Are Social Media Memes To Blame For Women's Love Of 'Wine O'Clock'?

A new study has found that women drink as much or more than their male counterparts. Er, it's not exactly the sign of equality we were looking for

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Ab Fab Drinking in New York | ELLE UK
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I'll be the first one to put my hands up and say, I love a good meme.

Whether it's an eye roll from a Parks & Recreation star, a Hillary Clinton shoulder shimmy from the presidential debate or a 'hey girl' message of encouragement from Ryan Gosling, a meme often communicates an emotion or vibe in the ether that fails to be summed up exclusively with words.

Of course, there are several downsides to memes (the trolling, misattribution of quotes, the loss of control if your face becomes a meme sensation) but have you ever considered how they could also be encouraging women's increasingly dangerous drinking habits?

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Throughout social media, drinking memes have gradually become the perfect excuse to voice opinions or emotions relating to disappointing moments in our lives.

*Log onto Facebook and see several school friends are engaged while you're seeing how many Monster Munch rings you can fit on your hands*

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*Scroll through Instagram and see the school bully has managed to save up for a house deposit with her partner*

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*Mum calls to say the next door neighbour's daughter has got a promotion at work and a pay rise while you're living on soup until pay day*

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*Bump into an old friend who is out shopping for a last-minute surprise holiday booked by her partner while you can't even afford a train ticket home – with a railcard*

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Suffice to say, drinking memes have pretty much become the visual equivalent of drinking every time Kendrick Lamar says 'Drank' in his single 'Swimming Pools'.

While there's nothing wrong with a meme – after all all, they're created and shared for comic value rather than a deep psycho-analytical study – I'm concerned with the sheer amount of drinking memes being used as the go-to explanation of female feelings of disappointment, anger, jealousy or sadness. It must be noted that this is something I'm even guilty of doing myself.

When we share a meme with friends of a girl downing a bottle of vino or retweet an image depicting a woman knocking back a row of tequila at the bar, we're subconsciously condoning the drinking of alcohol as a means to drown our sorrows, quite literally, in alcohol and unknowingly linking feelings associated to deeper mental health issues to drinking.

Given that a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Online this week has found that women born after 1981 might now be out-drinking men, it's clear that female drinking habits have drastically changed over the past few decades to have successfully turned the tables on traditional gender drinking habits so quickly.

According to the research – which involved collecting data concerning the drinking habits of more than four million people around the world since 1948 – there has been a steady convergence in gender habits, with the gender gap narrowing by around three per cent every five years.

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When our grandparents were our age, men were twice as likely as women to drink alcohol but in the 80s and 90s, women in their twenties and thirties were found to be drinking as much or more than men.

Emily Robinson, director of campaigns from Alcohol Concern, said the result might be due to women viewing 'wine o' clock' as a daily treat or a pat on the back after a hard day at work.

'Since the 1950s we've seen women's drinking continue to rise. Drinking at home has continued to increase and because alcohol is so cheap and easily available it's become an everyday grocery item. We've also seen a concerted effort from the alcohol industry to market products and brands specifically to women,' she told The Telegraph.

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However, for most of us, wine o'clock is not just reserved for the occasional hour of boozing in the week. Rather it is increasingly becoming a devoted period of the day, carved out for evening-long chats with friends, the perfect pairing to missed episodes of Cold Feet or a valid excuse to finish a near-full bottle of vino from the fridge while getting ready for a night out.

Just ask yourself, when was the last time you had a week without drinking – sociably or within the confines or your own living room?

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Of course, there are several reasons for the rise in women's drinking habits – the decline of the male-dominated pub and the wide acceptance of the office drinking culture, to name but a few – but I can't help wonder if the shareability of memes showing our favorite actresses and celebrities drinking copious amounts of alcohol is making the representation of women drinking alcohol en masse a far more accepted visual representation of our sociable habits than ever before.

Look, there's nothing wrong with a comical meme or the appearance of a woman drinking alcohol – this is by no means a way of telling you to put down the Pinot – but it's important to remember that sharing images of women drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol further condones binge drinking among women and perpetuates the myth that drink is the solution to our unhappiness.

So, next time you're feeling angry or upset with the world and in need of a meme to reflect your 'whatever' moment, how about this:

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