#247 – The Pinking Of The Alcohol Market with Ann Dowsett Johnston


Mom juice, mom wine, mom water. Veronica is joined by guest co-host Ann Dowsett Johnston to discuss how the alcohol market is deliberately targeting mothers. By emphasizing how hard motherhood is – the loneliness, depression and exhaustion – they are positioning alcohol as the answer. Veronica and Ann have a few things to say about this!

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about this episode

“The message is that the only way to get through motherhood is to drink.” – Ann Dowsett Johnston

It’s no secret that alcohol brands target women differently with their marketing messages, but the extent to which this occurs is truly outrageous. As a mother myself, I find the notion that alcohol is a viable solution to the challenges of motherhood not only offensive but dangerously misleading.

The concept of “mommy juice” is a glaring example of how the industry has normalized the consumption of alcohol as a casual, everyday activity, particularly for mothers seeking solace from the stresses of parenting.

Today I’m digging into this phenomenon in the first episode of a series with bestselling author Ann Dowsett Johnston. Our conversation unearthed the unsettling truths about how alcohol is marketed to women, particularly mothers, and the profound impact this has on families and relationships.

Ann Dowsett Johnston is the bestselling author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, named one of the top 10 books of 2013 by The Washington Post. An award-winning journalist with more than 30 years of experience, Ann is a prominent voice on the issue of women and risky drinking, winning many awards for her advocacy, including an honorary degree from Queen’s University. Now a psychotherapist working primarily with women, Ann also leads a dynamic memoir workshop called Writing Your Recovery, designed to help would-be writers mine the story within.

In this episode, Ann and I talk about:

  • Offensive and misleading marketing tactics used by alcohol brands
  • The impact of maternal alcohol consumption on families
  • Ann’s experience as the daughter of a female alcoholic
  • Ann’s journey with alcohol addiction, denial, and eventual realization of its impact on her family
  • Dealing with shame and guilt as you navigate the sobriety journey
  • How sobriety can transform your relationships
  • The differing paces at which loved ones may react to your sobriety
  • Why we need to push back against misleading and aggressive alcohol marketing targeting women and mothers
  • The frivolous and flippant portrayal of alcohol consumption
  • The use of alcohol as a self-medication and its impact on our ability to take on leadership roles
  • The intersection of social justice and alcohol marketing
  • Challenging alcohol marketing and cultural habits

key highlights

The Offensive Marketing of Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism

Historically, alcohol has been marketed to mothers as the best way to cope with the stresses of motherhood. For Ann, who grew up with a mother who battled alcohol addiction, it’s important to shed light on the generational impact of such marketing tactics.

The Ripple Effect of Alcohol Addiction on Families

Our addictions have a massive impact on those around us, especially within our families. It’s important to understand that feelings of shame and guilt are normal on the transformative journey to sobriety. Despite that, we have to take responsibility for our recovery and allow ourselves to experience the healing power of love and forgiveness/

Challenges of Rebuilding Trust

When we get sober, many of us have to figure out how to navigate new dynamics with our loved ones, especially when it comes to children. Rebuilding trust and mending relationships can be difficult, but with the right support and tools, positive change is possible. While we’re on this path, we also have to be patient and respectful of the fact that our loved ones need time, and each person has their own pace for healing.

The Pervasive and Flippant Marketing Tactics

I am constantly frustrated with the flippant nature of alcohol marketing, particularly the trivialization of its consumption through products like “mom water.” The industry’s attempt to position alcohol as a wellness product is a ridiculous and dangerous misrepresentation of a substance that is, in reality, carcinogenic and harmful to health.

The marketing of alcohol as a parenting aid is not only irresponsible but also perpetuates a cycle of self-medication that masks underlying issues such as anger, exhaustion, and trauma.

The Intersection of Social Justice and Alcohol Marketing

A particularly troubling aspect of these marketing strategies is the leveraging of social justice narratives. Brands like “Mom Juice” use the guise of supporting female-founded companies and breaking cultural norms to appeal to a broader demographic, including women of color. However, the reality is that women, and especially mothers, are judged more harshly for their drinking habits than men, and the intersectionality of race further complicates this issue.

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