Letter to the Editor of Women’s Health Magazine SA

The Editor

Womens Health Magazine

28 September 2018

Dear Madam

The Alcoholic Drink That’s Weight-Loss Friendly and Boosts Your Mood

Your article, published on your website on 26 September 2018 refers.

Women’s Health SA is a top selling magazine in stores countrywide as well as having a prominent online presence in the form of a website (womenshealthsa.co.za) and numerous social media platforms. In the “About Us” section of your website you promote yourselves as a “source of trusted information for South African women” with your target market being “women who are driven to live their best lives by looking good, exercising regularly, eating well and taking charge of their health and careers”. All in all, everything one would expect from a magazine bearing the title Women’s Health.

However, despite the intended focus on health, you too appear to have fallen prey to the pervasive, almost subliminal, messages which say that women and alcohol go hand-in-hand.

I wish to raise a number of issues about the article I refer to above.

  • The study was conducted on rats – I’m sorry, I though your magazine was about WOMEN’S health!
  • The study was completed in 2013. In the five years since the results of this study were published there have been numerous studies and reports highlighting the growing occurrence of alcohol use disorder and the devastating effect of alcohol on health, communities and society. The recently released Global status report on alcohol and health: 2018 (World Health Organisation) is a very sobering read (forgive the pun) and one of the facts that stands out for me in particular is that worldwide a woman dies EVERY MINUTE as a result of alcohol related issues.
  • There is no “safe” level of alcohol consumption despite what alcohol industry funded “studies” suggest.
  • There is no mention of the myriad other foods and beverages available which contain similar levels of phenols and which HAVE been proven to be beneficial to health and which do not have the negative effects of alcohol – no one ever got pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence of apples!
  • There is no mention that alcohol is addictive and dependence-producing or that it has been positively linked to causing a number of cancers, some of which affect women, your readership, in greater proportions than men (like breast cancer).
  • I think it is ethically questionable to have articles sponsored by the alcohol industry, in this case CyberCellar.com included in a health and wellness publication.

Running an article like this in a magazine such as yours implies that alcohol consumption is a normal part of a healthy lifestyle. It is not.

Running an article like this, in your position of power as a purveyor of health information, will be construed as health experts giving women permission to drink, if not actively encouraging it.

Right now a woman out there (plenty of them I assure you) who is struggling with her alcohol consumption and who is already bombarded by the messaging that “moms need wine” and a gazillion “funny” wine memes is reading this article and feeling like a complete loser because she can’t drink “normally”. She is questioning her decision to re-evaluate her relationship with alcohol because if a health magazine says it’s ok it must be ok, right? She is feeling more alone and confused than ever. As a magazine promoting women’s health, how does THAT make you feel?

I’m not a prohibitionist: everyone has the right to choose to drink or not. But we can all do a better job examining the stories we tell around alcohol, and learn more about the true impact of alcohol.

Alcohol almost killed me; binge drinking almost killed me. It kills a lot of us because we are taught that alcohol is something we are supposed to ingest; alcohol companies and media uphold that narrative and play it back to us; and then we (and here I mean: you) take that message and run with it. We normalize it and make light of alcohol misuse and even addiction and glorify it.

ENOUGH. This has to stop.

I am not anti-drinking or anti-alcohol but I do take exception when alcohol is touted as being beneficial to one’s well-being and an integral part of a “healthy” lifestyle. If your magazine wishes to emphasize the potential health benefits of alcohol (in any form) then they should also, in the same article, mention the proven downsides of it in the interests of presenting a balanced opinion (which is what you are supposed to be doing, I would assume).

That probably isn’t a very sexy idea so probably best just to leave alcohol out of the health/wellness arena, né?

Yours in health



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