Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: Women and Wine: Should They Worry?

In a recent article by Eric Asimov, wine reviewer for the New York Times, he discusses how wine is used as a character prop on TV shows and may reflect a changing cultural perception of wine. In this article, Asimov points out that “ On TV Powerful Women Gulp Red” and references what many have observed about their favorite fictional characters.

  • Alicia Florrick, the high-powered lawyer who is “ The Good Wife,” pours a large goblet of red wine as soon as she enters her apartment no matter what else is going on and who else is there.
  • Olivia Pope, the beautiful and brilliant “ fixer” on “Scandal” is a lover of wines and is often seen drinking alone in her apartment late at night.
  • The women of “ Cougar Town” down a considerable amount of wine and Claire Underwood, the first lady in “ House of Cards,” drinks her red wine alone in her empty dining room.

Fictional Characters Are Not The Only Ones Drinking.redwine women's hand

Whether we consider that fiction reflects our behavior, influences what we do or both, the reality is that women are drinking more than they ever and their drink of choice seems to be wine. In her book, Her Best Kept Secret: Why Women Drink and How They Can Regain Control, Gabrielle Glaser notes that women love wine and the wine industry loves their biggest consumers. Given its branding as a “ healthy choice,” it is consumed in public or private, while making dinner, with dinner and after dinner.

  • A Kate Spade necklace spells out “ Pop The Cork.”
  • It is reported that 650,000 women follow “ Moms Who Need Wine” on Facebook.
  • Another 131,000 women are fans of “ OMG I so Need a Glass of Wine or I’m Gonna Sell My Kids.”

On one hand, wine is a healthy choice. Experts report that that a glass of wine a day is heart healthy and a study in The New England Journal of medicine evaluating 12,000 women aged 70-81 found the moderate drinkers had 23% reduced mental decline compared with nondrinkers.

The Problem Is Moderation–The Risks Are Too Dangerous.

  • According to FBI Statistics between 2003 and 2012, the latest statistics available, annual DUI arrests among women increased from 174,000 to 211,000 – a 21 percent increase nationwide.
  • Conversely, DUI arrests among men dropped by nearly 17 percent nationally from 780,000 to 650,000.
  • Whereas most women are aware and reduce drinking because of the dangers of drinking to excess when pregnant, too few are aware of personal health risks in overdrinking.
  • One consistently overlooked health risk of excessive drinking is the increased risk in Breast Cancer.
  •  This risk was underscored by Dr. Virginia Maurer, Founder of The Maurer Foundation on a radio show entitled Demystifying Breast Cancer.  Dr. Paul Wallace, chief medical advisor of Drinkaware, an ongoing study, points to  The Million Women study in the UK  which shows that the relative risk [the chance of one group developing breast cancer, compared to another] of breast cancer increases by 7.1% for each 10 grams of alcohol you drink, slightly over a unit of alcohol a day.

What Compromises Moderation?

What we see and hear from our favorite fictional characters and what Eric Asimov even implies in his article is that Alicia Florrick, “ The Good Wife,” Olivia Pope of “ Scandal,” and others, don’t just love wine—they drink to self-medicate.

  • They drink alone; they drink to cope with conflict, disappointment, lost love and more.
  • They don’t handle the wine with the manner of a wine connoisseur.
  • They don’t sniff, taste or hold the stems of their glasses. They grab large goblets and gulp!

Similarity between Fiction and Reality

In many ways the motivation of Alicia Florrick and Olivia Pope for drinking is consistent with what author, Gabrielle Glaser and Cathy Stanley, former addictions counselor and watchdog for the DUI court, consider a cause for the increase in overdrinking in women—regulation of stress. In this culture women not only deal with the stress of work commitments; but with multi-demanding roles as working mother, spouse, home manager, community volunteer etc.

Difference Between Fiction and Reality

The difference is the gap between fiction and fact.

  • We love and need fiction in order to be transported from reality into the impossible.
  • In fiction, crimes are solved, the good guys win, and you can gulp down goblets of wine and still write a legal brief. You never look hung-over, never realize you are unable to help with homework, never worry about safely picking-up your kid at a teen party, never argue with a spouse about your drinking and never get pulled over.

In fiction, the message is that the glass of wine really works – it usually does. In fiction, however, characters don’t face the reality that if drinking becomes your “ fix,” the first glass that “ works” often leads to more. It sabotages other ways of regulating stress. It sabotages your functioning.

Unless consciously regulated, loving and drinking wine stops being healthy for you and those you love.

Be Healthy: Take this Drinking Self-Assessment Test