A new report launched by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) and the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) addresses some of the challenges faced by women in relation to alcohol and is supported by infographics developed by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and the University of Stirling.

Recommendations from Women and Alcohol: Key Issues include better collaboration between researchers, practitioners, women’s rights groups, and those with lived experience of alcohol harm; restrictions put in place for all forms of alcohol marketing, including online, which employ sexualised images and messaging relating to women; more women-only spaces in alcohol services, and more residential treatment and recovery support for women and children.

The report draws on findings from a series of consultation events held in Edinburgh and London in 2017 about the relationships between alcohol and women, including:

• The stigmatising of certain women’s drinking behaviours

• The motivations and behaviours of alcohol producers, with a product to sell

Supporting the event, Dr Carol Emslie, Glasgow Caledonian University, and Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, University of Stirling, will present new Infographics on Men, Women and Alcohol in Scotland, intended to challenge stereotypes and stigmatising attitudes about gender and drinking. Men and women’s alcohol consumption is still treated differently; women are judged more harshly if they have been drinking, while men’s behaviour is more likely to be excused.

Authors of the report, Victoria Troy and Dr Eric Carlin, (both of SHAAP), said:

“Although men are about twice as likely as women to die from alcohol-related causes, media discussion often focusses on the perceived problem of women’s drinking, with moralistic and stigmatising attitudes featuring strongly in public discussions. We’ve been trying to explore why this happens and to suggest how we can counter cynical marketing by alcohol producers that exploit rather than emancipate women, as well as suggesting how support services can be more women-friendly.”

Dr Carol Emslie, Glasgow Caledonian University, added:

“Women are still judged more harshly than men if they have been drinking and media reports continue to highlight young women as a group prone to ‘risky’ drinking. Our infographics ask people to question why stereotypes about gender and alcohol persist. Watch out for ‘bench girl’, an image often used to accompany any story on alcohol, showing a young woman in a black dress and boots, sprawled apparently semi-conscious on a street bench. Yet official statistics demonstrate older men make up the majority of those who die or are hospitalised for alcohol-related causes”.

Katherine Brown, Chief Executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said:

“Some of the findings from these seminars were really worrying. The sexualisation of women in alcohol marketing may be working to undermine gender equality and ultimately de-sensitise public attitudes towards domestic abuse and sexual assault. We need to see an end to such practices and learn from other countries such as France which restrict alcohol advertising to protect against adverse outcomes.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:

“I am really pleased to sponsor this event at Parliament - in our nation’s struggle with alcohol we have seen many myths linked to drinking habits and gender. If we are to tailor an effective national policy response we need to be clear about the facts and in particular challenge preconceptions. As research findings show, there are strong stereotypes embedded in our social consciousness, and our first challenge is to unpick these.”

Notes: 

1. Based at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) provides the authoritative medical and clinical voice on the need to reduce the impact of alcohol related harm on the health and wellbeing of people in Scotland and the evidence-based approaches to achieve this.

2. For more information on Glasgow Caledonian University, please contact Senior Communications and Public Affairs Officer Roisin-Alana Di Giacomo 0141 331 8672.

3. Supporting infographics can be found here: www.genderandalcohol.co.uk

Eric Carlin

Contact: Dr Eric Carlin, Director SHAAP SHAAP.director@rcpe.ac.uk 0750 5081784