From Valley of the Dolls to Valley of the Vino, Ugh
Too many times now I have gone grocery shopping and seen bottles of wine like the ones below, and each time I have felt increasingly irritated by them. Don’t get me wrong. I like wine. And I like breaks from my 3 year old. I also like to think that I have a sense of humor. But these bottles of wine bearing “Mommy’s Time Out” and “Mad Housewife” rouse the angry feminist in me (as opposed to the happy hopeful one that I prefer). I’m sure there’s a “Daddy’s Time Out” Cabernet and a “Mad Househusband” Merlot, but the store was just out of them, right? Now, I haven’t researched these wines, so I don’t know if they are the brainchildren of a man or a woman, who may or may not have children,’ keep house’, etc. Either way, I’m still bothered. And to boot, the price points for these bottles are $7.99-$8.99. So for less than $10 bucks, we can not only anesthetize ourselves but also refuel mid-century stereotypes that we deluded ourselves into believing had been dismantled decades ago.
I have never read Jacquelin Susann’s 1966 novel Valley of the Dolls, but I have seen the 1967 film version. As I snapped shots of the bottles of vino above, I couldn’t help but think back on that film, even if the women in it are not also mothers. It’s been a long time since I last watched it; nonetheless, I do remember the gist of it–it’s about the coming of age of three young women (involved in the theatre, incidentally,) as they find jobs in the real world, date for potential husbands, struggle with self-image, etc. While they drink, their biggest crutch is the ‘dolls’ of the title, the uppers and downers they take in succession to make it through the day and unwind at night. One of the women ends up killing herself, and another develops an addiction to the dolls and ends up temporarily institutionalized. The film pointed to very real problems, but it ultimately depicts these drug dependent women as helpless albeit glamorous victims.
There is something similarly, perhaps even more so, insidious at work in bottles of wine marketed to moms and stay-home women that have labels that put an adult spin on a discipline tactic for children, ie. “Time Out” or that feature a woman in nostalgic 50’s attire. It’s not clever or cute. It’s completely demeaning and depressing. And yet another reason why we still need a feminist movement. At least in my ever so humble opinion. What do you think? Am I wrong to be bothered by these bottles?
I found an interesting and relevant NYT article from 8/14/09, entitled “A Heroine of Cocktail Moms Sobers Up,” which highlights comedienne/writer Stephanie Wilder-Taylor’s (ab)use of alcohol before and after having children and her decision in May ’09 to stop drinking altogether. Prior to quitting drinking, Wilder-Taylor had amassed a substantial mom following with her cheeky, parenthood-on-the-rocks style musings in both book and blog form. Jan Hoffman, the author of the article, intersperses apt questions and data and exposes the contradictions and complexities of the subject. Below is an excerpt:
Are more mothers drinking or is the tradition of secrecy, more pronounced around women in general and mothers specifically, eroding? Hard to gauge. Susan E. Foster, research director at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, said research shows that better-educated women are more likely to drink than less-educated ones; so are women employed outside the home versus those who stay at home. Married women have the lowest rates of heavy drinking.
But as the gender gap around drinking shrinks, younger women, accustomed to their cocktail, continue to assert their right to enjoy it when they become mothers. Blog titles like Mommywantsvodka have become a euphemism for mothers just wanting a break. Or a drink.
Babybites.net sponsors occasional 4 p.m. happy hours at Manhattan bars for mothers with babies. Twittermoms.com hosts a monthly wine tasting: mothers, online at home, simultaneously open a bottle, sip and tweet — about children, husbands and, on occasion, the wine.