Learning Limits: College Women, Drugs, and Relationships

By Kimberly M. Williams | Go to book overview

Preface

WHY QUALITATIVE FEMINIST RESEARCH IS NEEDED

One consistency among social science research studies on drug use and abuse is that quantitative methods examining differences between and among groups (i.e., gender differences, race differences, social class differences) have been the methods of choice. Gender-differences research continues to further separate the categories of men and women by demonstrating statistically that college women use drugs essentially one way and college men use drugs essentially another way. Because the way that men have been found to use drugs generally has been portrayed as a more threatening and harmful way (i.e., associated with more aggressive behavior and harm to self or others), treatment options have tended to target men's needs, and women's drug and drug-related problems have been downplayed or ignored ( Nechas & Foley, 1994; Sandmaier, 1980).

Race-differences drug research has reinforced existing racial labels, categories, and stereotypes, suggesting that various racial groups use drugs in certain ways and White people use them in other ways. Some drug research has looked at social class differences, and many have reported that the poor use drugs one way and the wealthy use drugs in a different way. Drugs used more often by the poor and people of color have been constructed as more dangerous, and use of these drugs is more likely to be criminalized than the drugs of choice of White, wealthy people. For example, smoking cocaine in the form of crack (popular in urban ghettos where there are high percentages of nonwhites) is penalized one hundred times more severely than snorting the same amount of powdered cocaine (popular among wealthy Whites) ( United States of America v. Booker, 1995).

Sexual orientation and power position of the researched have seemed to be assumed in drug research to be heterosexual and of equal power and rarely made problematic. However, projects need to be carried out to examine these two (and other) aspects of social location.

-vii-

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