On 21 March, researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University and University of Stirling, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), and the Institute for Alcohol Studies (IAS) organised an event in the Scottish Parliament on alcohol and gender. The event was hosted by MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, who noted in his welcome speech that Scotland has an “unhealthy relationship with alcohol”. Whilst the harm caused by alcohol in Scotland is clear, new research show that the portrayal of women’s drinking, for example in the media, is framed as problematic despite that more Scottish men are dying from alcohol-related causes. Such portrayals may lead to a lack of attention to the groups most at risk of alcohol-related harm. Dr Carol Emslie and Dr Niamh Fitzgerald gave an overview of their research into gender stereotypes of alcohol consumption, which provides clear recommendations for future research, policy and practice. Importantly, their research also found that studies which explore the impact of policy interventions to a great extent suffer from “gender blindness”, in that they lack in-depth analysis of potentially differential effects on men and women, as well as unintended consequences.
During the second part of the event, Victoria Troy from SHAAP and Katherine Brown from IAS presented an overview of the Women and Alcohol seminars, held during 2017. The discussions during the events are summarised in a new report, launched on the day of the event. The focus of this seminar series was on challenges faced by women in relation to alcohol. A key issue that was raised during the presentation was around marketing of alcohol, which on the one hand has taken advantaged of female empowerment which is used in the framing advertising targeting women. On the other hand, there are ample examples of adverts aimed at men, using objectification and sexualisation of the female body to advertise alcohol products, which strongly undermine gender equality and female empowerment. Along a number of recommendations, the report specifically gave suggestions for how gender equality can be addressed through alcohol marketing policy interventions.
More information about alcohol and gender in Scotland, including the launched infographics, can be found at: https://www.genderandalcohol.co.uk/