…more on why alcohol is and can be a feminist issue.
First, I define feminism is many different ways; it’s beyond womyn having the same rights as man. Besides, why define equality to men’s standards? Feminism can look beyond that. There are also many schools of feminism. Feminist theory allows me (and others) to critique our patriarchal society and that can be anything small to anything large. Because of feminism, I can critique sexist advertisements on television or print. I can question and not accept when a man yells, “nice ass!” to me when I am bike riding. I can critique ascribed gender roles on men and womyn and go beyond gender essentialism and include trans/gender/sexual individuals, genderqueer, female-bodied, and male-bodied people (I will define these terms later). I can critique the restraints of femininity and masculinity and how these two attributes do not need to be assigned to a particular sex.
Feminist theory is a critical theory and there has many forms. Some want sex equality (liberal feminism), however that equality is often based on a hierarchal, male-centered, capitalist world. Some forms of feminism going beyond that to try and create better worlds for womyn, men, trans/gender/sexual individuals, genderqueer people, AND children so that everyone can be included and no one is excluded. Feminism allows me to critique something in front of me and look beyond that, go beyond the borders of what society and culture has taught me. Some feminisms critique capitalism, consumerism, religion, hierarchy of any sort, and so on.
For this particular paper, I want to use feminist theory as a way to deconstruct how alcohol is tied to our hierarchal culture in ways such as patriarchy, consumerism, capitalism, and male-dominance. This comes from several schools of feminism such as radical feminism, Marxist feminist, anarcha-feminism, and socialist feminism that I have made myself aware of.
First, I do not believe cisgender (female-bodied, identifying) womyn, womyn-identified, and female-bodied (perhaps transmen or genderqueer) started drinking alcohol BECAUSE of feminism. (For this paper, I am going to focus on womyn, anyone who identifies as a womyn, and anyone who was socialized as a womyn and may have transitioned or identified their gender different at a later point. Either way, these people are affected by our sexist, patriarchal culture and society. While I would agree that cisgender (male-bodied, identifying) men are hurt by patriarchy, as well – it would be a different way and for different reasons (but they still have privilege, more than the oppressed I mentioned and are still valued more). Male-bodied and not identified males (such as a transman), and genderqueer people would be different (and obviously are included in what I identify on who I am focusing on above). I also take a stance on our patriarchal language structure, which is why I spell words such as “womyn”, “humyn”, etc different by taking “man” out of the word. I feel this offers more inclusion for all kinds of people and deconstructs patriarchy.
There are many reasons why people may drink. It is normalized and integrated in our culture and society: look at movies, TV, photos of people on the Internet, social events that are not at bars. In the HBO TV Show, “Sex and the City”, the characters drink in almost every episode at various times of the day, they get wasted, and get hangovers. People may drink because it is sociable, it makes them feel better and more human, and it is a way to celebrate an event, or mourn something. The list can go on. Some people are unfortunate to develop addiction to alcohol and people who have parents or addiction in their family have a higher chance of developing alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction:
Many scientific studies, including research conducted among twins and children of alcoholics, have shown that genetic factors influence alcoholism. These findings show that children of alcoholics are about four times more likely than the general population to develop alcohol problems. Children of alcoholics also have a higher risk for many other behavioral and emotional problems (http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/FamilyHistory/famhist.htm).
Of course, not every child of alcoholics becomes addicted, either.
To define addiction (specifically to alcohol), according to the Mayo Clinic:
Alcoholism is a chronic disease that makes your body dependent on alcohol. You may be obsessed with alcohol and unable to control how much you drink, even though your drinking is causing serious problems with your relationships, health, work and finances.
It's possible to have a problem with alcohol, but not display all the characteristics of alcoholism. This is known as "alcohol abuse," which means you engage in excessive drinking that causes health or social problems, but you aren't dependent on alcohol and haven't fully lost control over the use of alcohol (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcoholism/DS00340).
People also can still have fairly structured lives. Alcoholics can still have homes, families, jobs, and live their lives. Alcoholics also can stay sober for many, many years and die sober, some alcoholics are acting alcoholics, which means they are currently drinking, some alcoholics are sober for a while and have a relapse and may or may not get sober again.
All kinds of people identify as alcoholics and it is not just the “homeless man by the river” or “who lives in the shelter.” It can be anyone of any age, from any family, any social class, any race, any gender, any sexuality, any able-bodied or disability, any job situation, any education level, etc. As I said, some people can have fairly structured lives and have a PhD and a decent job. Some people may be homeless. Some people lose everything, some people don’t. The range of experiences of alcoholics is so large; there is never one global experience. People don’t have to hit “rock bottom” to stop. People may lose everything and not be able to stop and some may not have even had any legal issues from alcohol and choose to stop.
Alcohol is a drug
Alcohol is legal drug in the United States (as it is most countries). This does not take away the fact that it is harmful and a drug. Just because it is legal, it is still is a drug, still addictive, mind-altering, and is abused everyday.
Alcohol is a drug and is “the most commonly used and widely abused psychoactive drug in the world. Alcohol kills 6½ times more youth than all other illicit drugs combined. Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among young people.” (http://www.gdcada.org/statistics/alcohol.htm).
Alcohol is a drug because
Yes, alcohol is a drug. Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream where it is carried to the rest of the body. Alcohol acts as a depressant and because it is a drug and a depressant it can damage your body and mind (http://www.ncabc.com/education/middleSchool/isAlcoholADrug.aspx).
Alcohol can affect:
Heart/cardiovascular system – alcohol causes small blood vessels beneath the skin to open wider. The widening of blood vessels causes heat loss and drops in body temperature, which can lead to hypothermia. Additionally, alcohol causes dizziness, headaches, trembling and increases your heart rate.
Brain – alcohol depresses the central nervous system. It causes depression, poor coordination and balance, lack of concentration, reduced reflexes, vision, reason and judgment.
Stomach/intestines – There is an increase in the acid in the stomach, which leads to irritation of the stomach and intestinal walls, stomach aches, diarrhea and vomiting.
Green facts has some amazing information on alcohol, for this I wanted to quote:
Social effects are for instance those that affect the behavior of individuals, or how they interact with others. Although mainly health effects of alcohol are discussed here, it is important to note that social harm has a major impact on well-being, even if it cannot be easily quantified.
Health effects of alcohol have been observed in nearly every organ of the body. Indeed alcohol consumption has been linked to more than 60 diseases.
The effects of alcohol on health and well-being can manifest themselves as chronic disease, accidents and injuries, as well as short-term and long-term social consequences. Both the amount of alcohol consumed and the pattern of drinking determine whether there will be:
* biochemical effects on cells and organs in the body,
* intoxication, and/or
* alcohol dependence.
Biochemical effects of moderate consumption can be beneficial, such as protection against coronary heart disease, but more usually harmful, leading for instance to damage to the pancreas.
Intoxication is strongly linked to accidents, injuries, deaths, domestic conflict and violence.
Alcohol dependence is a powerful mechanism that sustains alcohol consumption and its short-term and long-term consequences.
Some diseases, such as alcohol dependence, are clearly fully attributable to alcohol. Others, such as cirrhosis of the liver are mainly attributable to alcohol, while others, such as breast cancer, are only partly attributable to alcohol. The extent to which alcohol contributes to a disease is expressed in “alcohol attributable fractions” (AAFs). In a similar way, it is possible to establish the AAF for road traffic accidents, based on the alcohol concentration in the driver’s blood (http://www.greenfacts.org/en/alcohol/l-2/04-health-effects-alcohol.htm#0).
For this section, I explain mostly the definitions of the terms I am using, as well as what alcohol is, how it is a drug, and the effects it can have on a body and health. I felt this was a good way to start so readers can understand where I am coming from and how terminology is being used.
How alcohol is patriarchal and is a feminist issue
There are several components of alcohol that make it patriarchal. A political and feminist move would be to critique, just as we would with sexist ads or how womyn are not in the Senate as much as men, for example. (and speaking, strictly political, past addiction and dependency, part of my political move as a feminist is to not drink. My argument, for the sake of this paper, is going to separate the political from the actually recovery and addiction).
The first aspect I will look at is advertisements. Most advertisements for alcohol are sexist, patriarchal and misogynist. They usually put a certain light on womyn (these ads are cisgender womyn, I did not find other gender identities seen in the same light) as being objects and put them into certain gender roles. The following links are examples:
Here is one for Bacardi:
And Skyy Vodka:
The womyn is this ad is below/underneath the man (as she is in a patriarchal society) and the way she is looking with her glasses tilted could mean she is looking at the phallus bottle of alcohol or the man’s genital area. He has a bulge in that area, so it could be an erection. This ad almost simulates a rape scene because he is OVER her and she is to be in submission to him.
Here’s one for a ready-to-drink cocktail, DJ Trotters:
In fact, here is a blog that has a post called “20 Ridiculously Sexy Alcohol Ads from Yesteryear”
Every advertisement objectifies a womyn (or more than one). She is an object; an object for the male gaze. They also all look like models, the way a womyn “should” look (and of course not every womyn looks this way) and this pushes onto society what is “desirable” in a womyn. Add in beer and apparently, it’s the best thing a cisgender man could want. These ads also perpetuate stereotypes of cisgender men: they are supposed to like womyn like this, they are supposed to objectify womyn, they are supposed to drink alcohol, and throw in some alcohol and the womyn will be wanting to fuck every man in site. These ads show how inhibitions go down, consent becomes blurred, and sex is only happening as a result of drinking alcohol.
Music videos, alcohol, and sexism
A video/song by Toby Keith called “I Love This Bar”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Fulz4ytZ54
This video glorifies alcohol and how fun this type of lifestyle is. The lyrics of this song objectify womyn:
I've seen short skirts, we got high-techs
Blue-collar boys and rednecks
And we got lovers, lots of lookers
And I've even seen dancing girls and hookers
And we like to drink our beer from a mason jar
Additionally, according to a website for youth womyn of color:
Much of the music and many videos specifically transmit, promote, and perpetuate negative images of black women. All women, but mostly black women in particular are seen in popular hip-hop culture as sex objects. Almost every hip-hop video that is regularly run today shows many dancing women (usually surrounding one or two men) wearing not much more than bikinis, with the cameras focusing on their body parts. These images are shown to go along with a lot of the explicit lyrics that commonly contain name calling to suggest that women are not worth anything more than money, if that. Women are described as being only good for sexual relations by rappers who describe their life as being that of a pimp. In many popular rap songs men glorify the life of pimps, refer to all women as they think a pimp would to a prostitute, and promote violence against women for 'disobeying.' (http://ealert.mysistahs.org/features/hiphop.htm)
The author later adds that this type of misogyny takes away from a black man’s pain. Being most of these hip hop artists are black, they are oppressed in our racist society. Videos of such nature only perpetuate misogyny and limits black men’s expressions.
These videos and music perpetuate the same thing that I explained in the advertisements.
Sex, Rape Culture, and Alcohol
While I believe that the advertisements could tie into this sections, as well. I want to provide statistics in regard to unprotected sex, rape, and sexual assault:
Young people may be less responsible about safer sex. Experts say that, every year, about 400,000 college students have unprotected sex while under the influence of alcohol. More than 70,000 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of sexual assault or date rape, usually alcohol-related. And, more than 100,000 students are too intoxicated to know, later, whether or not they consented to sexual intercourse. A study at Harvard University reported that almost one in 20 (five percent) college women reported being raped; almost three-fourths (72 percent) were raped while they were intoxicated (http://ealert.mysistahs.org/features/alcohol.htm#references).
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime:
Another factor in the reluctance of the criminal justice system to pursue acquaintance rape cases is that alcohol is often involved. One study found that 75 percent (75%) of the males and 50 percent (50%) of the females involved in college campus acquaintance rapes had been drinking when the sexual assault occurred (Bohmer & Parrot, 1993). Social standards condemn individuals for getting drunk and place blame on them when they are raped while drinking any alcohol, regardless of whether they were intoxicated at the time of the assault. In reality, whether the victim is drinking or not, the simple act of saying "no" means just that no consent has been given. If the victim is intoxicated, then there can be no capacity to consent. However, the voluntary intoxication of an offender cannot be used as a legal defense for committing the crime of sexual assault (http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32306).
Alcohol is also a date rape drug, according to Crisis Connection, a womyn’s shelter in Indiana:
Alcohol is the #1 date rape drug. Alcohol is the perfect drug for a rapist because it is generally accepted by society as an ‘excuse’ for unacceptable behavior. Many times, the victim is already willfully consuming alcohol. Alcohol causes many of the same symptoms other date rape drugs do, including: unconsciousness and memory impairment. These are two things a rapist is looking for. A late craze is to add high ‘proof’ alcohol to high content caffeine sodas to up the ante (http://www.crisisconnectioninc.org/sexualassault/drugrape.htm).
Alcohol is used to lower inhibitions in other people so they will have sex. In a patriarchal and sexist culture, alcohol perpetuates rape culture, and blurred boundaries of consent. Inhibitions are lower with alcohol intake, which can lead to riskier choices such as unprotected sex, rape, blurred consent, and other unconsensual behaviors. Consent may not be clear which can lead to sex when it may not have been wanted (which would be rape or assault), unwanted pregnancies, STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), and/or HIV.
How is this a feminist issue? A huge part of feminism is supporting survivors of rape, creating spaces that deal with rape and sexual assault, and preventing rape. Feminists have taken on tasks like, supporting domestic violence and sexual assault centers, as well as starting events like Take Back the Night all over the world (http://www.takebackthenight.org/).
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, alcohol abuse IS tied to domestic violence. Not only do the perpetrators have an alcohol abuse problem, but abuse can also lead to the survivor abusing alcohol as well. They have a higher chance as opposed to someone who is not in that situation. Children of parents, who are alcohol abusers, also have a higher chance of being in an emotional or physically abusive relationship later in life. Alcohol abuse is a leading cause in domestic violence cases. An incident involving alcohol usually ends in a worse case of injury. A survey of public child welfare agencies conducted by the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse found that as many as 80% of child abuse cases are associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs (http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:2JTsl8LzWcQJ:www.fivecountymha.org/Doctor%2520Is%2520In/Oct%25209%2520PEarnhart/substanceabuseanddomesticviolence.pdf+domestic+violence+and+alcohol+link&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgSROPAeVpK1bGcMN28VmBAQM_9-D7mI_QNUQq9kC1jXBgKrMAtGRBIOdSdKCQ033FFljq7zBBIi9xN_U8wsg2HACS3rYmb_Hbg8cne-00NOgCRocrDiv9R4ma5XOBOzAWW_kBp&sig=AHIEtbQ5xq4O7BiuMUz7zyasoPLuLXhJYA).
Here is another report on the link of substance abuse and domestic violence:
How is this a feminist issue? As I stated above in the Sex, Rape Culture, and Alcohol section, it is because womyn are likely to be abused more than cisgender men (http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims) and there are not many statistics on trans violence, in regard to who is violent to trans people, however I found this statistic of how many were killed each month in 2009 which was 19: http://unfinishedlivesblog.com/2009/11/13/19-transgender-murders-per-month-in-2009-to-be-remembered-at-tdor/. While these statistics did not explain whether alcohol was involved or not, this does not of course, make it less worthy of our time and energy. Feminists are concerned with domestic violence for that reason and many more. Domestic violence can, unfortunately, happen to anyone. The fact that alcohol is often associated with it makes this a feminist issue even more.
Capitalism, Consumerism, and Money
Capitalism and consumerism IS a feminist issue? Why? Well, I actually thought of a poster I have hanging in a few spots in my apartment:
“They mutilate wimmin and then sell their emaciated image to us. So that wimmin forever hate themselves, and men forever lust for an object that doesn’t even exist. The end result is domestic violence, low self-esteem, billions of dollars spent every year on cosmetics and cosmetic surgery, an epidemic of often deadly eating disorders, and a desperate desire to maintain an appearance, invented in the minds of wealthy men, that isn’t natural or even humynly possible! Why? So they can make their bloody dollar and reinforce their omnipresent control over wimmin and men.” http://zinelibrary.info/burn-idols-false-beauty
Look at advertising: girls are advertised to buy “girl” toys such as dolls and kitchen sets, where as boys are advertised to buy “boy” toys such as trucks and action figures. Womyn are urged to look a certain way with makeup and large breasts, while men are supposed to “desire” that (look at the ads I posted above). Even the ads with Budweiser with the talking lizards and frogs, years ago – children knew these characters, just as Joe Camel from cigarettes ads (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5y8XT0xraN0, http://www.manalais.com.br/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/joe_camel.jpg). I remember people were infuriated with Joe Camel, which is one reason why advertising for tobacco stopped – so what about alcohol? Why is that not discussed the same way?
Okay, so … ?
First, what is capitalism? Capitalism is our society now – an economic and social system in which the means of production is privately controlled by companies, corporations, etc and people exchange their labor for money to survive, trade their money for products that are produced by capitalism, etc
Next, what is consumerism? Consumerism is the act of purchasing some type of material good that has been advertised to us in various ways that equate with happiness and even need. Look at advertisements on TV, print, billboards – what are they telling you to buy? Of course, in this world, most of us need to buy food to eat, but this is still consuming.
So how does this connect to feminism and alcohol?
Because we need to participate in consumerism AND capitalism to drink it, use it, go to the bar to drink, go to the liquor store to purchase, etc … Of course, we can make ourselves feel better by creating the alcohol ourselves. But we are still consuming the products to do that. And of course, we can buy it locally: local bars and pubs, local breweries, etc … but as I stated above, there are still implications on one’s physical and mental health. Basically that is just “better” consumption (as it is with pretty much any other product). Is that what we want? And if so, why?
Why critique consumerism and capitalism? How does this connect to feminism?
Consumerism and capitalism are the reasons why the Earth is becoming destroyed, why people are exploited all over the world, why there is poverty and social service programs, and why corporations executive officers and board members make WAY more than the rest of the population. According to G. William Domhoff and his work on Who Rules America?:
As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). (http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html).
Basically the richest people in the USA own most of the wealth, leaving the rest at 15% to the rest of America. To make clear, wealth is the value of everything someone owns, minus the debts. While, income is the money that people earn through jobs, royalties, interests, etc.
The way the West lives is NOT a sustainable way to live. According to the U.S. Information Administration:
In 2007, world total primary, marketed energy consumption was 483.597 Quadrillion Btu while the United States primary energy consumption was 101.554 Quadrillion Btu, about 21% of the world total (http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/ask/generalenergy_faqs.asp).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau:
There are 308,228,888 people living in the United States and the total world population is 6,792,351,310. The USA population makes up 4.5% of the world’s population, approximately. So, 4.5% of the world’s population uses up 21% of the world’s energy (http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html).
The products used to make alcohol are also products people can eat. Alcohol is made from barley, sugar care, grains, potatoes, beets, grapes, and much more. If we are using food to make alcohol that people can eat, then why are we drinking if people are starving everyday? (just like ethanol for gas!) … isn’t that a question to ask? And how many people do not have access to food? According to an article in 2006 posted on commondreams.org:
More than 852 million people -- about 13 percent of the world population -- do not have enough food each day to sustain a healthy life, according to the Rome-based Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/1020-01.htm).
Most of these issues go beyond feminism. However, environmental issues usually have a bigger impact on womyn (and female-bodied people), specifically poor and womyn of color. Here are some links to read about it more. (http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/48243/story.htm, http://www.womenshealth.gov/FAQ/environment-womens-health.cfm, http://www.oppapers.com/essays/Globalization-Maquiladoras-Their-Negative-Impact-Upon/159998, http://www.womenshealthandenvironment.org/).
I also want to mention the link of the crops that are grown for alcohol and how that may impact the earth. While I could not find a whole lot about this, I am sure it is a growing issue. Here is a very ridiculous article about the “worst effects of global warming” – FUCK! No beer? (Puke): http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/04/effects-of-global-warming-beer-shortage.php. However, this article does make reference to shortage of hops (used to make beer).
I am using this information to make connections of how alcohol is a feminist issue by explaining how it is tied to consumerism and capitalism, as well as environmental issues. I also explained how feminism is tied to consumerism with the way it advertises the specific gender roles people ought to follow, to buy stuff that we do not need, etc.
Look at we have now, do we actually NEED the stuff we have. I know I don’t. I also know this way of living is NOT sustainable and it is not the way that everyone can live. I certainly think twice when I buy something that I really don’t need. I am aware of the choices I make as a consumer in a capitalist society, while understanding that that probably is not going to do a whole lot (like, buying organic is not a world-saving endeavor. We need to really look at our personal part of pollution – like why do we drive as much as we do?, etc).
However, fixing capitalism is not going to help it, either. I demand a different world and try to find ways to deconstruct and criticize the one that way we now (there is where schools of other feminisms come in such as anarcha-feminism, socialist feminism, Marxist feminism, etc). Here is a wonderful website to look about alcohol companies and different organizations that try to combat their impacts: http://www.corporationsandhealth.org/info_alcohol.php
Alcohol corporations also own most of the land, mills, and grain silos that are used to grow the products made for alcohol and to transport. In a book called Culture works: the political economy of culture by Richard Maxwell, there are several chapters divided by certain aspects of our culture and society. One chapter called, “Beer” by Ben Scott focuses on how much beer is embedded in our culture and society. For example, Anheuser-Busch Company is not just a brewer. It is a parent company and has “over thirteen subsidiaries that handle everything from agriculture, brewing, and packaging to marketing, investing and entertainment” (Scott, 2001, p. 62).
Anheuser-Busch cans bottles, packages, prints, and labels its beer. “Transportation to and from brewery is handled by Manufacturers Railway Corporation and the St. Louis Refrigerator Car Company, both owned and operated by Anheuser-Busch. Anheuser-Busch’s recycling subsidiary even handles the production after consumption” (Scott, 2001, p. 63).
What does all of this mean? It means that the corporation, an alcohol corporation, Anheuser-Busch, owns everything that is associated with its products (and its products are alcohol), even recycling! As stated and cited above, it has ties to everything that handles any part of anything that handles its products. Why do other companies not handle anything else such as the production and agriculture? Why does Anheuser-Busch have a monopoly on absolutely everything associated with its products?
I have also seen billboards where they throw in “Thanks for being the designated driver.” Can we assume that the alcohol corporation really gives a shit that people are designated drivers? Probably not, if they really cared, they would probably stop making a legal drug that kills people everyday, causes serious health issues, mental health problems, and continues the cycle of addiction and preventable deaths.
Destroys Families and Lives
Everyone knows that alcohol kills people everyday and mostly through drunk driving accidents. What about all the diseases linked to alcohol? Other deaths directly associated with drinking? According to the Century Council:
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 37,261 people died in traffic crashes in 2008 in the United States (latest figures available), including an estimated 11,773 people who were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal BAC (.08 or greater) (http://www.centurycouncil.org/learn-the-facts/drunk-driving-stats).
And according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving:
On average someone is killed by a drunk driver every 45 minutes. In 2008, an estimated 11,773 people died in drunk driving related crashes—a decline of 9.8 percent from the 13,041 drunk driving related fatalities of 2007 (http://www.madd.org/Professionals/Mental-Health/Statistics.aspx).
Some of the issues I mention above (under Definitions and Alcohol is a Drug) can also tie under this category. According to the World Health Organization (which obviously has issues in itself):
Worldwide alcohol causes 1.8 million deaths (3.2% of total) and 58.3 million (4% of total) of Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). Unintentional injuries alone account for about one third of the 1.8 million deaths, while neuro-psychiatric conditions account for close to 40% of the 58.3 million DALYs. The burden is not equally distributed among the countries, check out the map at this site: http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/alcohol/en/index.html.
(from Green Facts: Damage to human life is often described in terms of loss of “disability-adjusted life years” (DALYs). This measure takes into account the number of years lost due to premature deaths as well as the years spent living with disability – source noted below).
According to Green Facts:
About 2 billion people worldwide consume alcoholic drinks, which can have immediate and long-term consequences on health and social life. Over 76 million people are currently affected by alcohol use disorders, such as alcohol dependence and abuse. Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed and the pattern of drinking, alcohol consumption can lead to drunkenness and alcohol dependence. It can result in disablement or death from accidents or contribute to depression and suicide. Moreover, it can cause chronic illnesses such as cancer and liver disease in those who drink heavily for many years.
Alcohol causes 1.8 million deaths a year, which represents 3.2% of all deaths worldwide. Unintentional injuries account for about a third of the deaths from alcohol. Alcohol is the third most common cause of death in developed countries. In the limited number of developing countries where overall mortality is low, alcohol is the leading cause of illness and disease (http://www.greenfacts.org/en/alcohol/l-2/01-number-people-affected.htm#0). This website also has a lot more information that is applicable to this paper.
Alcohol and drunk driving also put people in jail, which can lead to their children getting taken away, losing their jobs, costing money, etc, etc. As I stated above, alcoholic behaviors can get passed to children of the family. People sometimes drive intoxicated with their children, care for their children while intoxicated, and drink around their children. This may be scary or can affect children one way or another.
Racism, Colonialism, and Imperialism
Some feminists are aware of racism in society, the fact that it exists and something that needs to be addressed. Just as with any community, racism needs to be deconstructed and dealt with. The mainstream feminist movement is tailored more for white and middle to upper class feminists. This is one reason why black feminism, Latina feminism, womanism, and other types of feminism emerged. (Not to mention other feminisms that deal with transgender issues, queer issues, class issues, etc).
Most people are aware of the ties that alcohol has with colonialism and imperialism, for example, when white people came and took the land from the indigenous people, alcohol was involved.
The following link is a how alcohol was used against indigenous people:
According to the Corporations and Health Watch:
As with tobacco, a great deal of alcohol advertising is targeted at women, African-Americans and Latinos, gay and lesbian people, and youth, contributing to the health disparities these populations experience (http://www.corporationsandhealth.org/info_alcohol.php).
This same organization also stated:
Further, a recent study (http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/96/2/325) by the University of Michigan's Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health demonstrated a grater prevalence of liquor stores in poorer and minority urban neighborhoods than in wealthier, white areas. This may increase the likelihood of minority youth drinking
During the slave trade, rum (alcohol) was a HUGE part of it. The triangle of trade was the route that was used during the slaved trade. The route was an outward passage from Europe to Africa, Africa to Caribbean and finally back to Europe. Rum was part of the “commodities” that were traded (http://www.nmm.ac.uk/freedom/viewTheme.cfm/theme/triangular).
The history of alcohol has ties to imperialism, racism, and colonialism, as stated above and many numerous sources I am sure, that I could not list. Not only does it have the historical ties, but also the current ties now. Especially with the alcohol advertising and as I mentioned earlier, the liquor stores that are built in poor and of color neighborhoods, as opposed to white, upper class neighborhoods.
First, I want to recommend a zine by Crimethinc called Anarchy & Alcohol http://www.crimethinc.com/tools/downloads/zines.html, scroll down and one can download it for free and here is a link to the old version: http://zinelibrary.info/wasted-indeed. Both are equally awesome and I highly suggest them. They discuss several of the issues that I do. I also want to suggest the links I cite above. And the following brochure: www.hesperian.info/assets/WHX/WHX_9.pdf or do an Internet search for “Zapatistas banning alcohol” and look for the “Women’s Health Network”. This brochure discusses that the Zapatistas in Mexico ban alcohol as a way of resistance. To learn more about the Zapatistas, please check out the following links: (http://libcom.org/history/zapata-emiliano-1879-1919, http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=211108422793632049&ei=jUY4SpmNBIrgrgLWoLHrDw&q=zapatistas&hl=en#).
I made several connections to several different things with feminism and alcohol. To me, feminism covers several aspects of lives and society and I tried to tie each issue I bring up back to feminism. I also wanted to make sure readers understood how and why alcohol is a drug,
What can someone do? Don’t participate! A political and feminist move for me was to stop drinking. I have already made choices in my life that I believe can be political (veganism, bicycle commuting, single/queer/feminist mothering, crafty/maker of things, mental health projects like the Icarus Project, etc) that the next act for me (besides my addiction and recovery) was to stop drinking. Since I have a clear understanding of the connections of alcohol to many of the things I am against such as rape culture, domestic violence (while being a rape and abuse survivor myself), consumerism, capitalism, racism, declining health, preventable deaths and injuries, and so on, than why would I participate?
If we can critique the food we eat because it is not organic or fair-traded, or the tobacco companies for advertising, then why can’t we critique alcohol with the same mindset? We are aware of the impacts non-organic foods can have on the earth and our health, then why not look at alcohol the same way?
Lastly, I also want to suggest schooling oneself on what alcoholism and addiction are. There are several resources for that. I have watched “Intervention” for free on hulu.com, borrowed the show, “Addiction” on DVD, and read articles in psychology journals about it. Most people have a hard time understanding what addiction actually is. It is a disease (just like my asthma or someone’s cancer) and needs to be treated that way. Often people don’t get the treatment they need for their disease of addiction and die. Sometimes people don’t have insurance that covers treatment for their addictions and are treated as though they are failures for their disease. This reminds me of a billboard I saw once, it said, “If it was cancer, you wouldn’t say ‘get over it.’ ”. And the billboard was referring to depression. Think of alcoholism the same way. If someone is an alcoholic, it does not necessarily mean they are an acting alcoholic and people can live a clean and sober life for many, many years as an alcoholic. Luckily, there are resources out there to help. Support someone with addiction – they are people just as anyone else, they are people with a disease like heart disease, asthma, etc.
So, if you or you know someone may have an issue with alcohol (or other drugs), there is help. Keeping political aside on this one, I have been living sober for several months. Speaking from personal experience, it is possible and it is a wonderful experience.