In all societies, women have always been perceived as, physically but also mentally weaker than men. For a very long period, and even today in some parts of the world, women have not been considered as rational as men, but were rather seen as a permanently subversive force within the political order. Men were the reason, women the passion. Thus in order to break women's unstable image, many feminists have worked on the mind/body distinction of Descartes. Their aim was to explain to people that women were as capable as men, and that they had the same intellectual and mental capacities, as well as the same abilities than their male counterparts. In other words, they wanted to prove that the mind had no sex and that the body was only a transport system. Yet, when it comes to mental healthcare, statistics show that women have more chances to suffer from mental illness.
[...] These diseases are more common among women whose bodies are associated with a “normative construction of femininity.” Hence, social factors do play an important part in the explanation of anorexia with the “culture of thinness and the concomitant prevalence of body dissatisfaction, dieting, bingeing and purging among women.” Women are under pressure as they are always being associated with their body. They are not only brainwashed by the media but they know that physical norms about women “shape the perception of potential lovers and employers.” Similarly a good wife must remain sexually attractive for her husband. [...]
[...] Women have been “conceptualized as being ruled by their bodies, bodies which were seen as unstable and inherently weak”. Hence, during the 19th century, doctors followed the idea that women's reproduction system left them “particularly vulnerable to mental and emotional disturbance.” At that time as well, it was almost universally accepted that the brain was directly linked to the reproductive organs and therefore interference in either the brain or the reproductive organs would affect the whole system.” Thus, women's madness was traditionally located in malfunctions or diseases of the reproductive organs. [...]
[...] Since the beginning of the second wave of women's liberation movement, feminists have considered that women's depression was the result of “women's circumstances under patriarchy.” Many doctors used to wrongly diagnose endogenous depression (as opposed to reactive depression) simply because they had not taken enough time or enough trouble to search for a relevant external cause of patient's distress. Many women who had had negative experience of the different physical treatments of mental illness have demanded that the medical staff should “listen to them rather than treat them simply as a collection of medical symptoms.” Betty Friedan was one of the first feminists to talk about the feelings of emptiness and boredom experienced by women within their condition of wife and mother. [...]
[...] In Second Sex, she gave a non essentialist understanding of the body and explained that is not born, but becomes a woman.' This sentence revealed the artificial nature of womanhood which in engendered by society, only to make women secondary objects, acquiring meaning only in relation to men. Also, one should not forget that many women, after the second semester of pregnancy must cease to hold position of full-time employment and as a result become financially dependant on their partner or on the State. Hence, pregnancy can be a source of frustration for women since they are limited and restricted in their social life. [...]
[...] This is why psychoanalysis can sometimes be more useful than medicines to cure this illness which today, concerns at varying degrees, one third of the world population. Bibliography Bordo, Susan, Unbearable weight : feminism, Western culture, and the body, London: University of California Press Busfield, Joan, Men, Women and Madness: Understanding Gender and Mental Disorder, London: Macmillan Chesler, Phyllis, Women and Madness, London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich De Beauvoir, Simone, the Second Sex, Harmondsworth: Penguin Ehrenreich, Barbara and Deirdre English, For Her Own Good: 150 Years pf the Expert's Advice to Women, New York: Anchor Press Foster, Peggy, Women and the Health Care Industry: an unhealthy relationship?, Buckingham: Open University Press Friedan, Betty, the Feminine Mystique, New York: Dell Gardiner, Judith, K. [...]
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