Drinking is a feminist issue?

Useful facts to know and tell, from a critique of the Obama Administration’s stated positions (or lack of them) about drugs and crime:

The discussion of violence against women doesn’t mention alcohol, for example. Yet the relationship between the price of alcohol and the rate of assault, including spousal assault, is well-documented in the literature. Doubling the tax on beer (from a dime to twenty cents a can) would reduce the assault rate by at least 5%, and maybe as much as 20%.

(Full critique here.)

Carry Nation and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union‘s campaigns against alcohol are often regarded in the light of a big joke.  But let’s remember that their purpose was to protect women and children against the depredations of drunken breadwinners, and that there’s still plenty of need for that protection, however we choose to organize it.


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5 Responses to “Drinking is a feminist issue?”

  1. Tony Adams Says:

    I’ve seen the arguments that increased taxation of alcohol would lead to lower rates of domestic abuse and sexual assaults.

    One thing this always has me question though, is the insinuation that it is only an issue for lower income women. Maybe I’m not seeing it in the same light, but adding 10 cents tax to a can of beer will only affect lower income alcohol consumers. But violence does not only effect lower income women.

    Is there a danger to trying too hard to link abuse to alcohol consumption? Not that there are not dangers and messes that coincide with alcohol abuse, nor am I trying to excuse it. But does that line of reasoning hide the systematic and socially ingrained problems of group violence and/or domestic violence?

    Notwithstanding the very real issues that coincide with alcohol abuse, I wonder if too much advocacy is wasted in segmenting the problem into easy scapegoats, thus allowing us to avoid a long overdue, deep look into our societal mirror as it were? People don’t burn their leaves anymore because it is socially unacceptable; but women of all economic situations are still victims of violence every day.

    Would fighting for increased taxation of alcohol be a good starting point, or a way to essentially do ones part while looking away from the greater issues as a whole?

    • Nonprofiteer Says:

      I don’t disagree that the problem of domestic violence goes deeper than alcohol. But the research (on assaults of all kinds, not just domestic assaults) seems to demonstrate that people become more violent when they’ve been drinking, and classical economics (and our regularly-scheduled crises over the price of gas) demonstrate that people use less of things that cost more. The impact of price increases are greater on the poor than on the wealthy, but they’re not zero: I’m financially comfortable but when cigarettes hit $2 a pack, that was when I gave up smoking. (And apropros your “burning leaves” analogy: cigarette smoking has become socially unacceptable partly through vigorous public education, and partly through a program of aggressive taxation. Weirdly, or rather through a mechanism I don’t understand, rich people gave up smoking faster than poor people despite the minimal consequence to the rich of paying an extra nickel/dollar a pack.) One of the advantages of having had alcohol taxes so low for so long is that consumers have a notion of what alcohol “should” cost, and when the price goes up for any reason a certain number of those consumers will reduce their consumption.

      But if the posting suggested that I thought this was a cure-all, that was my mistake: certainly the roots of domestic violence are deeper and wider than alcohol, and I hope not to make the mistake of the Prohibitionists who thought if they could just eradicate demon rum we’d all be living in paradise. This suggestion, like most of my social change prescriptions, is a nibble-around-the-edge idea–a way to reduce a problem while we’re figuring out how to solve it.

  2. Tony Adams Says:

    I’ll admit, I’m probably preaching to the choir a bit.

    I think your smoking analogy is very astute. I guess my follow-up would be: taxation has played a part in reducing rates of adult smokers, down to about 25% in the last study I read.

    What it has also done is move people’s smoking habits into their homes and out of public view. Public drunkenness is very much frowned upon, but is mostly socially acceptable in sanctioned areas (bars, wrigley field etc.) and the home. We are okay with smoking rates going down to 25%, which has seemed fairly stable, as long as we don’t see it. Are we as a society okay with the rates of violence remaining stable?

    Out of the public view is where the bulk of domestic violence already occurs. Do we as a society actively look away because of/in spite of this?

    Granted, tobacco and booze companies have far better marketing and lobbying forces than wife-beaters do. . . But, what would happen if the resources poured into the anti-smoking campaigns or campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption which permeate our public consciousness, were instead poured into anti-violence programs?


    Is there a better way to . . . actually see the levels of violence omnipresent in our society? If so I think we’d be forced to confront our ability to look the other way when faced with brutality. If one couldn’t simply shut the door and ignore it–like we unfortunately tend to do with violence–I would have to hope that things would change for the better.

    Not to argue for a lassiez-faire repeal of sin taxes, but what would happen if the resources poured into the anti-smoking campaigns or campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption were instead poured into anti-violence programs? Even if only to help nudge folks into seeing it?

  3. Nonprofiteer Says:

    I hope it’s not an either-or proposition–that is, that some of the money from the stimulus package goes into anti-violence (as well as anti-smoking and anti-drinking) efforts, while some of the money to pay for the selfsame stimulus package comes from tobacco and alcohol taxes. If I could think of a way to tax violence, I’d do that, too! But it seems that the difference in our approaches is that you have more faith in the power of education to change people’s behavior than I do (I can hardly believe I just wrote that). People are less violent when they’re sober; they stay more sober when alcohol is expensive; therefore I want to make alcohol more expensive. If they still think violence is the way to solve problems, that’s a shame; but as long as I’ve made them incapable of acting on those thoughts (or at least less likely to act on them) I don’t really care if they disagree with me about morality.

  4. Tony Adams Says:

    I don’t know if I have more faith in education or less faith in taxation/legislation to enact change.

    Though, if there were a way to tax violence a lot of cities budgets would be looking much better. Surprised out mayor hasn’t tried that yet.

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