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“I have more negative reactions to really drunk women” The persistence of gender double-standards for drinking and drunkenness Richard de Visser, University.

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Presentation on theme: "“I have more negative reactions to really drunk women” The persistence of gender double-standards for drinking and drunkenness Richard de Visser, University."— Presentation transcript:

1 “I have more negative reactions to really drunk women” The persistence of gender double-standards for drinking and drunkenness Richard de Visser, University of

2 Background Important insights into gender and alcohol use have been provided by recent qualitative research However, most studies have limited their attention to masculinities or femininities The aim of the two studies reported here was to expand on ours and others' research into gender and alcohol and to consider how to incorporate gender-related concerns into interventions designed to encourage moderate alcohol consumption The two studies reported here had ethical approval from the University of Sussex. All participants gave informed consent 1

3 Study 1 This study combined quantitative and qualitative methods to study how women's and men's alcohol use is shaped by gender role beliefs and gender identity. The aim was to answer four questions: Do double-standards for alcohol use persist among university students? Do these reflect broader gender role attitudes? How do young people explain gender double-standards for alcohol use? How do young people experience them? 2

4 Methods [1] Online survey completed by 731 UK university students aged Sex-Role Egalitarianism - Subjective importance of masculinity and femininity - Perceived masculinity/femininity of drinking, HED, other behaviours - Recent and intended alcohol use 3

5 Methods [1] Online survey completed by 731 UK university students aged Sex-Role Egalitarianism - Subjective importance of masculinity and femininity - Perceived masculinity/femininity of drinking, HED, other behaviours - Recent and intended alcohol use Purposive sample of 16 interviewees - 4 women and 4 men with most egalitarian gender role beliefs (T) - 4 women and 4 men with least egalitarian gender role beliefs (E) - beliefs about the gendered nature of drinking and drunkenness - importance of alcohol consumption to their gender identities - importance of drinking in gender-appropriate ways 3

6 Results 4

7 Do gender double-standards for alcohol persist in university students? Interviewees perceived few sex differences in the prevalence of drinking, heavy episodic drinking, or drunkenness among their peers: In the girls that I hang around with there's no difference in, in the patterns of the, the patterns of drinking [...] as in the men don't get more drunk than the women do. (TrM1) However, heavy drinking was more detrimental for femininity than drinking per se (see Table above): It’s more shocking to see someone, a woman who drinks like... much more than a man [...] if you see them and you are sort of... a bit, a bit repulsed, maybe And what happens when you see a man that binge drinks? Well it's, um... it's the same, but in a... in a weird way, it's more accepted, I think. (TrF1) Analysis also revealed a discourse of masculine and feminine drinks 5

8 Do gender double-standards for alcohol reflect broader attitudes? Gendering of alcohol use was a specific example of a broader discourse of masculinity and femininity as polar opposites Quantitative data showed that double-standards for alcohol reflect broader gender role attitudes 6

9 Do gender double-standards for alcohol reflect broader attitudes? Gendering of alcohol use was a specific example of a broader discourse of masculinity and femininity as polar opposites Quantitative data showed that double-standards for alcohol reflect broader gender role attitudes 6

10 How do young people explain gender double-standards for alcohol? Explanations tended to focus on different expectations for public behaviour, particularly a discourse of feminine respectability: I kind of think women should be more, um... have more self respect maybe and retain some elegance [laughs]. You know, but they're not if they get very drunk and they're sort of throwing up in the street somewhere... Whereas with a male I suppose I'm a bit more “Oh well!” [laughs] (EgF2) Interviewees drew particular attention to gender double-standards in relation to drunken behaviour rather than drinking per se: Masculinity is about being big and it's about being strong and femininity is about being small and sort of graceful and sort of not, you know drinking and sort of falling around and stumbling, being mouthy particularly. That's you know a real - You know, and that showing aggression as well, for a woman to show aggression is quite a, not a female characteristic. (TrM2) 7

11 Public presence and appearance were also referred to by other interviewees, even if they rejected expectations that women should focus on appearance: I'm not big on make-up [...] but it's when you add the whole they can barely walk or talk aspect to it, it's a bit [laughs]. I mean the same if I saw a guy in the situation it would like “Oh that's OK. He's a guy” (EgF2) Women do tend to worry about their health and also about their weight particularly, so they might not drink so much. Mostly, if other girls I know don't drink it's because they're worried about putting on weight. (EgF3) 8

12 Public presence and appearance were also referred to by other interviewees, even if they rejected expectations that women should focus on appearance: I'm not big on make-up [...] but it's when you add the whole they can barely walk or talk aspect to it, it's a bit [laughs]. I mean the same if I saw a guy in the situation it would like “Oh that's OK. He's a guy” (EgF2) Women do tend to worry about their health and also about their weight particularly, so they might not drink so much. Mostly, if other girls I know don't drink it's because they're worried about putting on weight. (EgF3) Some participants explained that greater attention to women's drinking arose from concerns about their safety: Women are, kind of, quite often more aware of staying safe, especially if they're out at night or whatever. I know quite a lot of girls who will always get cabs home just out of, kind of, general paranoia about being mugged or raped... but I don't particularly see why it should be more acceptable for one gender than the other, really. (EgM1) 8

13 How do young people experience gender double-standards for alcohol? Traditional male interviewees described how their awareness of gendered discourses of drinking shaped their behaviour: If we go to the pub, just like on an afternoon to watch the football, if, like, there are four guys and the three before me order a pint of lager, I wouldn’t then say “I’ll have an... Archers and lemonade” or something. Well, obviously not because of the taste, I don’t like it anyway, but I would do that to, kind of, fit in with the group. (TrM3) 9

14 How do young people experience gender double-standards for alcohol? Traditional male interviewees described how their awareness of gendered discourses of drinking shaped their behaviour: If we go to the pub, just like on an afternoon to watch the football, if, like, there are four guys and the three before me order a pint of lager, I wouldn’t then say “I’ll have an... Archers and lemonade” or something. Well, obviously not because of the taste, I don’t like it anyway, but I would do that to, kind of, fit in with the group. (TrM3) At both ends of the SRES spectrum women’s awareness of discourses of male and female drinks and drinking styles affected behaviour - they often drank “feminine” wine instead of “masculine” beer: I have this really weird thing about drinking beer. Like, if I wanted a pint of beer... um, if I was out with a group of... I dunno, if I was out with someone I liked, someone I fancied, I probably wouldn't ask for a pint just because I'd think it would make me look quite masculine. So I'd probably ask for wine or something else. (EgF2) 9

15 Study 2 This study combined two qualitative methods to further study how women's and men's alcohol use is shaped by gender role beliefs and to examine how age and sex differences in young people’s beliefs about gender and alcohol affect beliefs about appropriate interventions to combat alcohol misuse. Funded by Comic Relief and Alcohol Education & Research Council (now Alcohol Research UK) The aim was to investigate whether and how to develop age- and sex- specific campaigns and interventions to promote moderate drinking 10

16 Methods [2,3] Young people aged recruited from schools, cafés, etc. Group discussions - motives for drinking and not drinking, and beliefs about how best to promote moderate drinking In-depth individual interviews - “critical incidents” when the importance of alcohol consumption was particularly salient, and beliefs about how best to approach alcohol-related health promotion 11

17 Results Motives and expectations Respondents in all age groups were easily able to describe gender- related expectations related to alcohol consumption. These included drink choices and modes of consumption: If I say “Well ‘I don’t drink beer”, then people kind of look at you a bit strange and they think “Oh well, you’re a man. You’re supposed to be drinking beer, because that’s what men drink”. (23-25M) 12

18 Results Motives and expectations Respondents in all age groups were easily able to describe gender- related expectations related to alcohol consumption. These included drink choices and modes of consumption: If I say “Well ‘I don’t drink beer”, then people kind of look at you a bit strange and they think “Oh well, you’re a man. You’re supposed to be drinking beer, because that’s what men drink”. (23-25M) Although men and women perceived expectations to drink gender- appropriate drinks, men felt there was greater pressure on them to drink in masculine ways, which usually meant being able to keep pace with other men and being able to hold one’s drink: I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, but I get the impression that it’s much more acceptable not to keep up if you’re a woman. (23-25 M) 12

19 Double standards for drinking styles and drunken behaviour were evident (again) Some participants endorsed them, but others were less certain that they applied to current patterns of male and female drinking: I have more negative reactions to really drunk women [...] If I see a drunk person, like a really drunk person staggering down the street I don't really have a heap of respect for them. Either gender. But I suppose if it's a really drunk woman staggering down the street then I would have a worse reaction. (23-25 M) It's definitely more likely for boys to get hurt than for women to get raped but I think it's a much bigger thing for a woman [...] with my parents, if I was coming home one night they'll want to come and pick me up, and come and get me so I'll be safe, but if it was my brother - like he is older than me - but they'll feel more OK (13-15 F) 13

20 Implications for interventions Because identifying with the person portrayed in advertisements was seen as crucial, participants tended to agree that age- and sex- specific messages were warranted: I would think it would probably be stronger if it sort of targeted them individually because then you really see, if you watch the guy one you can think “That could be me!”, and if you watch the girl you can say the same thing. (13-15M) 14

21 Implications for interventions Because identifying with the person portrayed in advertisements was seen as crucial, participants tended to agree that age- and sex- specific messages were warranted: I would think it would probably be stronger if it sort of targeted them individually because then you really see, if you watch the guy one you can think “That could be me!”, and if you watch the girl you can say the same thing. (13-15M) Some suggested that messages targeting women’s concerns about body weight may be an effective focus for interventions. This was most obvious among older interviewees: If they know that drinking less alcohol makes them lose weight as well then that's probably a more effective way than saying, “You may one night throw up in your hair” kind of thing. (23-25 M) 14

22 Although support for sex-specific messages was widespread, some female participants were more cautious in their endorsement of such approaches because of concerns that such messages would entrench - rather than challenge - gender stereotypes: That sex specific thing is really difficult to get right because you are potentially... you are going to come up against the accusation of sexism and you may actually also end up being sexist. (23-25 F) That's always a difficult issue because obviously you don't want people to think that one gender is being treated different to another... You know the whole chauvinistic thing like treating women like you should drink even less than men... in a sort of less obvious way... I think it would be important to do it a not so obvious way. (18-20 F) 15

23 Discussion Mixed-methods studies of gender and young people’s alcohol use expanded on previous quantitative and qualitative methods by having a broader focus on men and women and by showing how women’s and men’s alcohol use is shaped by gender role attitudes Although men and women reported similar levels of heavy drinking and drunkenness, gender double-standards related to alcohol use persist. As a result, many participants - even the most egalitarian - reported that they modified their patterns of alcohol consumption so as to maintain a desired gender identity Although such double-standards could be a focus of interventions to encourage moderate drinking, it would be difficult to justify health promotion interventions that reinforced gender inequalities 16

24 References 1de Visser RO, McDonnell EJ. “That's OK. He's a guy”: a mixed-methods study of gender double-standards for alcohol use. Psychol Health 2012; 27: de Visser RO, et al. Gender, alcohol, and interventions. London: Alcohol Research UK, de Visser RO, et al. “Drinking is our modern way of bonding”: Young people's beliefs about interventions to encourage moderate drinking. Psychol Health (under review) Acknowledgments Thanks to all participants for sharing their views and experiences Thanks to Dr Liz McDonnell for her contribution to Study 1 Study 2 was funded by Comic Relief and Alcohol Research UK. Thanks to Dr Zoë Wheeler, Prof Jonathan Smith, and Prof Charles Abraham


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