deaths. Yet it is not clear their message is being heard amid a barrage of female oriented alcohol advertising.
One thing is clear: gendered marketing remains a reality across all aspects of daily life. But it’s manipulative and false because unlocking many values that the alcohol adverts and products purport to generate, such as happiness, empowerment and independence requires real change, not a bottle of booze.
We have to acknowledge that being told a product was “empowering” is not the same thing as actually being empowered.