33 SES 09 A, Gender: Inclusion and exclusion
In this research the focus is on how gender and other categories of difference feature in representations of alcohol in story completion data produced by students in upper tier secondary schools in Iceland. The theoretical framework builds on feminist poststructuralist scholarship especially work on the discursive construction of gender and substance use (Bogren, 2014; Day, Gough, & McFadden, 2004; Measham, 2002). It also draws on affect theories to explore the affective subtext to some of these accounts (Ahmed, 2004, 2014; Wetherell, 2012) and how they are used to portray feelings such as pleasure and anxiety. The aim is to contribute to our understanding of how alcohol features in the social lives of young people (aged 18-20).
Measham (2002) argues that not only is the use of drugs and alcohol mediated by gender, the practices associated with those substances are themselves ways to accomplish gender or more specifially to “do gender“. In this regard different rules apply for how men “do” alcohol and how women “do” alcohol. Traditionally Western cultures have associated heavy drinking and public drinking spaces with masculinity (Plant & Plant, 2006). However, Bogren (2014) points out that societal changes have complicated cultural meanings of gender and drinking and that at times these can be contradictory. Depictions of young women’s drinking is a case in point. Their drinking is connected to dangers especially in relation to their sexuality and moral reputation but is also seen as a pleasurable part of lifestyle and even fashion (Plant and Plant, 2014). Analysis of young women’s experiences of alcohol in the UK show that they see it as an integral part of their social lives; even as empowering and confidence boosting but that they also fear loosing control and thereby possibly respectability (Rúdólfsdóttir & Morgan, 2009).
Considerable research has been conducted that reports on changes in alcohol use for different cohorts of adolescents both in high school and upper-tier secondary schools in Iceland (Kristjansson et al., 2016). The research has mostly been quantitative and from a public health perspective focusing on risk and the adverse effects of alcohol consumption on adolescents‘ lives, well-being and prospects. Those studies provide an important insight into changes in alcohol consumption in the last two decades and show steady decline in alcohol consumption in Iceland especially amongst younger teenagers (Sigfusdottir, Kristjansson, Gudmundsdottir, & Allegrante, 2011). However, alcohol consumption is still high amongst adolescents in upper-tier secondary schools. In a survey conducted in 2013 , 45% of 16-19 year old students reported that they had been drunk at least once in the past month (Report from Minister of Health, 2015-2016). In other words, the proportion of students consuming alcohol is significant and suggests a normalised “culture of intoxication” (Measham, 2002; Measham & Brain, 2005). How that culture works and what consequences it has for those taking part (depending on e.g. social background) has been given scant attention and merits further study. Who is included and who excluded in young people‘s stories about parties and alcohol? How do normative ideas about gender, sexuality etc play into how the drinking subject is constituted? What pleasures and anxieties are attached to these stories and (not) taking part in alcohol consumption?
This study’s entry point into young people‘s drinking cultures in Iceland is through the story completion method (Braun, Clarke, & Gray, 2017; Clarke, Braun, & Wooles, 2015) and the data collection is still taking place. The story completion method is a novel technique that suits well for researching sensitive topics. By presenting the participants with a hypothetical scenario they can remove themselves from the story but provide accounts that draw on their cultural understanding of what role alcohol should play (if any) in social situations. A convenience sample of young people aged between 18-20 has been and is being recruited through different facebook groups and participants asked to complete one of four versions of a story. The story stem the participants are presented with features young man/men/woman/women invited to a party were alcohol is on offer. The participants are provided with a link to a website which provides them with the story stem and asks some questions about social background. However, the main focus is on the stories themselves. The data collection and analysis is still in process but the aim is to collect 100 stories. Sofar 50 stories have been collected. The study was approved by the University of Iceland Ethical Science Committee. The stories will be copied and incorporated into Atlas.ti. Analysis will involve repeated and close reading of the data in order to draw out how alcohol consumption is constructed and what role gender and other social categories play in those, the discursive resources drawn on in those constructions and the subject positions contained within them (Banister, Burman, Parker, Taylor, & Tindall, 1994). Special attention will be given to the affective subtext to these stories.
The study is a contribution to knowledge on the cultural role of alcohol in young people‘s social lives. Despite extensive research into young people/children and alcohol consumption not much is known about the sociocultural context to young people‘s consumption of alchol in Iceland. Preliminary analysis already suggests that the stories produced by these young people are loaded both with excitement and anxiety and that the outcome from the stories are different depending on whether the protagonist is a young woman or man. They also have a strong moral undertone that implicate gender and other social categories in different ways. The analysis should provide useful information for educational campaigns addressing young people‘s alcohol consumption.
Ahmed, S. (2004). Affective economies. Social Text, 22(2), 117-139. Ahmed, S. (2014). The Cultural Politics of Emotion (Second ed.): Edinburgh University Press. Banister, P., Burman, E., Parker, I., Taylor, M., & Tindall, C. (1994). Qualitative Methods in Psychology: A Research Guide. Buckingham, Philadelphia: Open University Press. Bogren, A. (2014). Sign of the times? Gender, sexuality, and drinking stories. International Journal of Drug Policy, 25(3), 359-360. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.04.003 Braun, V., Clarke, V., & Gray, D. (2017). Collecting Qualitative Date: A Practical Guide to Textual, Media and Virtual Techniques. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Clarke, V., Braun, V., & Wooles, K. (2015). Thou Shalt Not Covet Another Man? Exploring Constructions of Same‐Sex and Different‐Sex Infidelity Using Story Completion. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 25(2), 153-166. doi:10.1002/casp.2204 Day, K., Gough, B., & McFadden, M. (2004). “Warning! alcohol can seriously damage your feminine health”. Feminist Media Studies, 4(2), 165-183. doi:10.1080/1468077042000251238 Kristjansson, A. L., Sigfusdottir, I. D., Thorlindsson, T., Mann, M. J., Sigfusson, J., & Allegrante, J. P. (2016). Population trends in smoking, alcohol use and primary prevention variables among adolescents in Iceland, 1997-2014. Addiction, 111(4), 645-652. doi:10.1111/add.13248 Measham, F. (2002). 'Doing gender'--'doing drugs': conceptualizing the gendering of drugs cultures. Contemporary Drug Problems, 29(2), 335. Measham, F., & Brain, K. (2005). ‘Binge’ drinking, British alcohol policy and the new culture of intoxication. Crime, Media, Culture, 1(3), 262-283. doi:10.1177/1741659005057641 Plant, M., & Plant, M. (2006). Binge Britain: Alcohol and the National Response. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Rúdólfsdóttir, A. G., & Morgan, P. (2009). 'Alcohol is my Friend': Young Middle Class Women Discuss their Relationship with Alcohol. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 19(6), 492-505. doi:10.1002/casp Sigfusdottir, I. D., Kristjansson, A. L., Gudmundsdottir, M. L., & Allegrante, J. P. (2011). Substance use prevention through school and community-based health promotion: a transdisciplinary approach from Iceland. Global Health Promotion, 18(3), 23-26. doi:10.1177/1757975911412403 Wetherell, M. (2012). Affect and Emotion: A new Social Science Understanding. London: Sage Publications.
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