New articles: how does research treat gender in ‘alcohol-related violence’?

Two new articles, co-authored by DruGS program members David Moore and Duane Duncan, analyse how gender issues are handled in recent Australian research on alcohol and violence. Both articles report findings from an international comparative research project involving colleagues from universities in Australia, Canada and Sweden, and funded by the Australian Research Council.

Project leader: Professor David Moore

The first article, entitled ‘Enacting alcohol realities: Gendering practices in Australian studies on “alcohol‐related presentations” to emergency departments’ (published in Sociology of Health & Illness), examines recent emergency department (ED) research because of its prominence in policy and public debates about alcohol and violence. It focuses on the treatment of gender, alcohol and violence in this research, and argues that the disproportionate involvement of men and masculinities in violence, so well established in sociological and criminological research, is rarely considered. Instead, the ED research handles gender in several distinct ways that position alcohol as the primary cause of violence. Some studies omit gender from consideration entirely, others overlook their own data on the role of men and masculinities in violence and make gender‐neutral policy recommendations, and a third set of studies employs methods that result in gender being removed from analysis. The few studies that do attend to gender reproduce cultural assumptions about men being risk-takers and women being vulnerable. The article argues that these research practices reproduce normative understandings of alcohol effects and of the operations of gender in social arrangements, and provide support for policy responses to alcohol and violence in which attention to male gender is absent.

The second article, entitled ‘Displacements of gender: Research on alcohol, violence and the night-time economy’, was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Sociology. It builds on the first article by analysing the handling of gender in a second body of research frequently cited in public and policy debates: recent quantitative research on alcohol and violence in Australia’s night-time economy (NTE). This article argues that previous sociological work highlighting the relationship between men, masculinities and violence receives little attention in the Australian NTE literature, which handles gender in similar ways to those identified in the emergency department work. Some studies overlook marked gender differences in the perpetration of violence, and other studies acknowledge the key role of male gender in violence but then focus on the role of environmental, geographical and temporal factors. Another set of NTE studies, like some of the emergency department studies, renders gender invisible via methodological considerations, while other studies address gender in limited ways. The article concludes by arguing that such research practices, like those evident in recent emergency department literature, reproduce normative understandings of alcohol effects and lend support to gendered forms of power.

Taken together, the two articles suggest there is an urgent need to directly address male gender in research and policy efforts to reduce the violence associated with alcohol use. As the concluding paragraph of the second paper puts it:

“In the wake of the #MeToo movement and greater official attention to institutional abuse by men, how willing is the public to continue to bear the cost – social as well as economic – of men’s violence?”

The two articles are the first in a series to be published from the project, with future analyses set to explore and compare the treatment of gender in Australian, Canadian and Swedish alcohol policy, and in Canadian and Swedish research on alcohol and violence.

References

Moore, D., Keane, H., & Duncan, D. (2020). Enacting alcohol realities: Gendering practices in Australian studies on ‘alcohol‐related presentations’ to emergency departments. Sociology of Health & Illness, 42(1), 3-19.

Moore, D., Duncan, D., Keane, H., & Ekendahl, M. (in press). Displacements of gender: Research on alcohol, violence and the night-time economy. Journal of Sociology (accepted for publication 12 October 2020)