Women’s Madness: Thursday 7th February 5pm. Strathcona LT3

Women’s madness: Hysteria to hospitalisation, Misogyny or mental illness?


Thursday 7th February, 5pm, in Strathcona, LT3.

Why are women overrepresented as ‘mad’? Who decides these women are mad, society, biology or medicine? Is female madness a response to abuse and stress – including the lifelong stress of second-class citizenship?

Is it not surprising that an ‘institutionalized inequality produced by social definition [does] not exact a psychological price upon the inferior group [?]’

‘We educate women to expect equality in many cases, and then we expect them to be happy with the crumbs from the table. It is no wonder we feel mad’ (Ussher, 1991)

In Women and Madness Phyllis Chesler questioned the social construction of mental illness stating that it was an expression of female powerlessness and of the attempt to overcome it. She argued that notions of madness were linked to conventional understandings of masculinity and femininity and could be seen as ‘norm’ violations. Deviations from accepted attributes of masculinity and femininity were understood to be madness. However, women were more likely than men to be ‘mad’ because of the inherent characteristics of the ‘well-adjusted’ woman, who was meant to be submissive, emotional and dependant.


More materials for the seminar are available here: Women’s Madness Handout


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