13 Jun 2023

3 Mar 2023

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Gender, social class and contemporary (non)drinking practices in Australia seminar

Gender, social class and contemporary (non)drinking practices in Australia 

Tuesday 28th March 7-8pm Eastern Australian Time / 9-10am British Summer Time  (online)

The Sobriety, Abstinence and Moderation Cluster and Women and Alcohol Cluster invite you to join us for an online seminar exploring themes of gender, social class and contemporary (non)drinking practices with a particular focus on the Australian context:





Amy Pennay (Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, La Trobe University Australia)

A cross-national qualitative analysis of gender amidst declining youth drinking

Significant declines in drinking among young people have been recorded in many high-income countries over the past 20 years. This analysis aimed to provide insight into whether and how gender might be implicated in declining youth drinking, with a focus on women’s data. Interview data from four independent qualitative studies from Australia, Denmark, Sweden and the UK were analysed. We found that women and states of intoxication were pejoratively described in gendered terms (e.g., bitchy, hysterical). Non- and light-drinking on the other hand offered opportunities for expressing alternate and desirable configurations of femininities. Our findings offer insight into how young people’s enactions of gender are embedded in, and evolve alongside, these large declines in youth drinking.


Belinda Lunnay (Research Centre for Public Health Equity and Human Flourishing, Torrens University Australia)

“Glorified cordial”: How social class distinctions are re-made through women’s perspectives on no and low alcohol product consumption

Women’s alcohol consumption during midlife (aged 45-64) is continually increasing and poses threats to disease prevention. Public health approaches designed to curb consumption are not taking effect. We looked to innovate responses by observing the momentum of the ‘sober curious’ wellness movement among younger populations and we wondered what factors impact women’s preparedness to reduce alcohol and can the sober curious movement be leveraged to support women with making alcohol reductions? Globally, ‘sober curious’ movements are rapidly gaining popularity. They promote sustained reduced drinking lifestyles as socially desirable. An important scaffolding to the movement is a rapidly growing range of no- or low-alcohol (NoLo) products now available in bars, bottle shops and supermarkets. Our research explored women’s perceptions about consuming NoLos in accordance with their different life chances and reasons for drinking. I will share data collected through 27 open-ended interviews with ‘sober-curious’ Australian women (45-64 years) from different social class positions (working vs middle/affluent) in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Applying Bourdieu’s relational model of social class, we found NoLos provide middle/affluent women with an alcohol alternative that supports reductions. These women described drinking as a celebration and to achieve social connections, and how in these contexts, NoLos have social value. They represent ‘wellness’ and are a positive and desirable ‘good’, albeit without psychoactive effects. NoLos are also highly commodified products that we found operate as symbolic capital, conferring status and privilege upon middle/affluent class women who have the cultural ‘know how’ to select particular brands, to purchase and to drink them. On the other hand, working class women, who drink to cope with difficult lives and to relieve boredom, stress or loneliness, questioned the advantages of drinking NoLos - “I would just drink water” (one working class woman said) rather than “glorified cordial” (one affluent class woman’s description of NoLos). We found NoLos are unaffordable, and not worthwhile for this group – they are no help with feelings of coping, nor are there gains to be made in terms of recognition of cultural capital and social class mobility. For this group alternative features of the sober curious movement need to be explored for leverage potential in supporting women to reduce alcohol. I will discuss options.

Kristen Foley (Torrens University Australia)

Social class and the actualities of self-making via alcohol consumption, stockpiling, happiness and wellness during the 2020 crisis lockdowns for Australian women in midlife

COVID-19 lockdowns to mitigate viral spread during 2020 confined people to their homes for reasons except ‘essential services’ – which in Australia included to purchase alcohol. Before the pandemic, we interviewed 50 women 2017-2019 about alcohol consumption, and 40 agreed to reinterview during 2020 lockdowns (n=90 interviews). Women were aged 45-64 and represented different social class positions informed by Bourdieusian logic. Data analysis used pre-coding, conceptual/thematic categorisation, and theoretical interpretation. This presentation collates our published work by theme – alcohol consumption and reduction, stockpiling, happiness and wellness – in relation to social class and the actualities for consuming alcohol as part of ‘self-making’. During the pandemic, women in middle class positions worked dutifully to pursue happiness and stay well, stockpiling the most alcohol of women in all classes. Women in working class positions described that drinking provided emotional relief in lieu of happiness and was one of few ‘tools’ that kept them ‘well’, although limited economic capital precluded stockpiling. Women in affluent class positions had well-stocked cellars before the pandemic emerged, so needed to stockpile less, but their narratives indicated they could access alternatives to alcohol consumption to pursue wellness and happiness. Relationships to alcohol therefore took form according to cultural and neoliberal imperatives to ‘make selves’ that are well and happy despite pandemic uncertainty; yet the opportunities to do so segmented commensurate to the capital available to women. Approaches that seek to support women with alcohol reduction must consider these important social class-based differences in women’s self-making and the alternatives to alcohol women can access.


Discussant: Filip Djordjevic (La Trobe University Australia)


Please contact emily.nicholls@york.ac.uk if you have any queries or require the Zoom link. 


22 Feb 2023

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CFP: Women and Alcohol.Crossing Boundaries conference

The women and alcohol project team are excited to announce a conference workshop on women and alcohol as part of the ‘Between the drunken ‘mother of destruction’ and the sober ‘angel of the house’. Hidden representations of women’s drinking in Polish and British public discourses in the second half of the 19th century’ project’. Although the project focuses on 19th C culture, the workshop will cross chronological and disciplinary boundaries. 

This conference workshop will take place at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw on 25 and 26th July 2023. There will also be the opportunity to attend a special workshop by historian and psychiatrist, Dr Iain Smith, on finding and using medical sources on the afternoon of 24th July 2023. 

The conference workshop will be designed to encourage conversations across a range of academic and cultural boundaries (eg. geographical, disciplinary, linguistic, chronological, etc). Many of us in drinking studies are proud of the truly interdisciplinary nature of our field. There is a building consensus that the next step for our field is to increase international cooperation and cross more boundaries. We, as a team, have found it inspiring to work with colleagues across national and linguistic boundaries and we are aware of several other teams in drinking studies who have thrived for the same reason, so this conference workshop aims to support the development of that approach in drinking studies more widely. 
As such, this conference workshop is designed to encourage more discussion and networking than more traditional models. Attendees and speakers will therefore not be required to give the usual 20-minute papers but instead, we ask you to propose: 

themes for possible round-tables
hands-on mini workshops
stimulus talks (of no more than 7 minutes)
other interactive approaches (we are open to your ideas on this)

We will also invite you to be ready to join in the wide-ranging discussions in a range of interesting and stimulating ways so if you don’t want to bring something specific, you can join in the two days as an active audience member. Some sessions will involve walking tours and museum visits and talks.
At this stage, we would like expressions of interest to get an idea of who would like to attend. Please include any ideas for the sort of session you’d like to offer, or any questions at this stage but the first thing we need to know is who would like to come so we can get an idea of numbers and the range of research interests that might be involved. 

Please e-mail Dr Dorota Dias-Lewandowska and Dr Pam Lock on dsnwomencluster@gmail.com by Friday 30 March 2023. 

16 Feb 2023

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Women, Home, and Alcohol: Constructed Façades and Social Norms in Nineteenth-Century Polish and British Representations of Female Drinking Practices


Our first article, published in the Journal of Victorian Culture, is now available on their website. It is Open Access so everyone can read it: 

Dorota Dias-Lewandowska, Pam Lock, Women, Home, and Alcohol: Constructed Façades and Social Norms in Nineteenth-Century Polish and British Representations of Female Drinking Practices, Journal of Victorian Culture, 2023;, vcad004, https://doi.org/10.1093/jvcult/vcad004


Drinking practices are closely connected to human geography. No matter whether we choose to drink in public, private, or secretly, where we drink is closely connected to how and what we drink. Alcohol-related behaviour by women, enacted at home, can undermine or challenge social norms. However, the transgressive nature of drinking could lead to physical exile or the masking of women’s desire for self-determination. We explore how the social construct of the respectable, decent home relied heavily on façades to ‘keep up appearances’. We demonstrate the place of alcohol in building these façades, and revealing them for what they were. Alcohol in this context was much more than a simple relief for women whether they were a stressed entrepreneur, a violent spinster, or a suicidal mistress. The tensions between the actions of the eight figures examined and the expectations of patriarchal culture represented in these façades demonstrate the extent to which society shaped women’s behaviour towards alcohol in Poland and Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century.

14 Feb 2023

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Team meeting in Glasgow (2022)

Team meeting


1-5 August 2022 

The team behind the NCN funded project, ‘Between the drunken ‘mother of destruction’ and the sober ‘angel of the house’. Hidden representations of women’s drinking in Polish and British public discourses in the second half of the 19th century’ met for their first in-person team meeting in August 2022. We divided our time between discussing the project and working together in a number of archives.

The team meeting was divided into two parts. In the morning, we focussed on discussing the methodology we are developing and had a useful discussion with our mentor, psychiatrist Iain Smith, on medical approaches to women’s drinking in the 19th Century and beyond. In the afternoon, we invited a selection of local scholars from the DSN Women and Alcohol cluster to join us. This gave us the opportunity to share our progress on the project to date and to find out more about their ongoing and related work. These useful conversations were continued over drinks and dinner at the famous Ubiquitous Chip. We examined a range of sources from two archives while we were in Glasgow. We spent two days at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons with their knowledgeable and helpful archivist, Ross MacGregor to unearth some of the gems they have in their stores which have not yet been digitised including papers and artefacts from the famous Glasgow police surgeon, William Mcewan. We spent a further two days in the Glasgow City Archives based at Mitchell Library looking through the undigitised notes from local inebriate asylums and other local hospitals with the assistance of several of their brilliant and helpful archivists. Overall, it was an inspiring and stimulating trip and we are grateful to the NCN for funding this project and helping to bring us together.