Women's Madness: Misogyny or Mental Illness?
Jane M. Ussher
Publication Date :
1 Jan 1991
Why do an overwhelmingly larger proportion of women than men suffer from depression and emotional distress? Is it because, as feminists would argue, that women are reacting to a misogynistic world? Or is their madness mental illness, as the "experts" would claim? In this book, Jane Ussher examines these opposing viewpoints and proposes both a new understanding of women's mental distress and constructive alternatives to present treatments. Using an historical perspective, she analyzes the evidence for misogyny in different cultures and its effects on women. In a detailed examination of witchcraft - and the contradictory arguments that witchcraft was either evidence of misogyny or mental illness - Ussher sets the background for her investigation of women's madness from the Victorian era to the 20th century. She moves on to assess various critiques of the concept of madness, including those from sociologists, Marxists, the 1960s' anti-psychiatrists and feminists, and exposes their ultimate failure to explain or understand women's experience of what is called "madness". She surveys how and why women become "mad", or are labelled "mad" and conducts a critical analysis of the present forms of intervention from psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists. Finally, she suggests constructive alternatives which reconcile the needs of individual women with the needs of women as a group. Shortlisted for MIND Book of the Year 1991.