Dear Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,
I know open letters are cliche and outdated, but since the op-ed you just wrote for “The Hollywood Reporter” regarding the glamorizing of binge drinking by women in TV and movies is cliche and outdated, this format feels like an appropriate response (read it here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/kareem-abdul-jabbar-why-is-hollywood-glamorizing-binge-drinking-women-1019844).
As a woman over the age of 30, I took serious offense to your claim that female characters in movies and on television are being portrayed as “incapable of dealing with life’s challenges as rational adults” without the help of alcohol. I also took serious offense to your one-sided research, and most importantly, your command to your audience to “relax.” This one word should have made me laugh to myself and instantly disregard your entire article, as it essentially proves that you don’t know much about how women (and readers, and human beings) like to be treated and spoken to, but instead it made me even angrier. You just became the printed word equivalent of a construction worker on 44th Street telling me to “smile” as I walk past. To make matter worse, you then claimed that you were not about to booze-shame us, and proceeded to booze-shame us. So not only are you being condescending and misogynistic, you’re tricking everyone into reading the rest of what you wrote.
The main problem I see with your column? This is about how YOU, personally, prefer to see women portrayed in these mediums. You are obviously uncomfortable with watching women bonding with other women by taking shots, chugging beer, and making poor, yet usually entertaining decisions after they are under the influence of alcohol. I just Googled “bachelorette party murder,” and the only thing to come up is a murder mystery party game. I’m failing to find any substantial proof that women are taking these fictional movies and television shows to heart, and then replicating the behavior that they are, in your own words, “glamorizing.” This, coming from a man who just made a guest appearance on “The Bachelorette,” a show where every single season, at least one man gets so wasted on the first night of competition that he gets sent home because he isn’t able to function? I see this as incredible hypocrisy.
You can copy down all the real scientific statistics you want, but to gather and publish them without also publishing the male counterpart to those statistics is unfair and, frankly, misleading. I don’t recall seeing an opinion from you when “The Hangover” came out and everyone got to laugh at 4 men blacking out drunk and trying to reconstruct their wild evening when they woke up the next day. That doesn’t seem like healthy behavior to me, and in fact, over 75% of humans who die from binge drinking are men. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/01/06/alcohol-binge-death-cdc/21331661/). But now that women are doing it, it’s not okay?
So, mainly to make myself a little less fiery on the inside today, I would like to share a few of my own personal, woman-brain-generated thoughts in response to your insulting mansplanation regarding MY gender, MY freedoms, and MY right to decide for MYself.
1. “The Washington Post reported on the proliferation of alcohol-related ads targeting women: “Harried mothers chugging wine to cope with everyday stress. Women embracing quart-sized bottles of whiskey and bellying up to bars to knock back vodka shots.”
Is she holding the bottle of whiskey, or chugging the entire thing in one 30 second commercial? Are multiple women taking one shot each, or is one singular woman shown taking shot after shot after shot? These are massive differences. And in my opinion, alcohol-related ads are targeting women because finally, FINALLY, advertising agencies and alcoholic brands have opened their eyes to the fact that women do not just drink wine coolers and crappy jugs of bottom shelf wine. We like the brown liquor. And we are fully capable of liking it and drinking it responsibly, JUST LIKE THE BOYS. I’ll give you a minute to recover from the absolute shock of that last statement.
2. “Watch any TV series or movie featuring women over 30, and their default response to stress or boredom often is hitting the bottle.”
Interesting theory: I wonder if you also noticed that many of these storylines stem from the fact that the female characters in these movies are stressed out, overworked, and exhausted, much of the time due to the partners in their lives not picking up their share of the workload in the relationship. This opens up a whole different can of worms, but still. Write a column on that, please.
3. “…women are more consistently being portrayed as insecure and needy.”
As opposed to the centuries of women being portrayed as insecure and needy, but with men as their ultimate salve and solution, as opposed to alcohol and their female friends? Romantic comedies and classic epic tales have a tendency to feature strong females, but also to fall into the trap that everything is fine as long as they get their man in the end. Nothing says “insecure and needy” in a film as well as a woman crying on her bed because some shmuck in a Brooks Brother three piece suit rejected her. So, to be fair, I think most women would consider it a step forward for the womankind of fiction to be crying over anything BUT a man.
4. “…the women vs. shark film 47 Meters…”
This bugs me mainly because the film is actually called “47 Meters Down,” demonstrating the lack of actual fact in this entire article. That’s just bad reporting. Also, the women are not drunk when they go diving with sharks. Just because their story began in a bar, at night, while drinking, it does not support your claim. If anything, this is a cautionary tale AGAINST getting drunk and meeting strangers at a bar, because then you might get eaten by sharks.
5. “…production on Bachelor in Paradise was briefly halted over an alcohol-fueled incident.”
This scandal involved a woman AND a man, both drinking heavily. To spin it otherwise to support your point is irresponsible and dishonest.
6. “One of the more insidious aspects of Hollywood’s portrayal of the alcohol-fueled woman is that she acts crazy and does something colossally foolish — from accidentally killing someone (Rough Night) to having sex with a stranger — but that it all works out in the end for the better.”
I give you: The Hangover. The Hangover 2. The Hangover 3. And almost the entire history of men in motion pictures.Everyone knows how James Bond likes his cocktails, but that’s okay because it’s dangerous and sexy, right? Oh yes, and because he’s a man.
7. “Sales of Bandit boxed wine — aka “binge in a box” — jumped 22 percent after Schumer drank it in Trainwreck.”
Bandit is an excellent boxed wine, and I would like to personally thank Amy Schumer for introducing it to me.Thanks, Amy Schumer!
In conclusion, I am a woman who likes wine. I like it a lot. And I’m sick of having to defend myself for that, usually to men. I want to thank you for listening to me, but if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to watch an episode of “GLOW” with some yummy wine in my hand.
P.S. I still think you’re a great basketball player.