radical feminist implications

Women and madness

Another thing about madness is that, as we know from historical and current evidence, women are often diagnosed as mad when they’re reacting to totally abnormal circumstances (eg, life in patriarchy) in perfectly normal, understandable ways. See “hysteria” diagnoses, the overprescription of “mother’s little helpers”, the tendency to label all women “screeching harpies”, and pretty much the entire body of Freudian theory.

Given the things many women live through, nervous breakdowns, psychotic breaks from reality, physical complaints with seemingly no somatic origin, panic attacks, emotional shutdowns, impulsive self-harming tendencies, rage, antisocial desires or tendencies, and the like are really not terrible overreactions: we are basically living in a war zone, and the effects are evident, especially if we are on the front lines (women who exist on more than one axis of oppression at the same time) and have no support. 

Take me, for one example. I am a fairly functional person (at least by my own standards), but if you present me with a direct threat (homelessness, imminent loss of already-precarious below-poverty-level financial security, hunger, detainment, restraint, abuse, etc), I will respond in ways that will probably seem pretty fucking “mad.” To be more specific, I will start to panic and behave almost exactly like a terrified caged animal. That does not mean I am inherently mad or there is some mysterious nebulous thing wrong with me (“chicks, man … they’re irrational”) – but it also doesn’t mean I’m faking it for pity or that I can always control it at will, either.

Or I might just get angry and try to speak out or organize, and that also doesn’t mean I’m insane. (“Chicks, man … they’re crazy.”) Women should not be labeled insane for reacting to external conditions. Especially because the psychiatric industry (where many of us end up) does not do anything to help with these external conditions or give us any useful material to cope with them. Women who are labeled mad often have a huge set of underlying circumstances, and it would be good to sort them out in consciousness-raising communities before simply accepting the labels and trying to live them out like acceptable consumer-automatons. These manifestations are not healthy, but they didn’t spring out of nowhere, either, and many of them can be understood if not worked with and channeled to the point that they’re largely overcome.