Smith, T. L., Zufferey, C., Bilic, S., & Loeser, C. (2021). Questioning policy representations of women’s alcohol consumption: Implications for social work. Qualitative Social Work. https://doi.org/10.1177/14733250211025086
This study draws on Carol Bacchi’s What’s the problem represented to be? (WPR) framework, to deconstruct policy discourses of women’s alcohol consumption. It examines Australian policies such as in the National Alcohol Strategy (2019–2028) and Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol (NHMRC, 2009, 2020). It found that policy discourses particularly focus on the effects of women’s alcohol consumption as ‘harms’ to unborn children, by emphasising women’s assumed reproductive roles, such in pregnancy and when breastfeeding. Social policy tends to reproduce medicalising and normative gendered discourses about women’s alcohol consumption, with disempowering effects on women. This discourse analysis of drug and alcohol policies can contribute to broadening how social workers understand policy representations and the effects of policy discourses on women. The disciplinary power of the medicalisation and acceptable/unacceptable categorisation of women’s alcohol consumption means that women can internalise shame and stigma, which is often an obstacle for women attempting to seek assistance. More research is needed about how social workers can co-design policies and research projects with women of diverse sexualities and cultural backgrounds who have been subjugated by these policy discourses.
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