alcohol · fitness · racing · running

Women, wine, and the gendered marketing of alcohol through running

It’s wine o’clock somewhere, right?


Well, not for me. I don’t drink. Because Tracy and I have both chosen not to consume alcohol we tend not to talk about it much on the blog.

But lots of women like the joke. I see wine o’clock memes a lot in my social media newsfeeds. Wine o’clock is when children go to bed, when women finally get a moment for themselves, and when friends get together at the end of a long work day.

I’m thinking about this at the Feminist Approaches to Bioethics Congress in Edinburgh where Professor Kate Hunt’s opening plenary addressed gender and public health.

Hunt’s talk mentioned the gender based marketing of alcohol to women. Why?

We all know that the average lifespan for men is lower than the average lifespan for women. Hunt began with the question, how much of the gender gap in all cause mortality can be attributed to differential rates of tobacco use and alcohol consumption?

Lots it turns out. In pretty much all countries men out smoke and out drink women. The gap between these behaviors tracks the gender gap in all cause mortality.

Gender is made up of behavior and lots of the behavior is health related.

Hunt went on to talk about successful gender based campaigns aimed at men but my thoughts kept returning to alcohol and women.


The alcohol industry increasingly views women as an untapped market. Hence the “empowering” message behind “wine o’clock” jokes might not be so empowering after all. Gender socialization of women as non, or light, drinkers might be good for our health. And not all rebellion against gender norms is good for women. I think feminists see this in the case of smoking but not so much when it comes to alcohol.

What’s this got to do with health and fitness and feminism? I’ve been thinking about the ways the wine industry sets out to appeal to women. First, it sets itself apart from the broad category of alcohol. It’s not like rum or beer or those manly drinks. Second, it associates itself with rest, time for oneself, and friends. Wine is positively feminist. Indeed as a feminist academic, I hear women who are usually pretty critical cultural consumers sharing this messaging. Third, there’s the link between wine and fitness activities. People who care about their health drink wine, do yoga, and run marathons. Think about all the wine sponsored races out there. Tracy talked about getting a bottle in her race kit at the Niagara half marathon. There’s the wine and chocolate marathon in nearby Windsor, Ontario too. Wine sponsored running races seen to be cropping up everywhere. And the rise in the numbers of people running in these events is fueled largely by the increase in running by women.


No conclusions to draw here though I am concerned about rising rates of alcoholism and binge drinking among women. Likewise I’m concerned about the way the industry seeks to tie itself to healthy lifestyle pursuits like running.

Also, if you’re interested there are lots of wine based races out there! A very quick Google search turns up:

But still mulling. And I’d welcome your thoughts.

5 thoughts on “Women, wine, and the gendered marketing of alcohol through running

  1. Let’s put it this way…cycling wine routes are lovely in scenery, destinations, etc. I just have to sip a tiny amount or spit.

    My body seems to be allergic to alcohol beyond a half measuring cup. That’s all it takes for me before I’m affected. There was a situation where I wobbled home on bike.

    I know after a long ride, that a beer or 2 is the social thing to do along with food. But I’ll probably take a juice.

    I actually cursed my bodily reaction, except now I realize that one can gain weight from enough alcohol over time.

  2. I cringe when I see yoga and booze related events, and have taken a lot of crap for speaking out against it. I still maintain that the booze industry manifests in places where people are most vulerable. Thank you for this piece.

  3. There’s a lot about this subject that goes beyond alcohol.

    Beer and running has been connected for a long time. I remember going to races when I was younger and I was one of the few females at the race and you’d get a beer after. I also remember one of my former colleagues, the director of some department, who talked about how running and beer went hand in hand. (I never drank or liked beer, it didn’t for me). There are running groups who run to bars by me. Pub runs after work. Unwind through running and a beer.

    What happened to cause the shift is that running picked up. It became an industry, especially since Competitor Group launched their Rock N Roll marathons. Prices skyrocketed and races turned into EVENTS and EXPERIENCES. At some point, the amount of women participating skyrocketed – to the point where more females are running races than males.

    The running (race) industry has shifted to appeal to this, to females, more. So there are women-only races and wine races. The wine races, sure, it’s because of that “women like wine” and “men like beer” stereotype. I’m not sure if that’s true, no research on that.

    That being said, the thing about Beer is that it has carbs, which, while it’s totally idiotic to get carbs through BEER instead of something good for your body, especially as a runner, at least they’re carbs. Wine doesn’t have the carbs, wine is thinking it was about the booze this whole time, when really it was about “Runners drink beer” this whole time.

    Anyway, I blame the awful eventizing of races that has happened over the past few years.

  4. I enjoy drinking wine, but generally not with exercise. It seems antithetical for me that anyone seriously trying to exercise for something like a marathon would want to drink a beverage that is dehydrating.

    Yet, I will note that running is not the only sport in which drinking afterwards is common, even celebrated. In both my slo-pitch and soccer leagues, drinking afterwards for the purposes of de-briefing, socializing, and relaxing is almost part of the culture. Not everyone participates, but everyone still tends to stay and have a good time.

    And, even though I do exercise more with others, I wouldn’t say I drink more. In fact, I would say I drink less because I exercise more, but that’s because most of my exercise is on my own. And, as your post mentions, I agree with the perspective that moderate drinking is healthy. “Health,” to me, is about moderation and balance, and that is what I practice. My exercise and my drinking with others are equal but different ways to enjoy my spare time.

    So, while I agree with the post that wine-o-clock isn’t by default “empowering,” I do think that it can be social and relaxing, and for those of us who are not training for marathons, we might not see or even care about the contradiction of “bad” things into our bodies after doing “good” things with it. And while “girl’s time” isn’t necessarily empowering just because women are together drinking, I agree with your mention of how women claiming time to be social and to relax with each other is a form of de-stressing. There are lots of ways to de-stress, and I enjoy a range of them, with and without wine, depending on where, when, and with whom I am “de-stressing.” It’s even a shared hobby, learning about the grapes and the wine-making process.

    It’s sneaky that the wine industry is trying to tie itself to the health industry, but I think we are also assuming that the people who participate in that industry want health, rather than a party, in the first place. I blogged about this recently:

    For me, for every after-baseball beer or party run glass of wine, there’s (hopefully) ten or more solitary-and-wineless exercise sessions that no one else sees. It’s only when Jackson Triggs starts selling me wine for my independent running needs that I’ll start to get worried.

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