The Case for the Sanity of Women

by admin

by Cherryblossomlife

There is nothing wrong with me–except I was born at least two thousand years too late. Ladies of Amazonian proportions and Berserker propensities have passed quite out of vogue and have no place in this too damned civilized world…here I sit—mad as a hatter—with nothing to do but either become madder and madder or else recover enough of my sanity to be allowed to go back to the life which drove me mad. [Lara Jefferson]

Early Wednesday morning, my six year old daughter was running about the house, tearful and enraged, shouting through her sobs,”No Mummy, No! I’m NOT going to school”. She refused to get dressed, hid in the closet and then eventually resorted to feigning a stomach ache. When I’d got her to calm down I managed to find out what was wrong:

“I don’t like marching. It’s BORING,” she replied.


“We’re practicing for sports day and we have to march outside for AGES.”

“Well…Yes, that does sound rather dull.”

“It is. It is the most BORING thing in the world. And we just march and march…”

Does my daughter have psychological issues because she’s unable to placidly conform to the behavior that the school expects of her..? Is she suffering from “being a child”? (In other words, is this how we expect children to behave ?)

Or is her behavior the normal reaction of any human being who is forced to carry out a mind-numbing and clearly pointless task?

And what does it mean to her to know that she must conform to gendered behavior, and to understand that for six hours a day while she’s in school what is acceptable behaviour for boys is deemed inappropriate for her own caste, whose members must be as polite and deferential as possible at all times?

When it comes to explaining away the sadness and anger of females, psychiatry has always offered the former explanation. Women were inherently crazy, so the thinking went, and treatment was focused on helping them deal with their woman-ness in what was considered to be a perfectly sane society. Psychiatrists and psychologists were firm in their conviction that being a woman meant you were predisposed for madness.

There was, however, one type of woman who could avoid being declared “mad” by the professionals. Such a woman employed a canny survival tactic, and it involved acting. If she was able to stuff herself into a little box of caricatured behavior which distorted her natural impulses, in other words, if she could perform femininity, then she fared better. Such grossly feminine women have generally been safer from witch-hunts and from being locked up in mental asylums. (Note: it is not the women who are gross, but the mannerisms they have been forced to adopt in order to survive. I myself “do femininity” these days because I’ve found it to be an effective camouflage, which helps me fly under the radar.)

In 2007, a famous pop singer shaved her head because she was done with being objectified. The witch-hunt that followed was designed to show women what happens to those of us who step out of line. Shortly after the incident took place, her father and brother declared that she was not fit to manage her finances and became her conservators. The judicial courts supported them and they assumed control over all facets of her life, including her professional life as she was deemed psychologically unfit. (In other words they forced her back into femininity and pocketed her earnings.) She lost custody of her children. In April 2012, her manager who had recently become her fiancé, asked to be her co-conservator, meaning that he will have legal control over several facets of her life.

Non-feminine behaviour in females has always been regarded as a pathology. And because all but the most broken and brainwashed women exhibit non-feminine behaviour in some form or other, it has led to countless women being hospitalized, drugged, lobotomized, restrained and so forth in psychiatric hospitals.

By femininity, I am of course referring to: heterosexuality, saintly motherhood, not talking back to your husband, not having the audacity to believe you are a human being, repressing your creative energy, not refusing sex with your unattractive husband, keeping your hair long, wearing make-up, finding fulfillment in cleaning the toilet and a myriad of other oppressive behavioural traits imposed upon women by society in order that they fit into the little slots that patriarchy has designed for them.

When radical feminist women such as Phyllis Chesler entered the field of psychiatry, they were horrified at what they found. And at what they didn’t find. After taking advanced degrees in the subject, Chesler realized that she had learned nothing about how to ease a person’s suffering. Over the course of the past thirty years women have painstakingly overhauled the entire profession.

But not without facing fierce resistance from the old boys. Just imagine! That for a long time men wanted nothing to change, refusing to listen to the female psychiatrists who insisted that everything had to change.

The fact that women in the field have had to fight against their male superiors for psychiatry to become a more humane profession tells us that it has never been about helping people, but about controlling women. Both the records of the perpetrators and witness testimonies substantiate this view:

LAURA: In the beginning, I wasn’t shrewd at all. I was just so hurt (laughter). I didn’t know that they would punish me three times as much if I tried to escape…They put me in a straight jacket and this was rather cruel and kept me alone in this room for twenty-four hours. I could hardly move and I was completely stiff. They wouldn’t even let me go to the bathroom. They put a bedpan under me and things like that… [Women and Madness, Phyllis Chesler Ph.D]

When men took it upon themselves to build enormous, castle-esque, soul-destroying buildings of stone with the intention of incarcerating countless women, who would be raped, tortured, electrocuted, lobotomized, experimented on, half-drowned, locked in solitary confinement, restrained to the bed and drugged unnecessarily, we can only assume that they had been built for this exact purpose: to perpetrate acts of political torture against an oppressed and politically disenfranchised group.

Standing symbolically just on the outskirts of town, with their high walls, gloomy stone facades, iron gates and cheerless windows, the grotesque architecture of mental hospitals also served another, very specific, purpose. It sent a foreboding message to all women who dared to refuse the proscribed gender roles of happy housewife, happy hooker, or happy factory hand. I believe that in every woman’s subconscious there lingers dreaded unsaids…“You want to be careful, or the men in white coats will come for you..”

Phyllis Chesler describes her dismay in her book, Women and Madness:

Much of what we take for granted today was not even whispered about fifty years ago. During the 1950s and 1960s, clinicians were still being taught that women suffer from penis-envy, are morally inferior to men, innately masochistic, dependent, passive, heterosexual, and monogamous. We also learned that it was mothers– not fathers, genetic predispositions, accidents, and/or poverty– who caused neurosis and psychosis.

None of my professors ever said that women (or men) were oppressed, or that oppression is traumatizing–especially when those who suffer are blamed for their own misery and diagnostically pathologized. No one ever taught me how to administer a test for mental health– only for mental illness.

I still think of this as psychiatric imperialism.

I knew that what I was being taught was neither useful or true.


I began analyzing mental illness statistics about the relevant academic studies. I read historical accounts of women’s lives. I located the stories of European women who’d been condemned as witches (including Joan of Arc) and, from the sixteenth century on, psychiatrically imprisoned. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in both Europe and North America, a man had the legal right to lock his perfectly sane wife or daughter away in a mental asylum. And some did. Authoritarian, violent, drunken, and/or insane husbands had their wives psychiatrically imprisoned, sometimes forever, as a way of punishing them for being too uppity–and in order to marry other women.


Whether the woman patient was entirely sane, or whether she had experienced post-partum or other depression, heard voices, or was “hysterically” paralyzed; whether she was well-educated and well-to-do, or an illiterate member of the working poor; whether she had led a relatively privileged life or had been repeatedly raped, or abused in other ways; whether she accepted she could no longer cope with her narrow social role; whether she had been idle for too long or had worked too hard for too long and was fatigued beyond measure– she was not treated with any kindness or medical expertise. Many women of the asylum did not survive the brutal beatings, the near-drownings, the force-feedings, the body-restraints, the long periods in their own filth and in solitary confinement, the absence of kindness or reason–all of which passed for “treatment.” [Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D Women and Madness]

As I sifted through the literature on what men have done to women in the name of psychiatry, a strong, insistent hunch crept up on me which I eventually could not ignore. Never had it been more clear to me that their professional incompetence could no longer be swept under the carpet.  I believe we have no alternative but to recognize that any man who has become a medical professional (particularly in the fields of psychiatry and gynecology) must be presumed incompetent until proven otherwise. Given the ample historical data available to back this conclusion, it would be irresponsible of us not to do so.

Of all the appalling atrocities I came across as I researched this article, there were a few that loomed large in all their patriarchal glory. I’ve assembled eight pieces of information that I’ve decided to call the “Eight Absurdities” . I’ve chosen the word “absurd” because of the ludicrous rationalizations that men have used in order to justify the maniacal “treatments” they designed and implemented in order to cure women of being human.

Insane human beings who believed they were sane (men) had the power to treat sane human beings who were told they were insane (women). We must ensure that such an Orwellian situation ( whereby Sanity is Insanity, and Insanity is Sanity) is never repeated.

Absurdity #1 Being Oppressed is a Mental Illness.

In patriarchal societies incest, rape and family violence are endemic. Women are economically disenfranchised and statistics show that they are poorer than men by far. However, psychiatrists believed that whenever a human response to severe violence or to emotional or material deprivation manifested in women it was a sign of pathology.

In other words, if a rape victim remained happy, upbeat and generally okay, she would have ticked all the boxes of “mentally healthy”. Whereas if she showed signs of trauma, PTSD, insomnia, flashbacks and so forth, she would have been treated for madness.

Or if a woman who had children to feed was unable to make ends meet because the very fact she had children prevented her from working, and tried to end her despair by attempting suicide, she would be classified as “mad” (and in many cases still is.) Nobody would have helped her with her cooking and laundry. Nobody would have paid for her heating. Nobody would have removed her abusive spouse from the home, if she had one. And nobody would have offered her childcare so that she could find a job (were there any job available to her). When it came to women (and non-Caucasian males) psychiatrists maintained that their life circumstances were irrelevant to the symptoms they manifested.

Naturally, I find this completely absurd.

Absurdity #2 Convicted rapists and paedophiles have access to female patients.

Women admitted to mental asylums are often raped by male members of staff and by male patients. How many women never report their rapes we will never know.

Often, the reason the women are there in the first place is because they’re suffering from the psychological repercussions of rape–either rape in childhood or at the hands of their current spouse. These traumatized women are sometimes diagnosed as having “borderline personality disorder”, when in fact the correct diagnosis is “torture victim.”

Women are more likely to be raped in state custody than anywhere else, and each time they are raped it heaps trauma upon trauma upon trauma. If they report it they are usually disbelieved.

Despite the fact that women in psychiatric institutions are a free-for-all for rapists, consensual love or sexual activity between two female patients has traditionally been punished—a situation I find utterly, laughably absurd.

Absurdity #3 Bearing a child out of wedlock, or in wedlock, is a mental illness.

Women who had “illegitimate” babies were locked away in mental hospitals by their fathers, sometimes for life. Other women with “legitimate” babies were locked away in mental hospitals by their husbands, sometimes for life.

As a radical feminist, I find the concept of “legitimacy” and “illegitimacy” inherently absurd and do not recognize a distinction. All children are legitimate by virtue of the fact their mother gave birth to them, so it is particularly unnerving to realize that these man-made, completely arbitrary categories were used as a premise to incarcerate women.

All of the women received aggressive “treatment” at the hands of psychiatric doctors.

LAURA: The first thing they did was give everyone shock treatment. It didn’t matter who you were. You walked in and they gave you shock three times a week. Before they decided what ward they were going to put you into, they shocked you completely…I was scared to death. I thought I was going to die…The only person who came to see me, and this is going to make you laugh a little bit, came to give me an I.Q test [Women and Madness, p.193]

Many of the women were beaten. They were denied contact with the outside world. They were forced into unpaid sex-typed labour such as domestics and laundresses. If they refused these jobs they were considered crazy and uncooperative and severely punished. If they did the jobs well the hospital staff would be unwilling to let them go.

A veritable witch’s dunking.

Absurdity #4 Sex between Patient and Therapist.

In the 1950s and 1960s a number of leading psycho-analysts married their most beautiful patients. Plenty more had casual sex with their patients. Nobody thought there was anything wrong with this at the time. Today feminist analysis explains how this is a serious boundary violation and breach of power. There are now hundreds of studies and books documenting this phenomenon.

Most of these sexual contacts took place between middle-aged male therapists and younger female patients.  Even in cases where the women managed to articulate the boundary violation, they usually did not sue for  fear of being disbelieved in court. After all, many were being treated for “paranoid tendencies.”

The entire farce can be summed up by one documented case:

One therapist suggested to his female patient that sexual contact might increase her “transferential” involvement with him. When she finally refused to pay for such treatment and began seeing another therapist, the first therapist told her he would continue seeing her for “sex” and would not “charge” her for it—but wouldn’t listen to her “problems” any longer. [Women and Madness]

Now that feminists have highlighted the damage that male therapists can cause to female clients, the onus is on the field of psychiatry to prove that there are any “upsides” to a woman being treated by a man. I suspect there are none.

Absurdity # 5 Women who fight back against their rapists or violent husbands are mentally ill.

Self explanatory.

Women who have fought back against their rapists and batterers find themselves in jail or in mental institutions for daring to save their own lives. Chesler reminds us that these brave, unbroken women are political prisoners, who should be honored by feminists.

Absurdity #6 Sexology

Sexologists have earned a reputation for being advanced, progressive and open-minded. They have been lauded for attacking puritan, Victorian uptight sexual mores, and for their “discovery” that women experienced sexual urges of their own. They are seen as pioneers for the right of women to experience sexual pleasure.

Upon closer inspection, however, we find that they have only ever supported patriarchally mandated sexuality, such as: BDSM practices (especially the concept that women are innately masochistic), monogamy within marriage and the “sexual liberation” of unattached women.

In cases where women’s sexuality did not serve men in some way, sexologists have traditionally stepped in to lure them back onto the path of righteousness. In The Spinster and her Enemies Sheila Jeffreys explains that sexology is inimical to women’s liberation, and she references a number of famous sexologists such as Walter Heape:

“He was worried that marriage seemed to be out of fashion and looked forward to a time in the future when marriage would be more attractive to celibates. The solution to ‘man-hating’ was to overcome women’s dislike of sex and ensure that they married. Several of his later works are devoted to sex education and particularly solving the problem, as he saw it, of female frigidity.”

Lesbians, married women who refused to have sex with their husbands and single celibate women who focused their energy on something more interesting than men, were hit hardest by the sexuality meddlers. Moreover, the fact that it took until the end of the nineteenth century for the phenomenon of the female sex drive to be “discovered” tells us more about men (and their incompetence in the bedroom) than it does anything about women.

Absurdity #7 The Second Wave of Psychosurgery Coincided with the Second Wave of Feminism.

Out of all eight pillars this where we should focus our attention the most. Psycho-surgery involves mutilating healthy brain tissue, with the aim of apparently changing the person’s behavior. It is not generally used on psychopathic serial killers and rapists (always male), as you might expect, but rather on unhappy women.

During the 1970s, women’s unhappiness and rage culminated in an upsurge of feminist consciousness. Mary Daly wrote at the time:

The current wave of psycho-surgery is aimed not only at state hospital patients, but especially at relatively well-functioning “neurotics”, particularly women. On February 24, 1972, Dr Breggin’s article, “The Return of the Lobotomy and Psychosurgery” was read to the Congressional Record. Discussing the remarkably large proportion of women who are being lobotomized, Dr Breggin explains that it is more socially acceptable to lobotomize women because creativity, which the operation totally destroys, is in this society “an expendable quality in women.” A famous psychosurgeon (Freeman, the “dean of lobotomists”) is quoted saying that lobotomized women make good housekeepers. Concerning this phenomenon, Dr Barbara Roberts, a feminist, observes that psychosocial conditioning is no longer as effective as it once was in suppressing female anger:

“But, ever resourceful, patriarchal class society is developing what could prove to be the “final solution” to the “woman problem” (and the “problems” caused by all other oppressed groups). That weapon is psychosurgery.”

The weapons that modern technology is developing for social control of deviants, particularly women, are more subtle than burning at the stake. They merely destroy minds–the capacity for creativity, imagination, and rebellion–while leaving hands and uteruses intact to perform the services of manual work and breeding. ” [Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father]

I think you’ll agree with me that by now we’ve left the realms of simple male insanity absurdity, and have entered loony loop la-la man-loon land.

Absurdity #8 The Diagnostic Criteria of Personality Disorders

A more recent absurdity I came across was the fact that when people are unable to cope with life, or if they exhibit certain behaviors, they are told they have a personality disorder. Personality disorders are included in the Diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association.

Those diagnosed with a personality disorder may experience difficulties in cognition, emotiveness, interpersonal functioning or control of impulses. In general, personality disorders are diagnosed in 40-60 percent of psychiatric patients, which is the most frequent of all psychiatric diagnoses.[4]

What is interesting about the diagnostic criteria of personality disorders is how well they can be used to uphold the patriarchal status quo. For example, research shows that males are more likely to have “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (NPD) than females. But when you look at the symptoms of NPD there is immediate cause for suspicion:

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others.

Where I come from, this is what was known as “NBD” (Nasty Bastard Disorder). And if a woman suspected that her sister or friend was in a relationship with a man showing symptoms of NBD she would strongly advise her to leave him. Today, the docs may diagnose him with NPD, guilt-tripping his significant other into staying with him.

Similarly, “histrionic personality disorder” apparently manifests more in women than in men. It is described thus:

“a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking, including an excessive need for approval and inappropriately seductive behavior, usually beginning in early adulthood. These individuals are lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic, and flirtatious. HPD affects four times as many women as men”

I find it unreasonable that psychologists have invented a symptom called “inappropriately seductive behavior” in order to label women, when we live in a society that teaches women that their sexuality is the entire sum of their worth.

It is especially strange when you factor in that prostitutes, and to a lesser extent wives, are obligated to display seductive behaviour even when they feel no natural inclination to, because that is what men demand of them.

Perhaps the energy of psychiatrists would be better spent worrying about the psychic toll of being forced to pretend you fancy your clients, and being forced to fake enjoyment of sex over and over again, rather than about women who have decided—for whatever reason—to behave seductively of their own volition. Or perhaps they could read a book on rape trauma in order to learn that women sometimes “act out” after they’ve being attacked…

In sum, the diagnostic criteria of personality disorders seem to excuse men’s bad behavior, while pathologizing women’s trauma. The fact that “excessive emotionality” can still be legitimately regarded as a symptom of mental illness, existing in a vacuum outside of any political context, tells us that here in 2012 psychiatry is still up to its old tricks.

[This is Part 1 of a two-part article. In Part 2 I examine the life and death of Virginia Woolf]

Talgarth Mental Asylum in Wales

talgarth asylum Grim History, Grand Buildings: Abandoned Talgarth Asylum, Wales

Confinement at Talgarth Mental Hospital

Dark Passageways at Talgarth Mental Hospital

[Talgarth Mental Hospital in Wales, sourced from: ]

43 Responses to “The Case for the Sanity of Women”

  1. Beautifully done. I absolutely sympathize with Britney Spears and still do. There was also a time when autistic women were institutionalized (wouldn’t be surprised if it still happens) and when I was diagnosed, I was under the threat of being institutionalized too. If my mother didn’t fight for me, even though she is a patriarchy worshipper of the worst kind.

  2. Women and Madness is a wonderful book. Easily one of my favorite feminist texts.

    Also, has everyone here seen this article? (PDF) It’s a modern article, written in 2006, with survivors’ stories mostly dating from the 1980s and 1990s. It describes shock treatments being used to make women more docile, often at their husbands’ behest.

    I had known things like that happened earlier, like in the 1800s with lunatic-asylum imprisonment, or in the mid-20th century with psychosurgery and early electroshock, but I had no idea it was still being done in my lifetime. *IS* still being done, probably.

  3. Thank you Bedelia. I’m glad your mother was able to overcome the patriarchal brainwashing to the extent that she understood that there was something very wrong about people coming to lock up her daughter. Many mothers are too far gone, and are the perfect handmaidens, doing the patriarchy’s job of despising their daughters.

    Lindsay, it is an excellent book isn’t it. I ordered it specifically for researching this series and was blown away by the fact that Chesler has actually written it from a radical feminist perspective, rather than just simply describing the atrocities. Thanks for the link to the article. And yes, I’m sure this sort of thing still goes on all over the place.

  4. Fantastic post!

    My personal favourite (= the one I find most hilariously absurd) psychiatric disorder is “parental alienation syndrome”, which is applied to children involved in custody cases. Supposedly the child suffering this disorder is severely hostile towards one parent (invariably the [abusive] father, though they don’t say that of course) because of indoctrination by the other parent (the mother). And the treatment for this disorder is separation from the parent doing the indoctrination – i.e., the kid gets forced into living with an abusive father rather than the mother who is trying to get herself and her children away from the abuse.

    It seems that this particular “disorder” is so insane that it’s not officially recognised by any psychiatric body of note, but I get the impression that it, or a similar idea, is nonetheless fairly influential in psychiatry and custody disputes. Which is not great.

  5. Yes, Parental Alienation Syndrome = “Evil Mother” Syndrome, invented and legitimized by patriarchy.
    But they know if they called it by its real name it would raise a few eyebrows, so they’ve had to give it a more neutral-sounding name.

    And yes, “Evil Mother” Syndrome has become a “thing” recently and men have been using this crackpot diagnosis to control women in the divorce courts.

  6. Parental Alienation Syndrome is clearly a case of men projecting their own behavior onto women.

    Plenty of fathers groom children to despise their mothers, both directly, by undermining her and manipulating the kids, or indirectly by modelling contempt towards women in general.
    And too many mothers go out of their way to defend abusive fathers. How many kids have heard the phrase “He’s still your father” when their mother is defending some abuse meted out by him? One reason women defend husbands is because they’ve got nowhere to go, and are worried that if they divorce him, and he gets custody, he will have a free reign to abuse them. At least if she stays with him she can reign it in a bit.

  7. “Non-feminine behaviour in females has always been regarded as a pathology.”


    Great post.

  8. i am currently reading “airless spaces” by shulamith firestone. its a collection of very short stories (anecodes, in think?) describing the realities of modern asylums, that is, the daily routines, arrivals of new patients, how to “work your way out” and living on the outside again, etc of mental hospitals. here is one of the ones that stuck out for me:

    Bedtime is the Best Time of Day

    When Holly was brought into the hospital on Involuntary all she wanted to do was crash, that is, sleep all day and night to escape her imprisonment. While this lasted many weeks as a good solution, the day came when her body could hibernate no more. Sleeping no longer felt good. But still there was nothing to get up for, and moreover she was in a permanent state of drowse.

    She tried to train herself not to sleep during the day, because the absolute worst was to get trapped at lights out all raring to go. It was hard. There was little to do, and nowhere to go on a shut-in psychiatric ward but her bed. At home when she missed a night of sleep, she had slept all day, been up again till the wee hours when at least she had allowed herself to sleep till noon; but then it got later and later, 3 p.m., 5 p.m., until some lucky day when she was able to sleep around the clock and wake up at nine to start a fresh sleep cycle. And failing that, to brave it out for twenty-four hours without any sleep at all or until she was so dead she could just fall into bed.

    Here in the hospital there were no such freedom of hours. You were woken up at seven and then frequent mealtimes and then constant interruptions and scheduled “activities” for which you had to leave your room or be checked off as sick. The trouble was, now that her hibernation cycle was used up temporarily, she could not drop off to sleep at a moment’s notice to sleep for, say, an hour that happened to be free because for that she had to be hungry for sleep, and she was, instead, oversatiated. She found it increasingly impossible to sleep during the day, so afraid she was of not being tired at lights-out time. But even with a sleeping pill she could not sleep at night either. And she was worried about the sleeping pills, because Ativan was as addictive as Valium, and she didn’t want to leave the hospital with a habit, one moreover which required a prescription.

    This is how she ended up an insomniac on the waiting list for the Sleep Disorder wing of the psychiatric hospital.

  9. i took this as britney spears’ response to everything that was done to her.

    I’m Miss American Dream since I was 17
    Don’t matter if I step on the scene or sneak away to the Philippines
    They still gon’ put pictures of my derrière in the magazine
    You want a piece of me? You want a piece of me?

    I’m Miss Bad Media Karma, another day, another drama
    Guess I can’t see the harm in workin’ and being a mama
    And with a kid on my arm, I’m still an exceptional earner
    You want a piece of me?

    I’m Mrs. Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous (You want a piece of me?)
    I’m Mrs. Oh My God, That Britney’s Shameless (You want a piece of me?)
    I’m Mrs. Extra, Extra, This Just In (You want a piece of me?)
    I’m Mrs. She’s Too Big, Now She’s Too Thin (You want a piece of me?)
    Oh yeah Oh yeah

    I’m Mrs. You Wanna Piece Of Me? Tryin’ and pissin’ me off
    Well get in line with the paparazzi Who’s flippin’ me off?
    Hoping I’ll resort to some havoc End up settlin’ in court
    Now are you sure you want a piece of me? (You want a piece of me?)

    I’m Mrs. Most Likely To Get On The TV For Strippin’ On The Streets
    When gettin’ the groceries, no, for real are you kiddin’ me?
    No wonder there’s panic in the industry I mean, please, do you want a piece of me?


  10. Great post CBL, sets it all out so clearly. Those old Victorian asylums always have such a creepy vibe about them too.

  11. They are still trying to drug us into docility, Lindsay. People do that to children who are “hard to manage” and husbands still want to control wives by sending us to shrinks. Forcing us into submission. I feared my husband would toss me into an institution; fortunately he seemed to need me for child-rearing.

  12. Awesome work, Cherry. 🙂

    I understand your daughter. School definitely teaches gendered behaviours, and is another patriarchal institution that teach girls to conform to feminine rules. That’s why so many ‘tomboy’ girls are ostracised. I was a tomboy when I was a kid, and I was ostracised by many female school-mates. Not their fault, school is one of the first institutions that divide females from other females. Though most little girls have great female friends during school years, they’re also taught to look down on other females. Patriarchy is already at work there. 😦

    Femininity is a patriarchal behaviour of ritualised submission. Women can get punished or deemed “crazy” when we don’t conform to it. That’s why men and male-identified women constantly portray us radfems as a bunch of “loonies,” while it’s in fact the whole patriarchal system that is insanity. Women-identified women are the only sane people in all this mess.

    I love Phyllis Chesler’s work. She debunked so many patriarchal myths about women. Male sexual violence against women and men’s paedophilia on girls are pandemics. This is scary. How can those guy claim that women are crazy when they are already the ones doing crazy, cruel things to women & girls, the bastards.

    Despite the fact that women in psychiatric institutions are a free-for-all for rapists, consensual love or sexual activity between two female patients has traditionally been punished—a situation I find utterly, laughably absurd.

    Men’s erasure of lesbianism, again. Sigh…

    Psychology and psychiatry are traditionally patriarchal fields. It is crucial to refuse to accept all the woman-hating lies coming from those male-medicalised institutions. They also prescribe Valium to so many women to keep them passive, the fuckers.

    Any female retaliation against patriarchy systems of male dominance is deemed “crazy.” This is so absurd, but patriarchy does not make much sense, I guess…

  13. Thanks Maggie, patriarchy constantly contradicts itself. It’s like they don’t even care anymore that there is no consistency to their reasoning.
    Trans is another good example where, at first, men used this or that justification for riding roughshod over us, but now they’ve reached the point where they know their arguments don’T make sense and they simply don’t care. All they say now is: “look, women, we’re the ruling class so suck it up”
    Same goes for how they treat women in psychiatry.Facts tell us that men are insane—dangerously insane— and yet it’s women that are getting locked up.

  14. I’m a big fan of your writing CBL. This post is brilliant, thank you so much for your hard work on this and the vital and important information within it. I look forward to part 2.

  15. Thank you mbraaheidner. This one was tough to write. I think I went a bit mad myself for a short time as I was doing it.

  16. Grew up witnessing my father beating the shit out of my mother. He never really abused me, only my mom and my older sister. He died when I was 12. I knew it was going to get WAY worse for me after that. All the hatred and resentment for my father was transferred to me. I was institutionalized for over 5 years. Abused until I didn’t want to live anymore. Tried to die at 14, ended up in a mental hospital and diagnosed with: bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, ADHD. Put on lithium and Prozac, shuffled into one abusive foster home after another, and ended up in St. Rose Treatment Center for Girls for the last two years of my minority status. Upon turning 18 I was released back home to an abusive mother and older sister. My mother tried to tell me I needed a man to “take care of me”. Uh huh, like my dad “took care of her”? NO thanks. My whole life has been one long series of abusers. The abuse is still happening. Men ten years my junior patronize me, male doctors cut me and destroy my body, male “friends” threaten me and try and control me. I care less and less whether I live or die anymore. This post resonated with me, and now I’m crying. I suppose it’s good to have some catharsis. Sorry about the rant. I feel 1000 years old and I am tired and so, so angry. I have nothing left.

  17. I’m so sorry Yisheng. It doesn’t get much worse that whan you’ve described.
    To read your usually upbeat and downright hilarous comments I would never have guessed in a million years.

  18. All the woman-hatred in the world lands on the heads of daughters doesn’t it, either one daughter in a family, or all of them. Daughters are the ultimate scapegoats for a mother’s rage. It’s so sad.
    It’s really worth reading about how it used to be before they did this to us, about Demeter and her four daughters. Chesler begins her book by describing these goddess myths and the ancient bond between mother and daughter, showing us what is was like for us before it all got broken and destroyed.

  19. Yisheng Qingwa, I’m sorry also. Your comments add so much to the discussions, I’m a fan of yours. I don’t know how we’re supposed to heal when the psych. professions are so patriarchal.

  20. Excellent post CBL.

    Poor Brittany. She was under extreme control (mainly by males) since her mid or early teens, and the hair shaving incident was her Declaration of Independence, an assertion of her own personhood. Unfortunately for her, the males around her tightened the reigns even more. She is in her late 20s now, she is an adult, she should be able to control her own life, and get the males out of her life for good. The level of control over her by her father and that partner dude is unreal.

    Throwing off displays of “femininity” becomes easier as you get older. The most pressure is directed towards younger women and girls (during the period which patriarchy deems prime, the prime reproductive years) and given the ‘invisibility’ of women over 40-50 (so that young women won’t listen to them), it makes it easier not to display the ritualised submission of “femininity”. Maybe that is how the “life begins at 40” expression came about? Women waking up to the game that was going on, and becoming their own persons?

    Of course, if you try to buck the system before your Invisibility Cloak kicks in, you are likely to be punished in some way. I adore my Invisibility Cloak, so much more freedom and independence – and I have been so much calmer and happier since becoming a separatist. Patriarchy is an oppressive regime for females.

  21. Agreed. I will only see a female psychiatrist and psychologist. But, I think the most healing thing would be to live in a nice safe place with only women. They wouldn’t have to do much, just be there. I’d love to build things and work where I live… that’d be neat… it is so tiring having to pretend that some men never abused me, because I am dependent on them for my survival. It does make me feel crazy.

  22. applying male-centric concepts of “mental health” to women is just so insane. its hard to even find the language to express how insane this is. thinking about it deeply enough to write about it is exhausting and crazy-making (but the resulting work is profound, like cheslers book, and this post). ABSURD is a good word. 🙂

    if men hear “voices” either internally or externally telling them that they are bad, or repulsive or whatever, they are clearly imagining or hallucinating it, but are women? this actually *is* what women are being told every day they are alive, but to acknowledge that would be to acknowledge patriarchy. but that is the one thing that is *never* acknowledged by any male or any professional for that matter, perhaps especially doctors (and lawyers). if men experience debilitating anxiety upon leaving the house, there probably really is something wrong with them — there is no reason for it, or no objective reason why one man would experience this any more than any other (similarly situated) man. ie. its subjective, or pathology. for women, if we recognize reality, and how much we are HATED and that we are targets for sexualized violence, why would we EVER want to leave anywhere we felt relatively safe?

    similarly, if men cant hold jobs, or if they fail to thrive in this world that men created to benefit themselves — a completely stacked deck! — its very often bc they are losers, or mentally ill. if women cant, it very well might be bc we cannot or will not conform to the ritualized submission required of us *on top of* the standard requirements of our labor and professional competence. or because we complain when our male coworkers use our computers to look at porn, thereby making *ourselves* a problem (for this kind of thing, we create our “reputations” — as troublemakers and bad sports — which follow us across the industry). these things destroy womens lives and careers (and our sanity). the cause and effect of mental illness and job insecurity are reversed in women and men arent they? mentally ill men cant hold jobs. women are often driven “insane” by the working conditions and sexual harassment, and constant objectification and “extra” (and often contradictory!) requirements which are impossible to fulfill. like being ball-busting and dick-sucking at the same time. or competent yet deferential….

    the injustice and insanity of men and patriarchy is too much to bear many times, and this “not being able to bear it” is treated medically or psychiatrically — that is, with more injustice and (male) insanity. perhaps women slipping into the “background” at times to get away, is the only thing that prevents us — ALL OF US — from swinging from the trees. and yes, “acting” keeps us off the radar. firestones “airless spaces” mentions more than once that some women are just grateful to have a bed and a place to crash — they relish the asylums for that reason. with all the horrors awaiting them there, its actually *better* than what they have as “free” women on the outside. even if it just means being able to sleep, or to use “hibernation” as an escape. one woman said that if only she had her own TV and phone, she would voluntarily stay there forever. im not sure all the stories in “airless spaces” are true, but if you read them, you get the feeling they are. its just very obviously an insiders perspective, and reads like “you cant make this shit up”. very interesting too that once youve been in or “in and out of” hospital no one believes you anymore (if they ever did!) all this information — first-hand accounts of the reality of the asylums, especially for women — is very conveniently lost.

  23. LOL, I had to laugh at ” a completely stacked deck”
    Yes, men can get jobs just for being men! Good jobs I mean, not humiliating jobs or horse-labour jobs. Every time they walk in a room at work, all that is judged is their competence. Not their competence + age + sexiness + subservience/feistiness—or whichever expression of sexuality is more desirable in women in that particular workplace.
    And yet some of them STILL can’t manage to keep it together.

  24. also, surely the current economic crisis and high unemployment for women will mean that women no longer have “access” to psychiatric care, so i wonder what this means for us? if we dont have health insurance, no one is going to voluntarily treat us for free. that could be a good thing (perhaps in the longer run?). the situation is the same for gynecology (and obstetrics) too. of course, sandra fluke illustrated the problems for women of not having access to prescription contraceptives, but we all know that already, too well. what else does it mean for us, if we are no longer able to access various medical treatments, knowing how misogynistic and harmful many (most/all) of them are to women specifically? how will this change things (or will it?) people are already starting to accept that the world has drastically changed now, and that there is a “sharing economy” developing out of necessity, in response to the crisis. men have destroyed their world. has patriarchy cracked a bit? like weeds, will womens reality (culture) start growing in the cracks? i hope so.

  25. Well, I think that women are far more psychologically prepared for this new world than men. It is practically ingrained in our DNA that we have to grab whatever job we can, that we have to work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet, that we have to be resourceful. FOr men, who have had everything handed to them on a plate, this new order is going to come as a bit of a shock (hence the occupy movement). I do believe we may see a crack or two. Men are hopefully going to have to pour more energy into surviving than they have before, which means they’ll automatically have less energy for “oppressing”.

    IN Japan men used to be guaranteed a lifetime job,. the “lifetime employment” idea. They couldn’T be sacked! WOmen, of course, were shunted into crappy jobs with a cement ceiling. However, nowadays companies simply can’t AFFORD men, so all the contract and temporary work is being taken up by women because a) they will work for less and b) they have no pride to swallow. What is happening is that many men are living like WOMEN have had to in the past i.e in substandard accomodation, and many will never marry because they can’t afford a wife… because at the end of the day, why would a woman marry a man she has to support, just so he can lord it over her and get her running around after him doing the cooking and cleaning. Not worth it.

    Less husbands around = less wives = less women being accused of insanity.

  26. yes all of that is true. im talking about access to medical care though, including psychiatric care. this aspect of the current crisis will not have the same meaning for people living with socialized medicine, so i should clarify that a bit. here in the US we dont have socialized medicine, its eitiher welfare (if you qualify) or pay-to-play, either with cash/credit, or insurance. that means that for many of us, our health coverage has been lost with our jobs, and for better or worse, if you cannot afford care, or if you dont qualify for benefits, you will not be treated. if you break your leg, they will still set it for you and bill you later — emergency care will still be provided, even if the bills bankrupt you — but if its not an “emergency” you are on your own. there will be many obvious downsides to that. but is there an upside as well, especially for women? i think the answer is obviously, there will be an upside. medicine — one of the big 3 of the patriarchal institutions — has lost part of its grip on us. hasnt it?

    of course, many psych treatments and the cost-benefit analysis around them presume that you are going to kill yourself if you dont get care (they frame it as an emergency, or emergency-like). thats how the gruesome side-effects of psych treatments up to and including “causes death” are justified, but is that a “true emergency” of the kind they will treat for free in this “new economy”, even if they dont get paid? i dont think so. psych emergencies are seen in the emergency departments, not doctors offices, where there is a break from reality or (often) violence. are psychiatrists and psychologists still going to pretend to think everyone is suicidal if no one has any money or insurance to pay for anything? where is trannyism going to be, if none of it is paid for anymore, and the docs arent willing to lie anymore about all gender-dysphoria patients being suicide risks? it makes you think.

  27. of course, “obamacare” might swoop in and get women back under that thumb…and getting contraceptive coverage (among other things) might make that outcome preferable even. but its already happened — some women have been without insurance for several years by now, even if that changes in the future. some women who were under the thumb have already experienced being out from under it. i wonder what the effects of that will be, and what that has already set in motion….

  28. Yes, the system is different there. THe NHS/ government has always lost money through people getting sick, whereas in other countries hospitals actually *get* money from people being sick.
    Having said that, it has never stopped the NHS from sectioning women in mental asylums uneccessarily.

    Anyway, you’re right that the bar of what constitutes mental illness is going to be held much higher if nobody can cough up the cash for treatment.
    And “where is trannyism going to be” is a very good point, especially because I read somewhere that taking hormones and mutilating your body doesn’t even lessen the incidences of suicide among people who believe they’re “trans”

  29. i should add that the docs lie about the risks of suicide as well as the risk of self-mutilation in the case of trannyism. the patients lie too. but in any event, will the (small) risk of self-harm constitute a true emergency in this new economy either? i dont know, but considering the greed of medical providers and the motivation for “the transsexual empire” in the first place — money — i kind of doubt it. as you say though, there isnt a lot that will ever stop men from harming women, including institutionalizing us, so who knows if any of this will turn out for us? the “world” has changed, but womens reality has a funny way of staying the same.

  30. Hello Bedelia and Cherry thank you for this provocative essay. Almost ALL women are institutionalized eventually, if they live long enough. We call them elder care centres and other euphemisms. I am in the midst of daily visits to provide a friend with what cannot be provided by the “care centre” which has rock-bottom funding, overworked and underpaid and unskilled staff from other countries who don’t speak English (try that with your elderly aunt who has failing vision and hearing), I don’t know if they are modeled on mental hospitals, or vice-versa. The women are four and six to a room, have no stimulation, are being used as guinea pigs for every lightly studied, but heavily marketed useless ‘preventive’ drug. There are 180 residents, with minor dementia.(which I believe is caused by the drugs but don’t mind me). There are four males in that number. So this is essentially, how we treat the women who built our country.

    Sorry if this is off topic. Thanks always for your provocative writing CBL.

  31. yes thats a good point isnt it? dworkin’s expose of the condition of elderly women in the US (in her book right wing women) was profound. it changed the way i think about our situation — i think i realized how bad it was for the first time, and exactly where this road we are on leads. this femininity road, this fuckability road, this het partnership road all leads to nursing homes, if we live long enough — being drugged and raped by the orderlies.

  32. Thanks doublevez. (lol at “don’T mind me”)
    Japan’s nursing homes are full of old women, not old men. So they each nurse a husband to the end of his life and then there is nobody to nurse them.

  33. I’m practical, so I have a practical request: phone a nursing home/care centre/whatever in your area and ask if they have any women residents who get no visitors. They will likely say yes quite a few, Go through the interview for volunteers if that’s required, and get in there. It’s not all awful, especially when someone takes your hand and whispers, “thank you for coming.” Sing, play an instrument, help feed, give a hand massage, and talk about your children or the country they are from (and be prepared to do the same thing next time, because…). It does help them then, and also that the staff know, someone cares about this woman. Bring a few candies, a picture book, brush her hair. Just one hour, once a week if that’s all you can manage, Please.

  34. Thanks for that, Doublevez, and thanks, Cherry, for the excellent article. Doublevez, especially for those of us who have lost their mothers, these elders are very like our mothers. When I go to a nursing home to visit a friend it is almost impossible not to engage with others who would gain so much from friendly touch and a little of our strength. So many feel confused and frightened or have small needs the staff does not have time to attend to. Some just need someone to push their chair outside to take in a little sun once in a while. Some just need to be called by their names by a person who is not a paid caregiver. It isn’t awful at all, it’s a deepening and satisfying experience. Thanks for bringing that up.

  35. Let me add, that it is very true that having an outsider look in on a woman who is otherwise alone is a protection for her.

  36. Hi Karmarad. And if you speak another language, ask about women residents who have NO one who understands them. My last visit there was a women singing and talking out very loudly in Punjabi. None of the staff knew what she was saying. She may have wanted or needed something, been in pain. They are old women, the most useless thing of all to the patriarchy. This organization serves all of Canada. They are all volunteers, and are frequently threatened with lawsuits by the College of Physicans and Surgeons. The founder has put all her assets in family members names, so there is nothing for the doctors, faciliteis, med professional unions to get. Even her car which she uses to go from centre to centre.

    Look at the smirk on his face. The shot was taken as he left the courthouse.

  37. @doublevez, I read the article. I thought nothing could shock me about our situation any more – reports of shooting wives in their knees so they can’t escape in Guatemala, the acid attacks and nose mutilations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the frightful mass rapes in the Congo – but this happens right here in developed countries to the absolutely most vulnerable among us, and this instance is of a savagery I can hardly stand to read about.

  38. I will appreciate your article as it covers a lot of things related to women.. though all these problems you have shared in your articles still exists, i will say what are the remedies or what actions we can take so that we can cope up with the situations that are worst for women… we can’t change the total scenario but we can cope up with the situations for a good cause for women’s……

  39. I actually have a post on my blog which makes a pretty darn good case for the sanity of women. Feminists especially 😉

  40. @Lindsay That link you posted truly horrified me. I read the whole article and then I looked at the wikipedia article about electroshock “therapy”. I was surprised, how positive it made ECT seem. I am not a frequent Wikipedia-contributer and I don’t really dare to start editing that article, but I would really love to see it changed. I think it should reflect the negative side-effects, intensions and outcomes of electroshock “therapy”. I thing the article you linked to provides good information and references for editing the wikipedia article.
    Anybody interested in and able to change that article?


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