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May 19 2016

New Feminist Literary Genre: The Wine-Whine

Charlotte Allen

Writing in the Atlantic, Megan Garber discovers a pressing social problem that demonstrates how patriarchal our society is:

The female characters in TV series drink a lot of wine--and the male characters don't:

Alicia Florrick [of The Good Wife]  is a woman who really, really likes wine. Something to celebrate? Wine. Long day at work? Same. Stressful day with the family? Same. Wine, wine, wine—red and generously poured and gulped as often as it’s sipped.

Alicia is not alone in her penchant for televised oenophilia (scroenophilia?). She shares her habit with Olivia Pope. And Tami Taylor. And Skyler White. And Carrie Mathison. And Claire Underwood. And Joyce Flynn. And many, many other TV characters—almost all of them women—who telegraph their internal turmoil via swigs of Syrah.

And this is bad, because:

Theirs is not, for the most part, social wine or with-dinner wine. It is coping wine. It is medicative wine. It is wine that is often consumed alone. And it is wine that is, as an element of TV production, used by its respective storytellers as a visual metaphor for its drinkers’ worry and fear.

And here's the real horror:

You rarely see TV’s men gulping wine from goblets, alone in their kitchens....

Furthermore, the oenological gender disparity is obviously evidence of deeper entertainment-industry misogyny:

Wine—through which, according to its connoisseurs, one can taste the subtle flavors of the earth—is acting as a metaphor for anxieties that are internalized rather than converted into external action. And the fact that the trope is so commonly applied to female characters suggests—vaguely but also, in its repetition, insistently—that women are, uniquely, subject to that kind of helplessness. The problems faced by Olivia and Alicia and Skyler and their fellow ladies were created, largely, by men; the wine suggests, in its way, that they must be solved by those men. It suggests the extent to which these women—whom their respective shows have presented as strong and independent and even heroic—are also passive participants in their own lives.

Garber's feminist wine whine seems to be a stock genre for the Atlantic. In 2013, Atlantic writer Ann Dowsett Johnston twisted herself into a cruller worrying about the three glasses of wine she consumed every evening after work--a habit she blamed on anxiety generated by  the "perfectionism" that our tyrannical society expects of women.

I have an idea for wine-phobes Garber and Johnston: Start a new temperance movement whose goal could be forbidding people of both sexes to imbibe the fruit of the vine, either on TV or in real life. After all, the original temperance movement was started by women tired of their husbands boozing away their paychecks in saloons.

 

 

 

 

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