CNN.com just called for my take on the Scottish government’s new “Drop a Glass Size” campaign to curb drinking among women and encourage them to “to think about the health effects of regularly drinking above the recommended alcohol guidelines.” Included in the campaign: A “Drinking Mirror” app that shows users how they’ll age over time if they keep drinking three, six or 10 (or however many) cocktails a week.
The question they asked me: “Is it sexist to target women through vanity?”
My take: I actually don’t feel this is sexist. Men can upload their photos just as easily as women (I inputted my husband’s photo and watched him morph into a ruddy-nosed, double-chinned alcoholic caricature), and the website employs vanity-based pleas (“You’ll save 296 calories by switching to a smaller glass!” “The dehydrating effects of alcohol can leave hair, skin and nails dry and brittle,”) for both sexes. Sure, the writing is fuschia and they point out how much money you’ll have leftover to go shopping, but they also emphasize that too much booze is linked to sleep problems, fertility issues and an increased risk of breast cancer.
The fact is, women need (and deserve) special attention when it comes to alcohol: Rates of binge-drinking are rampant, our bodies metabolize alcohol differently than men, and liquor is often a factor in sexual assaults (used by both perpetrators and victims.) And showing people how a specific health practice will impact their looks is just downright effective. Remember those anti-drug ad posters that used to hang in the nurse’s office in middle school? The ones that showed a guy with half of his jaw eaten away by meth? Or this story from over the summer that showed a truck driver’s face, half of it marred by extensive wrinkling as a result of sun shining through the window, day after day, on un-sunscreened skin?
Now here’s a product I DO consider sexist: One-A-Day Teen Advantage vitamins. The formula marketed for girls promotes “healthy skin”; the one for boys, “healthy muscle function.” Because ladies only care about looking good and sports are just for guys?
As it turns out, CNN.com wound up using my public health-related quote, not my opinion on whether or not the campaign is sexist, but I thought it was worth talking about here. Now we just need an app that looks into the future and shows us how stupid we’ll look after that fourth glass of pinot.