Studying gender differences in the consumption of alcohol is highly interesting as they are associated with social and cultural influences. Alcohol consumption is used to "differentiate, symbolize, and regulate gender roles", some societies make drinking behaviour a "demonstration of masculinity". A universal difference is that men tend to drink more than women. The size of gender differences, however, varies and much of the differences are cultural. In some societies, convergence has occurred because women have more opportunities now to perform traditionally male roles and increase their drinking without negative social consequences. Sometimes convergence takes place because men drink less than they used to. Often, there are other reasons.
Theoretically, the four most common hypotheses to explain gender differences are 1) power (demonstration of how manly an individual is by consuming large amounts of alcohol or power over others through aggressive behaviour facilitated by alcohol), 2) fear that alcohol may make women more open to sexual advances, 3) men's higher tendency to show risk-taking behaviour and 4) social responsibilities (women having multiple role responsibilities).
Gender stereotypes need to be considered since heavy drinking associated with masculinity and camaraderie may encourage male drinkers to minimise problems. Stereotypes may also lead to an underestimation of women's drinking problems (Wilsnack et al., n.d.).
- Wilsnack, R. W., Wilsnack, S. C. & Obot, I. S. (n.d.) Why study gender, alcohol and culture? In: World Health Organization (ed.) Alcohol, Gender and Drinking Problems. Perspectives from Low and Middle Income Countries. online
- photo of Cary Grant "drunk" in Hitchcock's North by Northwest via