Women, men and alcohol - exploding the myths!

July 18, 2018

Scottish Families and Glasgow Caledonian University’s Substance Use Research Group hosted a joint event on 18 June as part of GCU’s Research Week 2018. This was planned and co-presented by Dr Carol Emslie (Leader of the Substance Use Research Group) and our own CEO Dr Justina Murray (who only occasionally dusts off her academic credentials).


This was a fantastic opportunity to engage with established and emerging researchers, policy-makers, practitioners, people with lived experience and members of the public and to explore why gender is important in understanding drinking, alcohol-related harm, recovery and family support.


Carol opened the event by presenting a new set of infographics on gender and alcohol (available to view and download at www.genderandalcohol.co.uk). These visually present research findings on women, men and alcohol in relation to society, the media and the alcohol industry, and also include recommendations for policy-makers, researchers, and service providers and commissioners.




Justina then chaired a panel discussion on gender and family support, with Rosie and Colin Hutcheon and Chris Thomson, who set up and run peer-led family support groups in West Lothian. This conversation explored how gender impacts on the experience of addiction in the family; seeking support from others; others’ responses (from friends and family to employers and services); and gendered experiences of family support and family recovery. It felt like a very quick 15 minutes but provided a powerful insight into the commonalities of family experience as well as gender differences, and the value of having both male and female group facilitators to encourage both male and female family members to engage.






Following time for group discussion and reflection, Carol then presented on her research findings about young women, alcohol and social media, including evidence of the ways in which young women ‘curate’ their social media identity. There was also very interesting insight into class-based differences, such as the stigmatisation of working class young women who face harsher judgement for drink-related behaviour than middle class young women.


Sharon Graham from North West Recovery Communities spoke about her own experience of alcohol addiction and recovery as a woman in an inspiring session. She spoke of her own use of make-up as a mask to hide her addiction, the loneliness associated with drinking secretly at home, and the different attitudes towards mums and dads who drink which influences to women’s fear of losing their children if they come forward for help. She shared her experience of supporting other women to engage with local recovery communities through talking openly about her own experience, “How are other women going to know it’s OK to speak out, if I don’t speak out?”


Gemma Crompton from Alcohol Focus Scotland finished the formal presentations with an input on gender, alcohol and marketing, with some of the billboard adverts shown drawing gasps from participants with their blatant disregard for alcohol marketing regulations, not to mention questionable portrayals of women. She emphasised the recent shift to social media-based digital marketing, which has introduced more interactive, user-generated brand content – so free advertising for the industry and outwith regulatory controls.


If you missed this event, catch up on Twitter #genderalcohol.


At Scottish Families we are keen to develop our academic links and to create more opportunities to bring together academic evidence with the voices of lived experience. Many thanks to Carol Emslie and GCU for inviting us to be part of this Research Week event, and to Rosie, Colin, Chris and Sharon for agreeing to share their experiences with those attending.


Published in the SFAD Summer 2018 Newsletter



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