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'Drinking Mirror' Android app helps Scottish women drink less

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Scottish women are drinking too much, but an Android app help may convince them to stop. That's apparently the rationale behind Drinking Mirror, a new, and rather disturbing app from the Scottish government. The app, announced Tuesday, effectively scares women into changing their imbibing habits by simulating what their faces may look like in ten years, should they continue to drink heavily.

Drinking Mirror begins by prompting users to snap a photo of their face, and to fill in basic information about their weekly alcoholic intake. If a user consumes between one and five drinks each week, the app will display a slightly more haggard version of her face, replete with ruddy and chubby cheeks. Drink between six and ten (the app's upper limit), and your future self will look really terrible: Rudolph nose, sagging jowls, and the like.

A troubling double standard

The premise is to help curb rampant alcoholism in Scotland, where cirrhosis rates among women have tripled over the past two decades. The Drink Mirror may therefore be founded on good intentions, but it's also rooted in a troubling double standard. Although there's nothing to stop men from using the app in theory, it's strange that Scotland chose to market it overtly to women — its press release mentions the word "men" exactly zero times.

As Wired points out, that may have something to do with the fact that men have higher alcohol tolerance levels, according to guidelines from the Scottish health agency. The government was quick to point out that 38 percent of Scottish women consume more than the recommended daily or weekly amount of alcohol, though it failed to disclose corollary statistics for men. (There is a dedicated "For Men" section on the government's DrinkSmarter website, but no equivalent app.)

Perhaps most troubling, however, is the idea that invoking cosmetic consequences would be enough of an incentive to convince women to change their ways — a dangerous hypothesis that threatens to perpetuate gender-based stereotypes. Misguided reasoning aside, one thing is clear: for the Scottish government, male alcoholics simply don't exist.

The Verge
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