Stereotypes about women's drinking branded unfair and unhelpful

19 March 2018

The stigmatisation of women’s drinking, and the sexualisation of women in alcohol advertising, will be highlighted at the Scottish Parliament today by policymakers, academics, researchers and politicians.

Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) Dr Carol Emslie, together with 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. 

Dr Carol Emslie, Glasgow Caledonian University, said: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.”

Recommendations from the report, Women and Alcohol: Key Issues, include better collaboration betweenresearchers, practitioners, women’s rights groups, and those with 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.

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 focuses 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.”

The parliamentary event, which has cross-party support, is sponsored by Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP and will take place in the Fleming Room from 6-8pm.

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.”

Download our research and infographics from GenderandAlcohol