Women drinkers 'given a bad press'

Report highlights double standards in the way media portray young people and celebrities
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The Independent Online

Women who drink are being portrayed in newspapers, magazines and on social networks as vulnerable, emotional and violent, a report into alcohol, the media and young people will reveal this week.

In contrast, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report also shows that eight out of 10 references to drunken celebrities in the media are often to women in a glamorous context. The report will increase concerns about celebrity drinking culture on the young, following the death in July of Amy Winehouse, who had problems with alcohol and drugs.

Researchers, who monitored the effects of alcohol in the media on youngsters aged 11 to 18, found that 83.8 per cent of references to celebrities under the influence of alcohol related to women, and were "more likely to feature in female-targeted publications". But men's magazines also face scrutiny in the report, particularly in reference to non-celebrities. Lads' mag FHM listed "Asking a drunk woman why they are crying" as one of the "15 things that always end badly". By contrast, men's drinking habits were associated with levels of masculinity, the report says.

Researchers showed pictures of Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding and Kerry Katona, apparently drunk, to focus groups of teenagers. The report concludes: "In female-targeted magazines, drinking was portrayed as glamorous in the context of celebrity, yet at the same time the consumption of alcohol was depicted as harmful to stereotypical feminine ideals such as beauty, appearance and women's role as mothers.

"In men's magazines, female drinkers were portrayed as unfeminine, vulnerable and emotional, and as individuals engaging in sexual activity when drunk."

The study also highlights concerns about exposure to alcohol of young people on social networking sites such as Facebook, and video-sharing sites such as YouTube. However, the report concludes that there is little that can be done to regulate the sites beyond official advertising because user-generated content dominates all social networking.

Leading drinks brands have their own official pages on Facebook which are restricted to over-18s, but there are hundreds of unofficial pages that are less easy to control.

The study criticises television producers for failing to portray sufficiently the downsides to drinking, such as hangovers.