Friday, 18 May 2018

Alcohol is a Feminist Issue

I have always been proud to call myself a feminist.

I went to Cambridge University, to an all girls college called Newnham. Newnham was founded by Millicent Fawcett, the famous suffragist, who has just been honoured with the first statue of a woman erected in Parliament Square.

Newnham opened its doors to women in 1871, but they weren't made full members of the University, or awarded degrees, until 1948.

When we ate dinner in formal hall, we sat underneath a (rather battered) suffragette banner which was carried by the women of Newnham in the marches on Parliament.

I loved the history of my college. I was determined that I would do anything and everything that the boys could do.

I quickly discovered that all the mixed colleges had male-only drinking societies, which held the most riotous and popular of the student parties. 

So, my friends and I set up a women's only drinking society at our college, and we drank and partied as hard as any of the men.

I thought alcohol was a feminist issue. I totally bought into the idea - propagated in the 1980s - that keeping up with the men meant drinking as much as they did. 

I loved the 'ladette' culture, and drank like Bridget Jones, the Sex and the City girls and Absolutely Fabulous. 

Then I became a mum.

I grew up chanting the mantra that women could have it all. A successful career and a family. 

I quickly realised that that is possible, but it's incredibly hard. The men who'd managed to juggle careers and families had wives at home keeping the ship afloat for them. 

We had virtually no help, and were expected to do the lion's share of the domestic work and the childcare as well as the job.

It's not surprising that 'wine o'clock' has become such a thing. It's our generation's equivalent of the valium our mother's generation described as 'mummy's little helper.' It keeps us sane, it helps us relax, it's our reward for a job well done (or a job done, at least).

Only it's not really a reward. It's a drug. And more and more of us are becoming addicted to it and finding that it's having a terrible effect on our mental and physical health. 

We have created lives for ourselves that we constantly try to run away from, by self-medicating.

I've also realised that the way we use alcohol, instead of helping us keep up with the boys, is stopping us achieving as much as we could.

One of the things I hear from women over and over again, is that when they stop drinking their careers take off. They have more energy, they sleep better, they have more time, they become incredibly productive and creative.

The truth is, we cannot break down the glass ceiling when we have wine glasses in our hands.

Emmeline Pankhurst said "I would rather be a rebel than a slave." We did not fight for our freedom from the patriarchy only to become slaves to the booze. 

So, if you are struggling with alcohol addiction, take heart from this suffragette quote: Never surrender. Never give up the fight.

In other news this week, huge apologies to those of you in the USA and Canada who've been unable to download the Kindle version of The Sober Diaries. It's now back on line and (for a limited time only) at a discounted price. You can find it here USA, or here for UK, or here for Australia.

On Sunday 20th May 7pm (UK time) I'm hosting a live webinar on Club Soda on booze and parenting. Do tune in if you can! You need to be a member to watch, but membership is by voluntary donation - you just pay what you can afford. You can find Club Soda here.

As always, there's loads more inspiration and information on the SoberMummy Facebook page and on Instagram (@clare_pooley).

Love to you all,

SM x


  1. Love love love this and ain't it the truth! <3 xxx

    1. Thanks Nana! Have you recovered from the party?

  2. Thank you so much for this rousing and inspirational blog, you are SO right, wine o'clock has become so ingrained in our society and drinking is not only acceptable but expected (I tried to be brave and come out as AF with my friends this week but not one has been supportive, they have all tried to get me to drink again, what kind of friends are these I ask myself?! But I will keep up the fight).
    Thank you so much for everything, hearing you on the radio at the start of the year started my AF journey and I feel amazing. I owe you so much and keep up the good work!!! xx

    1. Don't give up... Don't listen to them. The same thing happened to me but I didn't listen an went to rehab. I am 15 months sober!!! It's so much better now. Don't give up!

    2. Thank you so much for your support, it means a lot. I won't give up, I have weak moments now and then but I'm not giving in. Well done for getting to 15 months and I'm glad everything is so much better for you, take care x

    3. Really sad to read that your pals are not being supportive Meggie. And trying to get you to drink again! You crack on with this - I know you can do it!! I've posted a message to you on our usual. Big hug Jacqueline xxx

    4. Hi Meggie! I’m sorry your friends haven’t been more supportive! What makes it tricky is that we tend to surround ourselves with people who drink as much as we do, so when we quit they find it hard to deal with! Remember it’s their issue, not yours! You’re doing brilliantly! 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

  3. Fantastic post. I now believe that when we kept up with the boys, we were lowering our standards. Why take on the myriad problems that drinking men have created for themselves? Women are creative and resilient, and there are far better ways for us to take up our rightful role as leaders.

  4. When you are leaning on that crutch SO HARD to get you through, give a dose of energy at the end of the day,'s just so incredibly difficult to think a) you can toss aside the crutch, let alone b) actually be stronger for doing so! I certainly always loved to drink, but it was difficult years of caregiving, I think, where it became 'my crutch,' (as well as 'deserved treat,' escape hatch, stress it).

    I hope anyone who thinks they 'can't get by without,' will heed all the positive experiences of SM and so many others...and just give it a try. What is there to lose!And oh.......what there is to gain!!

  5. From one sober rebel to another, spot on!!!

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve read your book, and blog, and it has changed my life - I’m now day 65 and feel so so much better than I did when drinking. Everything you talked about in your book is completely true. The reaction of other people is the worst part of this journey- especially drinking friends who seem to think that I have now decided to live a life of virtuous deprivation, miserable and pious. I’m summoning all my Jason Vale vibes and trying to show them that nothing has really changed except the contents of my glass! Oh and the fact that I feel better in every way - both physically and mentally, I’m a better mother, wife and friend, slimmer and more confident than I’ve been for years. But I can’t tell them all that ... because who wants to hear that when you are in your wine o’clock bubble? ...I know I never did! I have become one of the people I feared the most - a happy contented non-drinker who doesn’t need a skinfull to have fun! Bravo SM - you are an inspiration to all the jaded Bridgets, Patsys and Edinas out there who need kicking into touch. You are my heroine! Xxx

    1. Thank you! And huge congrats to you! You are a superhero! 🙌🏻😘👊🏻

  7. This is so true; 'They have more energy, they sleep better, they have more time, they become incredibly productive and creative.' Not only for me in my professional life at work, but when I get home I'm able do so much more with my time now. Thank you for your blog, inspiring, as always :)

  8. I can completely associate with this culture - and it was what everyone did. Even now, most of my friends are celebrating alcohol in some shape or form and are going out and getting pissed. They then post 'hilarious' photos from the aftermath. Why can't I do this as well? I am feeling very down ... I KNOW I CANNOT PICK UP A DRINK OR ELSE ALL HELL WILL BE LET LOOSE! So I will stop and calm down... deep breaths... think about the consequences... I will not pick up a drink today - but WHY am I finding this so very hard? Why ME?

    1. Hang on in there! You are the one who is on the best side of alcohol .... That field of pink bunny smiles Clare talks about is really there I promise. Today I went to a corporate event where there was such attention to detail, but no non alcoholic alternatives: I got myself one of the posh glasses and some water and had a great time with a very clear conscience (and head) as I drove home. One of the best decisions I ever made kicking the wine witch into touch. As I said ... Hang on in there, it does get easier and better and you have support here from us all.