Health, Maternal and Newborn Health, Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights
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CDC’s Infographic and the Double Standard of Behavior

CDC

 

A man has a beer and is featured in TV commercials. He’s cool, he’s “one of the guys.” But time and time again, women are called out, shamed, and even blamed for the behavior of others for doing the same thing.

In 2013, Hong Kong Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok appealed to young ladies to stop drinking too much because of the increase in rape cases. The Missoula Montana Police Department has a history of blaming rape victims for alcohol use, and Crimewatch creator Nick Ross suggested that “not all rape is rape” when the victim is drunk. Now, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released this infographic in their monthly Vital Signs report.

The CDC infographic intends to prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). As the CDC states, “alcohol use during pregnancy, even within the first few weeks and before a woman knows she is pregnant, can cause lasting physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that can last for a child’s lifetime.”

Understanding the harmful effects of alcohol during pregnancy and even the time in which you are trying to get pregnant is important, but, to me, the infographic suggested even more.

It warned women that “drinking too much” can lead to violence, illnesses, STIs, and unplanned pregnancies. Can men not also experience violence, illnesses, STIs, and unplanned pregnancies if they drink too much? Where is the caution poster that reads: Drinking too much can have many risks for men? This is a clear double standard where women are warned for a behavior that also causes harm to men.

While I respect the good intentions in seeking to prevent FASDs, I am outraged by the suggestion, yet again, that women are responsible for the actions of others. Rather than emphasizing that the decreased control alcohol induces could potentially lead to negative outcomes, this poster implies that because women drink, they get pregnant or experience violence – forgetting the other individuals involved, who may also have been drinking.

This infographic lends itself to a wide collection of victim-blaming propaganda that suggest women should not dress “provocatively” or walk alone at night, or blame women for the violence and sexual assault they experience. Women should not be told their actions are the reason someone else acted upon them.

We should not have to tell women to be more careful, but we do, and in doing so we put the burden on them to not be assaulted – because if they are, it’s somehow their fault. Perhaps instead of cautioning women rather than perpetrators, this infographic should be added to a growing collection of measures we take to highlight how prevalent violence against women is and how everyone – men and women alike – can end and prevent violence against women.

Next time, CDC, I highly suggest creating two campaigns – one about the negative relationship between drinking and pregnancy and another that warns all people about the potential harmful effects of drinking. To warn women about a harmful behavior without similarly warning men is a ridiculous and unacceptable double standard.

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