What is a woman’s best kept secret? Good question. Is it her ability to be able to remove her bra in any situation without anyone noticing because sometimes you just desperately want to be comfortable? Is it her ability to pretend that heels are more practical than a pair of Converse? Well, according to Gabrielle Glaser’s new book Her Best Kept Secret, it is a woman’s ability to hide her struggle with alcoholism.
According the Glaser and some studies being done, women are drinking more than men and they are doing it in excess. This very well could be true. I am not a doctor, I do not do medical research, I essentially majored in words in college. Basically, I am not qualified to say whether these findings are false or not. I can however be skeptical of the evidence that is gathered from surveys and people self-reporting. Say you survey 1,000 college sophomores about their daily and weekly drinking habits. 500 men and 500 women are surveyed. You get your results back and, oh my gosh, the women are binge drinking way more than these men are! Are they? How honest are these students going to be about something that 1) if they are college sophomores is probably illegal due to being underage and 2) something that is generally frowned upon in our society? My guess, since I was once a college sophomore, is that not every single one of those students is being 100% honest. So I am skeptical of this blanket statement that women are binge drinking more than men.
And I am skeptical of Gabrielle Glaser’s book for three basic reasons.
Let me explicitly state right now that I have not yet read this book. I have read all the pages I was allowed to on Amazon and I also read this article written by Glaser herself. Now, based on the research I have done about this book, and the articles I have read, I have some problems with this book. The problem I have is not the issue that she is addressing it is how she is addressing it. Like the first line, “My name is Gabrielle, and I’m not an alcoholic.”
Oof. Are you kidding me? That is how you choose to start a book? I understand the allusion to Alcoholics Anonymous and I see how this could be seen as a clever way to start out the book but it’s pretty insensitive. What if the reader is a woman who is secretly suffering from alcoholism? Glaser has immediately put herself up on a pedestal. She has set the tone to be a high and mighty “let me help you” monologue. This isn’t a good start. What follows isn’t much better.
In the article linked above Glaser talks about her findings while researching for this book. She got the idea to start researching by the behavioral patterns she saw in the women around her while living in Portland and New York. The women around her seemed to be drinking a lot, more than her, and this sparked concern. Let’s face it, the United States does have some issues when it comes to alcohol. Look at other parts of the world where people drink more frequently and don’t have binge drinking problems. But those are also cultures that talk openly about alcohol and it’s not something that people discuss in hushed whispers behind their raised hands. All of this silent judging, shock, and worry is adding to the overarching problem. While Glaser may think she is helping the women of America with this book, she is just adding to the toxicity of which our culture feeds off.
Stress and the Super Mom
While the article never outwardly says that women drink more because they can’t handle stress as well as men, it might as well. Glaser discusses how there were huge strides in the fight for women’s rights in the 1980’s. Sally Ride , a woman on the supreme court, more females with engineering degrees. The era of the super mom was upon us! Women could balance their gender-stereotyped roles of baking perfect birthday cakes and attending every t-ball practice while also being the star defense attorney in the tri-state area! But then something dark happened and females began to succumb to the stress of societal expectations and their dreams. According to Glaser:
But somehow, something changed. Those same young women, so full of determination, found themselves scaling back their dreams: for running the English Department, for winning a Pulitzer, for becoming CEO. Aspirations somehow dropped to the bottom of the grocery bags that used to be plastic bottles. The women haven’t even made good on their intention to compost.
So they turn to binge drinking. They turn to alcoholism. They seek solace in the bottom of a bottle of Rosé. But they hide it from their husbands and friends because they feel shameful about their inability to do everything that is expected of them.
Shame and Societal Expectations
As a young woman, this whole picture is devastating to me. After reading that article and the excerpts from the book, I felt like Glaser was telling me that I had no choice. That after I land my dream career I will feel obligated to procreate and I won’t be able to handle the stress of being the perfect mom and a successful career woman. I will be an alcoholic before I turn forty and I will shamefully walk across my neighborhood to throw away my empty bottles in someone else’s trash can so the other members of the PTA don’t discuss it in snide whispers.
It ‘s nice to know that people have a lot of faith in my gender and generation. Maybe I wouldn’t be doomed to this fate if other people didn’t make me feel bad about my stress levels. If society didn’t tell me that I would be looked down upon if I don’t have children, like I would be seen as less of a woman if I never give birth, like I would be seen as a failure if miss my kid’s soccer game, I wouldn’t be so stressed. Maybe if I didn’t feel this pressure from societal expectations I wouldn’t feel so much shame if I didn’t meet them.
I feel like the problem isn’t that women are drinking more than men. I think they are just forced to hide it more than men are. If a man declares that he needs “a cold one” at the end of the day, that is seen as perfectly acceptable. However, if I woman says she needs a glass of wine to ease the tension headache she has from the playdate she hosted all afternoon it’s “a problem.”
Binge drinking is a problem. It is unhealthy and unsafe. Women are not the only people who binge drink though, and this is a fact. Glaser has some validity in her concern that woman have to hide this struggle, but when the tone of her writing makes the reader feel shameful and wrong for even just taking a sip, she isn’t helping anyone. And just for the record, Rush Limbaugh had a thing or two to say about Glaser as well, and he isn’t helping anyone either.
There are healthy ways to deal with stress, and binge drinking is not one of them. Exercise, meditation, and learning about your personal stress levels are examples of healthy ways to deal with it. Also, just because someone is a woman does not mean they cannot handle stress as well as a man.
Perhaps I should read Glaser’s book in full, but from what she has told me about it so far, I’m not sold on the fact that it will be a good idea for my stress levels.