By Emma Wilson
Edited by Gemma Phelan
Recently, there’s been a topic of discussion within the cannabis activism community, which has arisen regarding the lack of female involvement in the fight for legalisation. Arguably this under-representation could cause a setback in our efforts as the support ratio of men to women is not proportionate to the general ratio of men and women who consume cannabis, let alone that of society, and therefore those who support prohibition could argue that our society as a whole is not yet ready to accept legalisation.
We have seen thousands of women come together in America through organisations such as the NORML Women’s Alliance, Moms for Marijuana and the Women’s Marijuana Movement. So why are the British ladies apparently feeling the need to restrain?
It is more important now than ever to gain as much female awareness as our movement gathers increasing pace and media coverage. Women have an untouchable and undeniable voice of reason, and the social and emotive nature of our characters has the potential to create an impact on even the toughest of opposition. Throughout the early 20th century, the Suffragettes came together in their thousands to fight for their right to vote. At the time, politicians thought women would never get their say in our country – they did. At this time, politicians think that cannabis will never become legalised in our country – it will. Far from suggesting we throw ourselves in front of racehorses, I am merely suggesting that we recognise our responsibility to become more proactive. A group of ‘herbal suffragettes’ coming together to support what they believe in, has the potential to become an unstoppable force of change.
There is no doubt that in recent years, we have seen an increase in the amount of female celebrities who are speaking candidly about their cannabis use, such as Lady Gaga and Rihanna, both of whom attended Halloween parties last year dressed as ‘Princess High’ and ‘The Bride of Mary Jane’ respectively, which caused controversial stirs amongst mainstream media despite being generally well-perceived by their fans and the public. Miley Cyrus is quoted as saying “I think alcohol is way more dangerous than marijuana. I’ve seen a lot of people spiral down with alcohol, but I’ve never seen that with weed” and Jennifer Aniston admit “I enjoy it once in a while. There is nothing wrong with that. Everything in moderation”. (Rolling Stone magazine). Despite the pressure on these successful women to hide their more controversial views and set a certain example to young fans, they have shunned the social stigma attached to tackling the topic of marijuana use, normalising it within modern and popular culture and giving us a chance to follow suit.
It appears that men are more comfortable opening up about their cannabis use in the UK; government studies carried out last year reported that men are twice as likely to acknowledge regular use of cannabis,and are almost twice as likely to consider it safe or fairly safe to be regular consumers , than women. If so, then why are women apparently finding it difficult to break through into action?
There is no doubting the under-involvement of women compared to men within cannabis law reform organisations. Although not intentional it could give the impression that women’s views are undervalued, or the lack of opportunity to progress into leadership roles. This could, in turn deter others from participating as it does take a lot of confidence and determination for a woman to establish herself comfortably into a male-dominated community.
The low involvement of women in the cannabis movement could also be attributed to the fact that modern women are burdened with the pressure to be ‘good role models’ and ‘set an example’ to their peers and children which could be seen to explain their high involvement in nursing, teaching and other care work. I say ‘unfair’ because what constitutes a ‘good role model’ could be seen to fluctuate with historical expectations. One person may be seen being a good role by the government by advocating that cannabis is a dangerous substance, whilst another may be seen as being a good role model by asserting an independent opinion based on research and scientific evidence, regardless of any particular agenda.
Although we now live in a time where there is increasing awareness surrounding feminist issues. most women still show hesitance towards situations which have the potential make them feel vulnerable or that can attract confrontation. Activism is perceived as a risky venture, and particularly so when surrounding a taboo subject such as cannabis prohibition. Putting your name out there and in opposition to a drug law requires a certain amount of courage, especially when you are putting the reputation of a professional career, motherhood or social standing on the line to stand up for everybody’s right to consume cannabis.
So what can the cannabis community do to encourage women to become more active ?? I believe the initial step to take is to aim awareness and educational campaigns specifically towards women in order to compete with the scaremongering tactics used by the media which are already often emotively targeted at women. If more women who are already part of the movement stand forward for board roles and encourage their friends and family to take an interest in our activity, further support can be garnered. It could also be seen to be the responsibility of women already established within the community to reach out to others and show the true light of being an activist, shedding the stigma and gaining support through education and raising awareness.
Emma is a cannabis activist who, having recently become involved with UKCSC and NORML UK, is an admin of the Hampshire Cannabis Community. She writes regular articles on topics surrounding the movement and has been a recreational consumer for 7 years, as well as using cannabis as a treatment for insomnia, anxiety and depression when necessary.
Emma’s main aims within the community include creating awareness of the benefits and uses of cannabis through writing, engaging campaigns and education as well as gaining more support from other women to oppose prohibition.