Oops! !! Did I buy wine instead of milk again?” reads a meme I recently discovered during a Pinterest search for the term Mother of Guilt. The text is accompanied by a black-and-white image of a 1950s housewife, whose face is distorted by a staged grimace.

What is the best wine to wash? I was thinking about the electronic map on the website. Raising a teenager: The reason God created wine suggests otherwise. One last thing: The doctor said I should start drinking more wine. I also consider myself a doctor now.

The internet is a vast expanse of such posts, each reflecting a form of unconditional, alcohol-soaked motherhood. They are both irreverent and confessional, meant to be funny, but also an allusion to an exhausted domesticity that seems to increase as the pandemic progresses.

Who will be the mother of the wine? And whose drinking is considered problematic and dangerous?

Wine mom memes are everywhere. In the Facebook feed of a friend from high school. The hanging souvenir shops, lined with hoods, take a break. And the 13th. February, a Saturday Night Live skit in which Aidy Bryant is inspired by increasingly obscene billboards.

I put bottles of wine in other people’s trash cans so the trash collectors don’t know what I consume in a week, a sign reads, much to the chagrin of Bryant’s character. Are you trying to tell me something? We are all mothers having fun! Isn’t that so?

It’s a joke, but it also raises an important issue regarding the culture of the mother of wine. Harmless fun or dangerous way to normalize alcoholism? Who will be the mother of the wine? And whose drinking is considered problematic and dangerous?

 

Wine memes have probably been online since the mid-2000s, according to Amanda Brennan, Tumblr’s editorial director and self-proclaimed meme librarian.

I think the idea is a little : I’m not a mom, I’m a cool mom, I drink wine – perhaps a wonderment sparked by Amy Poehler’s performance in the 2004 comedy Mean Girls – comes from those kinds of obsessive e-cards, Brennan says. It’s reminiscent of the e-cards that were popular in the early 2000s, such as Bluemountain.com and the now defunct Awesome Cyber Cards.

Brennan also remembers the stationery sticker that used to sit on the cash registers of bookstores like Barnes & Nobles and Borders. They were sort of old postcards with her thoughts written on them, she says, many of them evoking June Cleaver-like ideals of mid-century motherhood.

That’s what we think of mothers. Why not water it down with profanity or references to excessive wine consumption? If you look at it from a certain angle, it’s a very punk aesthetic.

When Mama Wine first appeared on Urbandictionary.com in 2015, Brennan says it had already penetrated mainstream culture. The site defines wine moms as women of the older generation (mostly mothers) who sip wine all evening and sometimes talk about it on social media.

Mama Wine’s posts, he continues, are unusually sincere, displaying a desire to be classy, sharing intriguing quotes (usually with images from 2004) and being the embodiment of Linda Belcher, the character from Fox’s animated series Bob’s Burgers.

Today, memes are widely shared, as evidenced by the staggering reach of Instagram accounts like @mommywinetime, which has 221,000 followers, and @mom.whine.repeat, formerly @mom.wine.repeat, with 104,000 followers.

The demographics of these digital communities appear to be more white, female, suburban and middle to upper class, a characterization reflected in the imagery that often accompanies the meme of the winemaking mother. But what if the women in these memes were predominantly black and brown? Are memes seen in a new light?

Regardless of race, any mother who drinks can relate to the difficult aspects of parenthood, which is where wine mother culture draws humor, says Tomi Akitunde, founder of mater mea, a meaningful platform for black mothers. But the tricky part of this commentary is that when black and brown women are considered unfit parents, they pay a heavy price that rarely equals that of their white counterparts.

The same imagery that white winemakers use for comedies – the exhausted mother at the end of her rope, nervously reaching for a glass of Chardonnay – is often used against black and brown mothers, Akitunde says. Many know all too well that Child Protective Services can step in and criminalize their parenting decisions, a process nicknamed Jane Crow.

The Mom Vine culture allows white women to play bad mothers because they have the advantage that BIPOC mothers can’t give them, Akitunde says. When white women share memes with wine, the reaction is often this: Of course, you’re not such a bad mother, you’re just playing the detective.

Heidi Gardner and Regina King performed on the 13th. Feb. 2021 in a live skit about growing mom’s wine. / Photo: Will Heath/NBC

On the other hand, there is a fear that the mother wine culture has gone too far, exaggerating the subversive punk aesthetic described by Brennan and promoting alcohol as a kind of healthy coping strategy.

I hate it because it’s stupid and basic, as the kids say, said Stephanie Harad, a social worker and mother of two who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I wish there was another way to communicate It’s so hard, and I see you without mothers with wine glasses.

This Mom Grape backlash was highlighted in a 2018 Washington Post report: The cheeky grape mummy is not just a silly thing to do. It’s dangerous, and a slice of Good Morning America 2019, the kind of day where we pump and dump: How the mama grape culture went from funny memes to unfortunate hangovers. Such slights indicate that the mother wine culture is harmful and must be fundamentally changed or abolished.

The mother-wife culture allows white women to play bad mothers because they have the benefit of the doubt that BIPOC mothers are not available. -Tomi Akitunde, Founder, mater mea

But why a wine mom and not a beer or cocktail mom? And why isn’t there the equivalent of a father of wine?

The wine industry has a long tradition of marketing to women, says Gabrielle Glaser, author of Her Best Secret. After World War II, wine sales lagged behind beer and spirits in an attempt to gain a foothold in the American market. Wine brands have often targeted women, who are usually the primary shoppers for their families, and have recruited housewives throughout California and placed them in grocery stores to influence their peers, Glaser said.

They turned to other young housewives who came and said: Hey, baby, what’s for dinner tonight? Well, then you should try this, says Glaser.

This tactic spread to Eastern California and was supported by advertisements in women’s stores and magazines. It has been proven to be extremely effective. According to a 2007 article in the International Journal of Wine Business Research, women bought 80 percent of the wine sold in the United States in 2005. In 2018, the Chicago Tribune reported that women buy and drink wine more often than men and that they drink wine more often overall.

Wine has become an outlet for women, and this has happened to a large extent with the production and marketing of Chardonnay, says Glaser. The word chardonnay is easy to pronounce and sounds feminine, she adds. Many of these wines sold to women had a sweet, buttery flavor and a soft, velvety mouthfeel.

The winemakers were very enthusiastic about it, says Glaser. Wine, especially Chardonnay, has become a necessary symbol of self-care. The post-9/11 world In September didn’t feel safe, but women could retreat over a glass of wine after a long day of work and childcare, she says. Wine has become a de-stresser.

Some modern brands even sell wines directly to self-proclaimed mothers. Launching in 2020, Dear Mom is a line of Oregon wines in single-use cans. Dear Mom was created to honor mothers around the world, because let’s face it, mothers work hard, according to the press release.

Is it fair to denigrate women who kiss their mothers’ bunches of grapes, especially in the face of these forces? It’s complicated.

I don’t like the idea that parenthood is so tough that you have to drink, but I also don’t like the idea that there are cops controlling what women can and can’t drink, so a lot of this motherhood culture fears business that can get away with it, said Mary Pagano, a mother of one in Jersey City, New Jersey.

We’re grown women, she says. If we don’t want to disturb, we should enjoy our wine or bourbon in moderation and peace, as men do.

Dr. Sachale Stewart, a psychiatrist and senior physician at the Novant Health South Park Medical Plaza Women’s Center in Charlotte, N.C., wonders if motherhood tropes can really help some women during a pandemic, especially mothers whose social lives have been thrown into a prolonged malaise by the collapse of traditional child-care structures.

Stewart estimates that 10 to 15 percent of her patients have reported an increase in alcohol use in the past six months, but she says a similar number have reported a decrease in alcohol use.

Some people are like that: I used to only drink socially and I don’t anymore, so I just don’t drink, Stewart says. For these women, taking time for themselves can normalize their involvement in a mom-rap type of culture. But it’s complicated.

There’s no clear answer, because it’s good for some people but can be bad for others, she says.

I wish there was another way to communicate It’s so hard, and I see you without mothers with wine glasses. -Stephanie Harad, social worker and mother of two.

Some of his patients are genuinely surprised to learn that swallowing an entire bottle of wine in the evening is unhealthy behavior. For women who drink this way, mommy wines are a potentially dangerous force.

But you can say that about a lot of things, Stewart said. Instead of denigrating Grapevine Mom culture, Stewart advocates for women’s therapy and a healthy lifestyle.

Regardless of where you stand in the debate over mother wine, the membrane is evolving and may soon become something very different. Brennan began to see that the Mother Grape culture was being taken over by young, single, and often gay people.

I just searched Twitter for wine mom, and the first tweet is something that looks like a bunch of gay guys sharing their polaroids, Brennan says. Happy birthday to the best mom winemaker in the world, it says.

Other examples abound. There’s a picture on Tumblr of a man in a Target uniform announcing he’s going to be the wine mom I’ve always dreamed of. And, don’t forget, it’s an animated GIF with a caption: Just because I’m a man doesn’t mean I’m not a winemaker.

If a winemaker is not necessarily a parent or a spouse, who is he?

According to Brennan, she is a person who cares about others and understands that you cannot serve others if your own cup is not full. After all, Chidi Anagonye’s character had a breakdown and a lavender-colored target on her face with the tagline Who, What, When Where… in the 2018 episode of NBC’s The Good Place. Wine!

It’s a real mother and child moment, Brennan says. He has a nervous breakdown because he was the glue that held this group of people together. …. His cup is no longer full [and] he has this slump as a way of repairing himself.

In a way, this version of mom’s wine after mom’s wine goes back to the origin of the concept, Brennan says. She imagines that Tiny Mom will continue in this direction alone, and perhaps in others still unknown. Culture, especially online, is never really static, she says. It’s a lot about subversion.

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