Policy stakeholder understandings of alcohol, gender and violence: New publication

In a new article published in Qualitative Health Research, DruGS program members Adrian Farrugia and David Moore – in collaboration with colleagues Helen Keane, Mats Ekendahl, Kate Graham and Duane Duncan – analyse how alcohol policy stakeholders understand the relationship between men, masculinities, alcohol and violence. Building on recent publications from the project, the article is based on an analysis of 35 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 42 alcohol policy stakeholders in Australia, Canada and Sweden.

Entitled ‘Noticed and then forgotten: Gender in alcohol policy stakeholder responses to alcohol and violence’, the article argues that the alcohol policy stakeholders interviewed in the research routinely identify men’s violence as a central problem for alcohol policy. Working with recent scholarship on policies as ‘gendering practices’, the analysis suggests that the interviewed stakeholders understand violence in drinking contexts as primarily stemming from or related to men and masculinities. However, despite conceptualising alcohol and violence in this way, the participants do not argue for further debate about and interventions targeted at the gendered inequities and dynamics that co-produce violence and harm.

A key finding presented in the article is that despite gendering alcohol violence as chiefly related to men and masculinities, the alcohol policy stakeholders are reticent to position men as a central focus in efforts to address it. Instead, they prioritise generic interventions understood to protect all from the harms of men’s drinking and violence without marking men out for special attention. As the article explores, even though the success of such interventions often hinges on the reduction of male violence in drinking contexts, they actively obfuscate such a focus. This dynamic, while indirectly addressing some of the harms of men’s drinking and violence, leaves its gendered character unmarked and makes invisible the many kinds of change required of men.

The authors acknowledge that the alcohol policy stakeholders interviewed in the research are negotiating a politically complex context and working with a research base that often effaces the role of men and masculinities in alcohol and violence. However, the analysis suggests that the dynamic of first identifying and then stepping back from addressing men and masculinities in alcohol interventions may limit innovation in this area. It also reproduces well-established gendered power relations in which the freedoms of others are readily curbed in efforts to address the actions of men. As lead author Dr Adrian Farrugia says:

The dynamics addressed in the research work to position men and men’s drinking as outside direct policy focus. This is significant because policy attention and related interventions then shift to other groups, such as women or older people, whose freedoms are positioned as worthy of debate. In this way, a range of people are asked to shoulder the responsibility for managing the harms associated with the relationship between men, masculinities, alcohol and violence.

This is the latest in a series of publications generated by one of the DruGS program’s Australian Research Council-funded projects: ‘Analysing gender in research and policy on alcohol-related violence among young people’ (DP18010036).