Gendering Reefer Madness

In their 2011 book, Gendering Addiction: The Politics of Drug Treatment in a Neurochemical World, Nancy Campbell and Elizabeth Ettorre problematize the male-centric knowledges that frame addiction research and treatment programs. They call for a more inclusive treatment strategy that does not consider the neurochemical “male brain” the baseline for recovery. According to the authors, these “epistemologies of ignorance” limit, even eliminate, the useful options available for female addicts.

In many similar ways, epistemologies of ignorance also manifest in the historical record of marijuana users in the 1930s. Perhaps “ignorance” is not quite the right term, even as its effects were just as restrictive, especially for women users in during the decade. But due to the American obsession with gender and sexual normativity during this period, both female and male users (as well as male and female anti-marijuana activists) occupied mutually exclusive discursive spaces from which two separate gendered narratives about marijuana use emerged. Reading past these stereotypes though, utilizing Michelle McClellan’s notion of “damp feminism” (here, and here), historians can make use of these highly problematic portrayals of female marijuana users from this period.

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Drinking and Sexual Assault: The Third Rail of Health Education

(Editor: Today’s post is from Points contributing editor Michelle McClellan.)

It’s back-to-school time, and that means talking to college students about the dangers of binge drinking and the risks of sexual assault. And while parents, health care providers and social science researchers might think those topics go together, health education experts and university administrators call the combination a “third rail” of discourse, to be avoided at all costs. According to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, many universities rely on Department of Justice funding for sexual-assault prevention. But that grant program considers alcohol and substance use “out of scope.” This split might seem like a straightforward bureaucratic division, perhaps to avoid duplication or redundancy. But historians know that such patterns do not come out of nowhere—this disjuncture has a history, and it is a complicated one for feminists.

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Brides and Booze: The Alcoholic Wife in Mid-Century Pulp Fiction

“How should he handle his alcoholic wife,” asks the lurid cover of the 1960 novel Alcoholic Wife by G.G. Revelle. “Beat her? Cater to her inflamed desires? Overlook her drunken intimacies with other men? Desert her for his seductive mistress?” With a retail price of 35 cents, the volume helpfully included a list of other Beacon Book titles that readers might enjoy, such as Footloose Fraulein and Trailer Tramp. Yet Alcoholic Wife was not just entertainment, but an examination of a growing social crisis, as the back cover promised: “This novel courageously tackles the problem of the drinking wife—today more common than ever before!”

Cover of novel Alcoholic Wife
Cover of novel Alcoholic Wife

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The Points Interview — Gabrielle Glaser

Editor’s Note:  Author Gabrielle Glaser offers some quick comments about her new book, Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink — And How They Can Regain Control (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

Glaser cover1.  Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

A few years ago I started noticing a big shift in the way women talked about their drinking. Sometime in the early aughts it began to appear as a cultural trope — women “needing” wine. I looked into why that was, and if it could be substantiated by facts. I found some numbers that were pretty convincing. I have always been intrigued by our country’s weird relationship with alcohol. My grandfather was a Canadian bootlegger and always said he had been in the “thirst” business. He was an amazing storyteller and his tales of driving whiskey across the border in the dark of night really stayed with me. I wondered how we had gone from prohibiting booze to Real Housewife Wine, and tried to tell that story.

2.  What do you think a bunch of drug and alcohol historians might find particularly interesting about your book?

Hey, most of what I know I learned from you guys. But the marketing of wine to women in the 1950s and 60s is something I had to piece together, and that was amazing. The pamphlets urging vendors to “Market to the Housewife! Explain Why She Needs Red Wine!” and the wine industry surveys are particularly charming — a piece of the puzzle. GlaserAlso, the idea that women began making wine, and pleasing their own taste buds, was also interesting.  (Women were behind the making of Chardonnay, which was easy for women to like — it had a smooth mouthfeel and was sweet.)  Likewise, marketers helped to demystify it.  I grew up at a time when only men would get the wine list, and the cork. It was intimidating.  No more.

3.  Now that the hard part is over, what is the thing YOU find most interesting about your book?

Oh, I loved the history, but that’s my thing. I spent hours with Axel Borg, the wine librarian at UC Davis (how fabulous is that? He’s a fantastic librarian in general but he knows everything about the history of California winemaking), and learned so much about the rocky road of wine acceptance in the US. I also had a blast looking at colonial booze recipes. Who wouldn’t want to come across Martha Washington’s recipe for “Capon Ale”? Every time I got frustrated with my lack of progress, I’d look at that recipe and laugh.

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4.  Every research project leaves some stones unturned. What stone are you most curious to see turned over soon?

I’m not saying this to boost Ward and Roizen’s project, but I’d love to see a biography of E.M. Jellinek.  He was a fascinating guy.  What drove him?  What were his motivations?  Did he leave private journals?  Plus, there are so many funny titles you could make use of “Bunky.”

5.  BONUS QUESTION: In an audio version of this book, who should provide the narration?

Helen Mirren or Kathleen Turner. They haven’t asked yet.