Wednesday 9 November 2022

Women and Madness

Well, it's been a while. Bear with me. This is going to turn into a book review blog for a few weeks, then maybe I'll talk about other things. If you wan to see more regular posts by me, I'm over on YouTube more nowadays. That in itself is a whole other discussion and I will explain at a later date. Meanwhile, there's a heap of reading I haven't reviewed, so here goes.

I took a heap of notes during this one, and now I don't think I can comb back through them all, so I'm going to go off memory, which might be slightly hazy as I read it a few months back now. I truly have been shocking at keeping up with my blog.

The key points:

Most of what it covered wasn't a big surprise. It shone a light on how mental health has been used over the generations to repress women and twist them into believing that quite normal emotional reactions and desires are somehow wrong and warped. That they are hysterical, over-reacting, irrational and angry. As it quotes another author, Nzinga Shaka Zulu: 'therapists are often the soft police of the dominant culture.'

It refers a lot to Greek mythology, which I enjoyed. Looking at power dynamics and relations between mothers and their daughters. It reminded me a bit of Charlotte Keatley's play My Mother Said I Never Should, in that respect. She also goes into the mother/whore dichotomy.

There were many examples of how a predominantly male system, and male therapists, abused their power to elicit sex and other favours from female clients, often turning against them or casting them aside at a later date, yet strangely, both men and women generally prefer male therapists and spend longer seeing them. 

I appreciated that Chesler devotes quite a bit of time to discussing the difference in experience between straight and gay women, and between white and black women. All of the lesbians she interviewed had been classified as sick by therapists and psychiatrists, some given shock therapy. Chilling stuff, considering how very recent that history is. 

There were a few statements I didn't agree with, none of which I can remember offhand at the moment, but I think they generally revolved around slightly outdated stereotypes of women and their place in society. The book was originally written in the 70s, and it does have a bit of a didactic quality to it which niggled occasionally. 

I'm not entirely sure if this was the book itself or the audio narration. I have to say, I did struggle with this one as an audiobook. The only way to describe the tone of narration is sardonic. At first it feels a bit nudge-nudge, wink-wink, we're all in this together, aren't these people who hold such outdates views ridiculous, but after an hour or two it just starts to grate. You feel like saying, 'just talk to me like a normal person,' rather than trying to rile my outrage. I picture the narrator sitting in a leather-sofa library, narrating with a bourbon in hand and a cigarette in a foot-long holder, ruby-red lips curled in distain between puffs. The questions never come across as genuine questions but always rhetorical. 

That's not to say that the book isn't good or insightful, just to say, probably best get the tree copy. 

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