Shortly after I moved to Las Vegas I was listening to the radio on my morning commute. The conversation revolved around the idea that after a long period of time in Vegas, you become accustom to the oddities of human behavior and ultimately pay little or no attention to it. I’ve only been in the city for five months now, and so the oddities are still just that for me, oddities. About a month ago at an intersection far removed to the East of the Strip, near my workplace, I saw Elvis dressed in gold sequin cross the street. I gave a little giggle and went on my way, (so maybe some things in Vegas are becoming a little less odd for me!)
But something I came across just one week ago nearly made me stop the car. On South Las Vegas Boulevard, a large billboard advertising a local liquor store caught my eye with the slogan “Warning: The consumption of alcohol may cause pregnancy.” Included in the bottom left-hand corner was the picture of a spokesman with his hand to his mouth as if scoffing at the joke. And perhaps that’s the problem. I don’t see the joke in the message. Maybe I’m just too sensitive.
But perhaps others would agree with me that this advertising campaign was done in very poor taste. So many perhaps, that another billboard for the same company, miles away to the west, received enough complaints that it was taken down. That slogan—“Alcohol: It’s Cheaper than Therapy.” In a town known for its party-all-the-time attitude and where pedestrians roam the streets with open containers, the attitude seems to be one of casualty toward the consequences of consuming alcohol. But then in every stall in every women’s restroom in restaurants, hotels, casinos or bars you can’t miss the signs that warn of the possibility of birth defects if women consume alcoholic beverages while pregnant. It feels like a double standard.
In the course “Gender Messages in Alcohol Advertising,” messages targeted to men reinforce ideas of masculinity through simple images that evoke strength, aggression and sexual potency. Clearly that masculine ideal of potency is explicit in the wording on the billboard.
Conversely, the warning signs in the bathroom, though important, may leave the woman feeling the weight of sole responsibility for a health baby. The blog, Osocio, featured a post in September questioning whether the recent ad campaign from FASDworld Toronto is actually encouraging pregnant woman to show caution in consuming alcohol while pregnant, or shaming those that have decided to enjoy a drink.
Regardless of what gender qualifier you identify with, or which side of the debate on the safety of even small amounts of alcohol consumption during pregnancy you support, all people should be able to agree that pregnancy does take “two to tango” and that support by the man both in encouraging the woman to abstain from alcohol and respecting her decision to do so, while also modelling the same behavior of avoiding alcohol provides an opportunity for a great start for everyone involved.