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Jun 26 2012

Discrimination Korner: Cover your boobs whether you have them or not

The author in 2006

Because, unlike me, you pay attention to current events, you have probably heard about the Seattle woman who got booted out of the public pool for trying to swim topless while boobless. Dudes flaunt the torso daily without eliciting comment, but the Seattle Parks & Rec Dept. gave Jodi Jaecks the bum’s rush because she has mastectomy scars instead of nips, and apparently the sight of her horrible post-surgical chest was grossing everyone the fuck out. There was no choice but to go all Taliban on her ass and inform her that her body is too offensive for public display, and she would have to wear a “gender appropriate” top in the pool.

Jaecks is one of the approximately 3 other women on the entire planet besides me who declined to get “reconstruction” after breast cancer surgery. * Her boobs are a thing of the past, so why would she wear a goddam boulder holder? Wearing clothes when you intend to be underwater is kind of weird anyway, but for a person who lacks the sort of tissue that requires the support of spandex scaffolding, and who in fact asserts that such superfluous garments actually inflict pain on her scars, it’s flippin absurd.

But women, including 45-year-old androgynous lesbian women, are expected to perform femininity at all times, even when they have been effectively neutered by various cancer amputations, and even when it hurts. Our skitzo enpinkified survivor culture values pluckiness but requires capitulation. The imperative is ever to appease. Enforce/Embrace the gender binary lest civilization crumble!

Here’s how I put it, back in Aught-Eight:

The world will literally explode if the following two conflicting conditions are met: (a) a female appears in public topless, and (b) a female in public fails to produce mammary tissue upon inspection.

You see the catch? It’s not exactly a Catch-22; that catch comes later. This is more of a Catch-23. If you have mammary tissue, you have to cover it up. If you don’t have mammary tissue, you’re obliged to get some, then cover it up. If you don’t get some, you still have to cover it up.

To put it another way: you have to hide it in order to prove that you have it. If you can’t prove that you have it, you have to prove that you’re willing to fake having it.

It goes without saying that if you won’t fake having it by hiding what isn’t, you must be shunned.

Thus did Seattle shun Jodi Jaecks. Apparently they actually accused her of intentionally trying to “shock” people. Fuck. You know what’s shocking? 1 in 7 women get breast cancer, and nobody’s ever seen a post-op chest. Fuck. The nonsensical arbitrariness of social convention never ceases to cheese an aunt off.

Eventually, back in Seattle, the magnanimous Parks & Rec Superintendent relented somewhat on the compulsory tankini issue, reclassifying Jaecks as not so “alarming” after all. At present, Jaecks is permitted to go trunks-only, but only during designated adult swim periods. Protect the delicate youths from monstrous cancer-women lest their idyllic Grand Theft Auto-playin’ childhoods be irreparably damaged by a couple of scars on a middle-aged woman.

Anecdote: my young nieces Fin and Rotel have grown up fully cognizant of my boob scars. They know what cancer is, they know what surgery is, and I can assure the anxious public that despite this exposure they are 100% unfazed. They are way more interested in my tattoo, but that’s a scar for another day.

________________
* “Reconstruction” is in quotation marks because the surgery to which it alludes does not actually reconstruct a functioning breast. The surgery, which is risky, painful, and has absolutely zero therapeutic value, con-structs a funbag. This allows the patient to resume her rightful rung on the discrimination ladder as she recuperates from the horrible disease that nearly killed her.

153 comments

2 pings

  1. K

    Probably I’m not the first to post this, but it sounds like the policy will change:

    http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2012/06/21/city-will-consider-wholesale-change-to-pool-policy?oid=13985135&show=comments&sort=asc&display=#comments

  2. emilyedna

    My mother had breast cancer in the 80′s (it eventually killed her) and she had a mastectomy. She lived for years with one breast. She had a fake boob pad thing to fill out the empty side of her bra, but most of the time she didn’t bother wearing it and left it on the bathroom counter. I always found it weird, this disembodied tit sitting there next to all of her other personal grooming effects. Now I think it’s kind of cool that she barely ever used it and did not opt to endure the bullshit reconstruction surgery.

    On a somewhat related note, I fucking hate all swimwear for women and girls. It’s all about how closely you can cleave to the beauty ultimatum, how much discomfort you are willing to endure to appear feminine, and how much time you’re going to spend on the sidelines scowling and yanking at your wedgie while the men whoop and holler and have fun in their breezy pairs of board shorts.

  3. stickypaws

    I marvel (am repelled by?) my own daily performance of femininity and wonder why the hell I put so much effort into it. And then I read your blog and am reminded of the consequences if I do not. Actually, we all already know the consequences.

    And so I do not stop. I must be able to eat and put a roof over my head, preferably with predictability.

  4. pheeno

    jesus christ

  5. Tonia

    Well said and written.
    As long as we all conform everything will be fine.
    Bastards.

  6. Twisty

    “I marvel (am repelled by?) my own daily performance of femininity and wonder why the hell I put so much effort into it. And then I read your blog and am reminded of the consequences if I do not.”

    Yikes, and here I thought I was striking a blow against femininity for all vaginakind! Talk about your unintended consequences.

  7. BK

    “Protect the delicate youths from monstrous cancer-women lest their idyllic Grand Theft Auto-playin’ childhoods be irreparably damaged by a couple of scars on a middle-aged woman.”

    so. much. truth.

    the fact that she was accused of trying to “shock” the public blew every lobe in my brain, i can barely salvage enough ‘lectricity to complete this comment…

  8. Keri

    Well if she’s only allowed out during adult swim, a giant fuck cancer tattoo where her tats used to be ought to be no trouble

  9. Jezebella

    Emilyedna – turns out they don’t do a gender license check when you buy board shorts for your own self. It is TOTALLY LEGAL, I discovered, to buy man shorts in the man section for my non-man ass. Word. Throw on a rash guard or “tankini” top, and some board shorts, no more wedgies to tug at.

  10. gingerest

    I particularly liked the part where the parks spokeswoman (the improbably named Dewey Potter) said “”She made it clear she wanted to show her scars as a ‘badge of courage’ and wanted to use the pool to spread her message.” What, exactly, is wrong with that?

    I was really pleased by the statement from Superintendent Williams, “Frankly, I don’t know all the situations that we may encounter…I think we want a diverse set of eyes on this so the decision is not made in a vacuum… We are only talking about double-mastectomy patients right now, but there may be a whole world of disabilities or differently figured people who we recommend some policy guidelines for.”

    Too bad it took multiple expressions of public outrage and a cover story (with picture) at The Stranger to get the job done.

  11. Newlady

    Twisty your blog continues to be a balm. Thank you.

  12. yttik

    Kind of funny, there’s been some comments about how men should not be allowed to swim topless in public pools. “Nasty repulsive hairy potbellies,” gave me a chuckle.

  13. greengirl

    This article appeared today in the Toronto Star:

    thestar.com/living/health/article/1216868–breasts-new-book-examines-how-they-re-changing#article

  14. stickypaws

    Yikes, and here I thought I was striking a blow against femininity for all vaginakind! Talk about your unintended consequences.

    Sorry. Bad day at chez stickypaws. Glass less than half full, and all that.

    So when do we get to see/read about the tat?

  15. ptittle

    Bravo, Twisty. BRA – VO.

    One of 4women, by the way.

    Defying all logic, a woman ‘spoke to me’ (I suspect the neighborhood nominated her to do so) about my going shirtless while kayaking on 90 degree days. I’d done it a few times pre-bilateral/double-mastectomy (I’m a shirtless supporter from way back – I discovered in my teens it was just more comfortable not to wear a bathing suit top, and since all the guys I saw didn’t have to…) (and then thanks to Gwen Jacobs, YAY GWEN, it became legal in Canada) (though I haven’t seen ONE woman besides me do so), but she spoke to me after I’d done it a few times post-bilateral/double-mastectomy. Go figure.

    Stickypaws, I’d love to hear how not performing femininity would cost you your job. We need to know this shit.

  16. Leena

    I can speak of how not performing the nonsense feminine rituals would cost my job. I work as a consultant in a dudely profession (IT) where I am judged and literally rated based in large part on first impressions, which are based in large part on my appearance.

    While working in a strange city during a heatwave I purchased a skirt because I wanted the naked leg coolness that my black slacks do not provide. I went to work and the way I was treated changed completely. Displaying my legs on the job resulted in better feedback, exceptional reviews, more frequent job assignments and a higher wage. I was fascinated and I started playing with it. My work sends me to different jobs on a sometimes weekly basis, which provided ample opportunities to completely reinvent myself as a new character on a new assignment.

    What I discovered is that (shockingly!) on subsequent assignments I made three times more money when I completed a job where I shave uncomfortable places, put paint on my face and eyes, and dress in socially approved Fuckable Woman of My Age clothing. I make more money, people react in a more positive way upon meeting me (a huge benefit when meeting new people and needing to immediately be An Expert), and my work life is generally easier.

    This morning while walking into work I waved at a former colleague from a position where I dressed in “unfuckable” clothing and didn’t wear makeup. She didn’t recognize me, and stared at me for a few seconds and then looked away uncomfortably. As she scurried across the street when the light changed, my lobes exploded realizing that putting on a skirt, shaving and applying paint has rendered me unrecognizable to someone I officed next to for five years.

    I have a mortgage worth of student debt and an actual mortgage. The cats rely on me to keep the house and lights on and even at this pace I honestly cannot imagine paying off my student debt before I turn sixty. So I accept the work with patriarchy costuming expectations and hate the whole damn lot of it. I welcome any ways to reconcile the woman who feels these expectations are all bullshit and that no kind of equality can begin to exist with members of an oppressive group in command, and the woman who applies paint to her eyelids five days a week. Eyelid paint. Because my natural eyelids are unacceptable without being adorned.

    I whore my brain out while dressed in stupid costumes because it pays my bills. And if I stop, the work will go to someone else who is willing to endure it and the cats and I live under a freeway. I look at all the choices and don’t see a good one. Do most women not go through this shit?

  17. eb

    Add to this the fact that Chaz Bono can go topless in public even though he still has his down low lady parts. Which means this woman could have declared herself post op trans on the spot and she wouldn’t have been asked to wear chick clothing because dudes don’t wear chick clothing. Although she could have then declared herself a gay male drag queen, which would have totally been a clusterfuck lobe blow for the P&R folks.

    But then, what would happen if a trans woman goes out in public topless and when questioned declares herself to be man? I’m sure the look on the face of the questioning authority would be totally priceless. But, if pressed to cover up, she could point to a hairy, repulsive, potbelly dude with moobs and ask that he wear a bikini top too.

    So many variations.

  18. speedbudget

    It has always bothered me that I can’t go topless at the beach. First of all, I wear a 32F bra, so it is nearly impossible to find a bathing suit that fits me properly in the first place. I am always spilling out all over and if I do manage to find something that will hold the girls up, it is EXTREMELY PAINFUL on my neck and shoulders.

    Secondly, I look around and I invariably see men with breasts allowed to go topless. My belief is if the rule is you can’t go topless because you have breasts, anybody with anything that will fit in a cup should be required to cover up.

  19. Twisty

    Here at El Rancho Deluxe one skinnydips at the swimming hole. When you do this all the time, the idea of wearing clothes when swimming becomes absurd. If I have to present myself as a non-shocking femininity-complier at a public pool, I own a board shorts/modified tankini combo. Two lady sports stores that I know of — Athleta, which is owned by Gap, and Title 9, which is owned by I know not who — sell board shorts with female proportions, but are of course made by indentured slaves in the Northern Marianas. The dude shorts are always too long. And I always have to cut the shelf bras out of the tops. These tops, which you know if you read my 2008 post, make me feel like a clown, since they are obviously made for women who do not have concave chests. Yay sex discrimination!

  20. Catherine

    Board shorts and a rash guard: I’m so much happier at the beach now. When it comes to comfort and ease it is usually a good idea to wear what men wear.
    Thank you for posting your post-op picture.

  21. TwissB

    @Leena -

    I hope that there is some pleasure in having the ability to create such a lucid description of a crazy-making situation.

  22. slipperyslope

    @Catherine “When it comes to comfort and ease it is usually a good idea to wear what men wear.” YES, YES, YES. Totally agree. Look at how the extremists Muslim duds dress who live in the desert climate of the Middle East. They wear white clothing which reflects the sun and protects the skin. The women wear black clothing which absorbs the sun thus making the burkas feel like a 450 degree oven! If they must completely cover themselves, why can’t the women wear white?

    And here in the USofA, duds wear flat shoes and loose clothing. For women (and little girls) its nose-bleed shoes and anything tight. I think its was Betty Freidan who was once addressing a group of college women in the 1970′s who said that young women were still wear girdles but in the form of tight jeans.

    Maybe straight duds are afraid to wear anything tight. They might be ogled by another DUD. Oh My!

  23. tinfoil hattie

    A friend of mine who is wrenching herself away from the tight, tortured grasp of a particularly woman-hating godbaggy church related this tale yesterday: When she and a friend were speaking about their church’s prohibition on bikinis, her friend said: “I see these girls in these skimpy little bathing suits, and I get angry about how unfair it is to men who are sex addicts.”

    @Leena, I am sadly unsurprised by your tale. And I remain angry on behalf of you and ALL women who have to conform to patriarchal standards to keep their jobs. Hey, I think that’s pretty much all of us, with only a few exceptions. I hope you are not mean to yourself because of the impossible situation you (and all of us) are in. That patriarchy loathes us does not mean we are obligated to collude in said loathing. We are all doing whatever we can.

    That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from this blog and comments, maybe: to stop judging women for the myriad ways we have to cope in patriarchy. I do reserve anger for women who deliberately undermine other women, though (e.g., Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter).

  24. tinfoil hattie

    By the way, the original post (in 2008) on this subject was the twisty faster post that finally had me crying and laughing with relief at the comprehension that no, I was not crazy; and yes, things ARE as bad as I always suspected they were – since I was about six years old, I think.

  25. speedbudget

    Jesus Christo on a fucking Triscuit, tinfoil hattie, do these people even LISTEN to themselves? I can’t even begin to image how fucked up you have to be to be worried about the sex-addicted men when girls are at the beach in a fucking bathing suit.

    Oh, and hey. It’s not an addiction unless it interferes with activities of daily living. I fucking hate with the fire of ten bazillion suns the whole “he’s a sex addict” excuse. No, he’s not. He just throws that out there because he knows it will make you back off, and if he IS an addict, shouldn’t it be incumbent upon him to avoid the beach, not the girls to worry about whether there might be an addict around? I mean, Jesus. When people are out at picnics having a nice glass of wine they aren’t required to worry about the alcoholics out in public.

  26. nails

    “I marvel (am repelled by?) my own daily performance of femininity and wonder why the hell I put so much effort into it. And then I read your blog and am reminded of the consequences if I do not. Actually, we all already know the consequences.”

    There are consequences for conforming too though, don’t forget that. Dudes assume you want their boner attention or that you won’t get mad if they are sexist, they might even call you a bimbo. You cannot win. You might as well just wear whatever the hell you want to, really.

  27. genderslayer

    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/cover-up/Content?oid=13970858

    “As a lesbian who describes herself as “pretty androgynous,” Jaecks is offended. She wants to know how the rules apply to transgender swimmers. “A transsexual would wear a bathing suit of the gender he or she is at the time of using a pool,” says Potter.

    As Jaecks points out, if she were to dip into Medgar Evers Pool with the exact same body but called herself a dude, her naked chest would not be considered offensive or anti-family. But because she’s a woman, parks officials told her that if swimsuit tops are too painful, she should try swimming in lightweight fitness tops.”

    What more proof does anyone need that transitioning is a socially conservative act, regardless of whether it eases the individual’s discomfort, compared to females who want to stay in their bodies that they were born with and don’t conform to gender appropriate rules? Most lesbians already know this though, since we have been gender non-conforming our whole lives.

  28. nails

    Not everyone who transitions does so in a way that conforms to socially prescribed gender roles.

    The pressure on trans people to “pass” is often associated with the threat of violence if they fail. I don’t think people who aren’t trans should judge trans people on how they decide to present, considering.

  29. Ms. Lovegood

    This is just sad that she got kicked out of a pool for, basically, not having boobs to cover up but needed to be covered up..anyways? And she’s a cancer survivor. What, huh? Patriarchy has never, in all my life, made sense. It’s also got no fucking manners.

    “Don’t expose your boobies (life-giving, necessary organs for human life), dog forbid anybody sees those. What? Oh, the chemicals that can give you cancer in the first place? Aisle 5.”
    -Direct quote from the P.

  30. gingerest

    Ha, Twisty, Guerilla Feminism linked this on Facebook and people are getting all bunched up about your use of the term “neutered” in graf 3.
    https://www.facebook.com/guerrillafeminism

  31. stacey

    Our skitzo enpinkified survivor culture values pluckiness but requires capitulation.

    This sentence is simply sublime.

    (I regret the inclusion of the ableist word “skitzo” which I am having to weed out of my own vocabulary, along with nuts, crazy, and whackjob. Sorry for pointing it out, Twisterella.)

  32. Yessenia

    What more proof does anyone need that transitioning is a socially conservative act, regardless of whether it eases the individual’s discomfort, compared to females who want to stay in their bodies that they were born with and don’t conform to gender appropriate rules? Most lesbians already know this though, since we have been gender non-conforming our whole lives.

    Are you under the impression that transitioning is some sort of full-body transplant? Because we actually do stay in the bodies we were born with, and cutting off your tits isn’t generally considered ‘gender appropriate.’

    Also, please keep in mind that “lesbian” and “transgender” are NOT mutually exclusive categories.

    I appreciate your sharing your expertise on the experience of being gender non-conforming your whole life. Wow, I could never know what that felt like, nope.

  33. minervaK

    emilyedna: You do realize that you’re not legally required to buy and/or wear those “female” swim togs, right? Board shorts and a tank top — boom! You’re swimming. Stop shaving your legs, too. It’s like discovering the Rosetta Stone.

  34. quixote

    stacey, this is kind of OT semantics, but I wanted to ask: are you sure skitzo is inappropriate here? It’s not actually name-calling. It’s an accurate adjective describing an insane approach which requires simultaneously holding mutually exclusive viewpoints. That’s fairly near the definition of schizophrenia, so is it actually inappropriate?

  35. Twisty

    “I regret the inclusion of the ableist word “skitzo””

    Noted.

  36. jenicillin

    The real description being cognitive dissonance? I think skitzo is legitimate in this case. Cause I know everyone wants my opinion!

  37. Jezebella

    While I appreciate the concept of just going topless at the swimmin’ hole or wherever, as dudes do, I’m pretty sure my pasty white boobs would burst into flame if I went outside without a shirt on. They haven’t seen the sun since I was a toddler. Ouch. The more flesh I cover with swimwear, the less sunblock I have to reapply every hour on the hour. Dammit, now I wanna go swimming. It’s a hundred fucking degrees in Mississippi and I don’t know anyone with a pool.

  38. theelectricturtle

    What more proof does anyone need that transitioning is a socially conservative act, regardless of whether it eases the individual’s discomfort, compared to females who want to stay in their bodies that they were born with and don’t conform to gender appropriate rules? Most lesbians already know this though, since we have been gender non-conforming our whole lives.

    1) thank you for being upfront about the fact that you don’t give a fuck if an “individual” experiences “discomfort” (which is often extreme enough to lead to deep depression, anger, even suicidal tendencies) about their bodies.

    2) this may be news to you, but there are a very substantial number of gender-nonconforming trans men and women, who face, in addition to the usual misunderstanding and dangers that any gender-noncomforming person faces, a heaping dish of gender identity invalidation as well (“why would you bother to transition if you were going to be butch/femme?”)

    3) “socially conservative” depends a lot on who you’re talking to. yes, there are people that are homophobic but can deal with you if you end up basically looking like the sex you identify as, but there are just as many people who have just managed to wrap their minds around the gay but are seriously freaked out by transgenderism. my family being a case in point.

  39. theelectricturtle

    also, please bear in mind that plenty of trans people, myself included, think our society’s gender norms (including the one where women’s chests are seen as obscene but men’s chests are perfectly decent) are outrageous and discriminatory.

  40. stacey

    off-topic to quixote and jenicillin:

    “Schizo” or anything that implies mental illness falls under the ableist word profile:

    h ttp://disabledfeminists.com/2010/05/17/guest-post-from-rmj-ableist-word-profile-crazy/

    Because it implies a slur against the mentally ill, it should therefore be out of our vocabs. (Also, schizophrenia is a psychotic condition which may manifest as dissociative disorder, amongst other things.) This is all stuff that I should have known about, or known much more about, since I suffer from depression. I’ve used too many of these words for too long.

    Alternatives to schizo: dissociated, extremist, polar

  41. rootlesscosmo

    And this swimming pool is named after Medgar Evers??

  42. Alie

    The thought that more people are more shocked by the unclothed human body in all it’s forms than by people dying everyday from lack of healthcare or that children go to bed hungry never ceases to amaze me. Sure, I’d probably do a double take reflexively, but there’s nothing harmful or shameful about our bodies. The patriarchy just wants us to think it is.

  43. JoeyH

    ““Reconstruction” is in quotation marks because the surgery to which it alludes does not actually reconstruct a functioning breast. The surgery, which is risky, painful, and has absolutely zero therapeutic value, con-structs a funbag. This allows the patient to resume her rightful rung on the discrimination ladder as she recuperates from the horrible disease that nearly killed her.”

    I don’t argue with this perspective. I’ve always found cosmetic breast surgery creepy, and if I had a mastectomy I can’t imagine — although obviously I don’t know — that I would want reconstruction. Frankly I doubt I’d even bother with prosthetics.

    I’m curious, however. I know some survivors who loved having breasts, and so chose reconstruction or prosthetics. One of them said she felt like her breasts were connected to her memories of childbirth and nursing, and losing them made her feel bereft. She had reconstruction and though it obviously isn’t the same, she felt much happier.

    Are reconstruction and/or prosthetics, to your mind, by definition and objectively wrong, or do you allow for a woman’s personal choice? Because it seems unfair to insist that we not be shamed for our bodies, but then judge women who choose to change them. I’m not attacking your viewpoint, just asking for clarification. I understand there is no physical therapeutic value, but isn’t emotional therapy valid for women who desire it?

    (Note: I’m new to this blog, so my apologies if my jumping in is unwelcome. For context I’m cis female, straight, married, 39, and physically disabled (housebound) due to chronic illness.)

  44. Twisty

    Are reconstruction and/or prosthetics, to your mind, by definition and objectively wrong, or do you allow for a woman’s personal choice? Because it seems unfair to insist that we not be shamed for our bodies, but then judge women who choose to change them. I’m not attacking your viewpoint, just asking for clarification. I understand there is no physical therapeutic value, but isn’t emotional therapy valid for women who desire it?

    I’m for women doing whatever the hell they want. The purpose of this blog is to point the gnarled claw of truth at instances of patriarchal oppression that are often invisible, even to the oppressed. Reconstruction, for example, is a performance of patriarchy-affirming femininity. If “emotional therapy” obtains from breast reconstruction, it is because our current social structure does not allow women without boobs to be considered “normal.” Do I think it would deal a satisfying blow to the status quo if women united and monolithically decided to quit participating in femininity? Sure. Do I stand in judgement of women who feel an emotional attachment to their boobs? No. Women don’t have genuine agency on this planet. Our choices are limited by sexism, discrimination, and violence. That, as I’m sure you’re aware, is what patriarchy is.

  45. Linda

    Stacey said ““Schizo” or anything that implies mental illness falls under the ableist word profile:”

    Thank you. I’m glad that online feminists are now getting down with this. The slurs like “schizo” “nutter” “psycho” “batshit crazy” and all the rest, support the stigma of mental illness, and it’s the stigma that prevents a lot of people from getting help and treatment early on or ever.

    If I had known years ago what I know now about mental illness, my friend who had borderline personality disorder, might still be alive. I cringe to think of the ableist language we all used to use around her and how isolating that must have been.

  46. Amos

    I am schizophrenic and am not offended by “schizo”. Crazy behavior really is something to be avoided, which is what makes it a disability. The respelling made me uncomfortable thoh. It seemed like “ghey”, which made me think it might be a slur after all. Of course many mentally ill people disagree with me; just wanted to say we psychos aren’t unanimous.

  47. Rididill

    I echo Amos’ sentiment. I really don’t think discrimination against disabled people, physically or mentally, is in any way similar to that of discrimination against other groups. Too often the tactics taken for one are applied to another when it doesn’t make any sense at all.

    These things are called disabilities because they stop you from functioning. Because they make your life objectively worse. Using the word ‘gay’ or ‘girl’ as an insult is problematic because it presumes being gay or being a woman is bad. I don’t think there are many people with these illness who would argue that it represents an equally valid and worthwhile way to be – nor would they see attempts to cure it as unjust attempts to ‘erase’ them. Being mentally ill is bad. Being physically ill is bad. No one is seriously going to argue with that, surely.

    Personally, I would say a lot more damage is being done in the name of attempting to ‘address the stigma’ of mental illness than flinging words around like ‘nutter’ or ‘crazy’. It didn’t matter to me if people labelled me as ‘crazy’ or ‘mentally ill’ in fact, it was much easier to dismiss people who called me crazy than those who seemed to have good intentions by calling me the proper label. It was the label that was the problem, not the specific word.

    The real problem was that I was labelled as mentally ill from a very young age, as it was ‘known to run in the women of my family’ (hah). What that means in practice, once you have that label, is that no one ever listens to a damn thing you say. Everything is taken to be a manifestation of your ‘illness’ which you should admit to and not be ashamed of because it’s no longer a ‘stigma’. Everyone assumes your point of view is just a symptom of your mental problems, and when you get that as a kid, you do too. And there is no better recipe for actually becoming crazy than losing total faith in your ability to understand the world, and so turning to what others say about you/the world instead. Which also, needless to say, leaves you very vulnerable to abuse.

    The medicalization of my point of view was far, far more damaging to me than any use of the words ‘schizo’ ‘nutter’, etc. What is called mental illness is usually a sensible response to the way you have been treated. That is what needs to be recognized. Calling it illness confuses the matter though. It isn’t anything like physical illness. Actually I think this view makes it a lot worse. Policing people’s language is a total waste of time on this issue I feel. It’s the concepts that are wrong.

  48. Rididill

    Also, I don’t think ‘getting help’ in the traditional sense did me any damn good at all. Perhaps if I had had a feminist therapist, that is the only kind of therapy I would support.

    Saying I had mental illness was far, far more acceptable among the people in my social and family circles, than admitting I might have a point about something and wasn’t just a deluded freak. I’m really sorry your friend died. I really am. I very much doubt that if you had different language around her though, it would have made a difference.

  49. yttik

    Amos and Rididill make some good points.

    Sometimes our quests to be politically correct completely forget that there are real people attached to these issues. Personally I hate some of the terms we attach to the poor, “economically disadvantaged,” ” at risk youth.” Often we put pretty names on things to alleviate our own guilt, so we don’t have to feel uncomfortable about who and what somebody’s circumstances are.

  50. Rididill

    Just to clarify, I’m not talking about all mental illness here. Obviously some are much more to do with neurological malfunctionings than others. What I’m talking about is the epidemic of depression, anxiety, and other associated things that are sweeping across the Western world and (no surprises here) women in particular.

    This includes borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, etc. I just looked up borderline personality disorder and it describes me very well in fact. Especially me at earlier stages in life. Not that anyone happened to label me in precisely that way.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001931/

    Feminism has done more for me in this respect than any ‘professional help’ ever did. Why? Because I realized that my responses were a natural response to a fucked up world. It helped me learn to trust myself. Only when I could trust myself did the turbulent and uncontrollable emotions improve. Only through learning that I could say ‘fuck society’ and that’s ok, did I improve. To stop getting angry, I had to stop valuing the aspects of the world around me that were screwing me over.

    These are not messages I received from any professional, rather, they consider you as the one with something wrong with you and you need to learn how to ‘adjust’ and fix yourself. It was only when I broke away from this mindset that I began to improve.

  51. Jane

    Oh, yea, my language is violent/horrible, I know, and well, it’s not directed towards any of YOU, in regards to the two above responses, OK, know this,

    but it IS my rage, at what I am experiencing myself because it IS also happening to my children [teens, my daughter has ulcers because of this shit now] AND because of what I’ve seen in regards to numerous young adults who live near us or who know my children [oldest daughter] who’ve been in the system for bogus shit–petty either in foster care OR for non violent crimes, who have been forced drugged, raped WHILE in care, including disabled youth we know, and on top of that,

    the mega amount of research I’ve done on this issue.

    And so yea, I curse like mad because it IS murder on a systematic level and I see it all the time, I know so many young people, esp females who are near brain dead, sterilized, because of this shit–I know several women who have lost their children to abusive Men because of the system, know many destroyed because of past prison [women it's a death sentence literally] or who are Homeless and near dead because of, again Women mostly,

    and I saw this in inner city years ago, when I was living in low income housing/temp homeless but I see it here in the suburbs too, to lower income working class. Many of whom are truly underclass–but point being,

    I see it, every single day, AND now I’m also dealing with the whole shit crap can criminal system and to Think, that at one time, I actually held Respect for those who work in that whole legal mess–and like many in society, I too believed the labels, I just didn’t realize,

    how easy it was for them to Label people but what Really got me, what Irks me to the point where IF there is Revolution I promise, I’ll be on front line–I’m already Cross that point

    is how the so called Help System, is not about Help at all, but is nothing more than one big whore money pimp scam, that are Working to Murder the mentally ill, disabled, elderly, FEMALES, particularly those who are either poor [whites included and I'm talking real poor here] or who are non-white [they don't have to be poor, just non-white, the system Really goes after them and it IS GENOCIDE I don't care HOW many want to deny it, that's what it is],

    and to see so called Liberals, aiding this shit along…of course the conservatives [pro-patriarchal/capitalist] not only aid this shit they ARE the policy pushers of this shit–but its NOT just conservatives, oh hell no,

    what is the OUTRAGE is the numbers of so called Liberal Help Agencies that to the PUBLIC spew their ‘oh poor exploited we help, donate such and such, to this campaign’ but now WHEN you are on the Down side of all this, you find out real quick, it’s like the whole Poverty Industry, they help a few ‘tokens’,

    the rest is really about making THEM LOOK GOOD in the Public’s Eye, in other words, it’s cheap PR propaganda,

    or, they’ll help with Menz issues but where females are concerned–if it’s about protecting menz right to fuck/rape, well, then,

    buh bye female–excluding prison rape because well, yea Men get raped in prison so some liberal Help agencies do talk about that, I guarantee you though if it weren’t for the male rapes, you wouldn’t hear shit about the women being raped in prison–oh hell no, and even now, the whole language behind that shit [and mental health it's far worse/disabled care too], well, it’s like, PATHETIC

    anyway, yea so I curse, a lot of rage over this because it’s NOT something I take lightly, I just don’t have the tolerance anymore to use polite, civil, academic [puke puke] bullshit discourse to Educate people to the horrors,

    because Look, the System, I don’t care HOW WHITE THEIR TORTURE ROOMS ARE, and clean, they are NOT polite, civil, when they

    RAPE,
    TORTURE,
    RESTRAIN-TORTURE,
    SHOCK AND IGNORE THE CRIES OF THOSE WHO CAN’T REMEMBER THEIR OWN CHILDREN EVEN
    HOG TIE
    STARVE
    TASER
    BEAT
    LAUGH WHILE VICTIM IS ON FLOOR PUKING BLOOD
    etc etc etc etc

    and Those things are happening due to Labels, in our Mental Health Systems [out patient too because they do not give ONE DAMN how sick their POISON is making people, and those FORCED to take their POISONS they don't give a Fuck if their poison kills them, CHILDREN included as victims of this shit],

    in our Penal System/Jails

    in our Foster Care systems

    in our Juvenile Systems/boot camps

    in our Assisted Living Systems of both elderly, adult and youth who are Disabled

    in our Homes, Streets via Police Brutality

    so, Yea…..I curse, a lot. The system has been Murdering in Mega numbers, so yea,

    I have Borderline Defiance, in a Huge way, because I’m borderline every day in biting my tongue and NOT going off and hitting one of these sorry pieces of misogynist racist killing shit

    but, OK then…just so you know,

    Peace,

    Jane

  52. otoc

    Rididill, as someone dx’d, I really appreciate your comments and have had very similar experiences.

    You might find this interesting:

    http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2007/10/the_diagnosis_of_borderline_pe.html

  53. stacey

    I’m not trying to shut down discussion or pretty-up language by using politically-correct language. Y’alls can talk however y’all want. What I want to do personally, however, is use language that is inclusive and that doesn’t carry a value judgement along with it.

    If we take the phrase “Our skitzo enpinkified survivor culture…” as an example, I think it would have been perfectly acceptable as “Our schizophrenic enpinkified survivor culture…” because the correct word* names the actual condition of our (survivor) culture. “Skitzo,”, on the other hand, makes implications because of its slangification of the original word, and its alternative spelling; those implications appear differently to everyone, probably, but to me it means being skitzo is bad, and therefore skitzos are bad.” And of course that’s not at all what the sentence means; it’s supposed to be about the duality of society’s standards and BLAH BLAH BLAH I’M BORING MYSELF.

    I just think, if a word is iffy, leave it out. And if I didn’t know it was iffy, then I’d be happy to learn about wherefores and alternatives.

    Linda mentions a couple that make me particularly angry, “psycho” and “batshit crazy.” Although they are genderless terms, I most often see them applied to women, like “psycho girlfriend” or “crazy lady.” It’s a way to dismiss women’s opinions or needs, so I don’t like to use them, aside from them being ableist. (And whenever someone says a woman is “hysterical,” I go batshit crazy.)

    *… while acknowledging that schizophrenia and dual personality disorder are separate, but sometime mutually-occurring conditions.

  54. yttik

    “…use language that is inclusive and that doesn’t carry a value judgement along with it….”

    Well, it’s actually a complicated issue. In the context of this thread, we have a woman who doesn’t want society’s idea of “inclusiveness.” In our quest to avoid exposing her to value judgments we would “pretty up” her disease with a mandatory bathing suit top.

  55. Rididill

    Otoc – thanks for the link, I am glad you appreciated my comments and to find someone with similar experiences.

    Stacey – I do not disagree, in any way, that these words are used to dismiss women. My whole point is that the very tactful politically correct ways of saying it, i.e. ‘mentally ill’ are also used to dismiss women. And when that is repeatedly employed by those who love and care about you, and those who are well meaning and want to help you, that can be a whole lot more insidious than some asshole going ‘that bitch is craaaaaaaazy’ because the latter is somewhat easier to dismiss.

    Like I said, it’s the concepts that are the problem. I don’t mind if you want to talk that way. I object to being told I’m ‘ableist’ and perpetuating oppression for having a different view on the matter.

  56. lizor

    @ Rididill

    Thanks for those posts. I was thinking of how frequently these labels are used to shut down women’s and girl’s truth telling. I was also thinking about how being silenced, rendered invisible and isolated can actually upset your mental health. It’s all very convenient for the P, isn’t it?

    Someone was telling me recently about the Quakers’ approach to schizophrenia – a “moral therapy” which involved people living in a beautiful environment, eating healthy food and being surrounded by empathetic and respectful people. The recovery rate from this “incurable” condition (or close to – less than 10% by conventional western medical standards) was close to 90% and in a fairly short time.

    I was told this by a woman studying to be a therapist and don’t have time to look up articles that support the information, but it makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t think chemicals just “go wrong” out of any sort of context. The nervous and endocrine system are constantly responding to outside stimulus as well as to our thoughts. If one is constantly surrounded by P-riddled a-holes not to mention media, it could well throw the body and soul out of whack.

    Another reason why this blog is so valuable and important. Thank you for being here.

  57. KittyWrangler

    I have a mental illness and many friends with mental illnesses, and I don’t find “schizo” offensive– just extremely irritating and, practically speaking, silencing.

    I’m not “calling out” anyone in this thread but as a society-wide trend those words are fun to use because “diagnosing” makes the diagnos-er feel superior, knowledgeable, and entitled to lord it over the diagnosed (hello, Patriarchy). Or when describing one’s own behavior it’s like you’re taking a walk on the wild side, indulging in the romantic fantasy of the fun sort of “crazy.” It comes from and perpetuates an attitude that mentally ill people are either choosing to be fun free-spirits or are subhuman study subjects, depending on how useful the stereotype is to the not-ill speaker at any given moment. That is oppressive, so why do it? What is so important about being able to say, for example “OCD” instead of “detail oriented”? Or “psycho” instead of “unpredictable” or “manipulative”? (except, of course, when one is discussing actual mental illness and not using psych terms as slang).

    It’s personally irritating because 1. people almost always misuse the terms and it grates on my nerd-nerves, 2. the attitude that psychiatric labels are just synonyms for ordinary behaviors comes back to bite me in the ass when people (employers, teachers, family) think I can “snap out of it” by addressing so-called ordinary behaviors in the same ways that most others can, and 3. these attitudes and false information about mental illness muddy the waters, making it extremely difficult to discuss my (and others’) actual experiences with mental illness.

    Even I am getting tired of my own lecture, so apologies. Twisty didn’t crush my soul by using the word but I would be thrilled if people stopped using it in general.

  58. stacey

    @yttik, well, I don’t think any one of us here agrees with society’s idea of inclusiveness. I want to be inclusive from the POV of a brown radfem anti-classist, mom/artist.

  59. Fede

    Just because some of the people who live with schizophrenia are not offended by the use of ‘skitzo’ as a derogatory term for something bad and incoherent, it doesn’t mean there is nothing iffy about using the term. I’m a fan of Twisty’s approach here: taking the objection to heart and moving on.

  60. Rididill

    @Lizor and Stacey

    I got a post waiting in moderation but basically I was saying, yeah, all of those things are used to dismiss and silence women, but my point is, so is the ‘politically correct’ term ‘mentally ill’. To me, I would rather someone, even someone I love, call me a whack job, than call me mentally ill. This is because is it very easy to tell them where to stick it. On the other hand, when people insist, people I love, in a very nice tone, that perhaps I am mentally ill, perhaps I should seek professional help, there’s no shame in it you know, the first step is admitting it, it’s a lot more insidious. that is the context where you actually start believing it yourself, that there is something wrong with you. And it self perpetuates, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like I said, it’s the concepts that are the problem, not the specific words.

    For the record, I still would never support the use of those terms to apply to people. But, I would happily say that a culture, attitude, custom or whatever, is crazy. To be honest I think that should be the only proper use of the term.

    Also Stacey, I think it’s a leap to say ‘schizophrenia is bad, therefore people with schizophrenia are bad’. The way I read it, it stops at the first one. But I appreciate others don’t see it that way.

    PS that thing about the Quakers is fascinating! I think we could ALL do with some of that.

  61. TansyJ

    I used to be able to take my niece to the local Target because they had mix-n-match girl’s swimming outfits. They usually had swimming shirts and shorts in “girl” fashions and colors (of course, by the different fashions and colors you could tell that the shorts and shirts were supposed to be matched with bikini bottoms and tops, respectively)

    But she didn’t care if they didn’t exactly match, she just wanted shirts and shorts made out of swimming material.

    This year the Bikini Top + Shorts and Shirt + Bikini Bottoms were “helpfully” joined together in sets for double the price. IBTP

    We went to the boys section and got kickass trunks (longer and looser than girl’s shorts) with lightning and sharks and a shirt with a skull. To quote my niece “They’re cooler than the girl’s clothes anyway”

  62. lizor

    Being covered and comfortable is so preferable to being the lineup, exposed for categorization and judgement 24/7.

    Slight derail: I prefer men’s clothes because they are built with pockets – real, functional pockets that you can put stuff in, so no lugging some sort of (usually impractical and way overpriced) bag around.

  63. GT66

    Oh the hilarious hypocrisy of da wimmins. Let’s see if you’ll have the strength of character to post this:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1570130/Disabled-veterans-jeered-at-swimming-pool.html

    “One woman in her 30s was said to be infuriated by the lane closures saying the soldiers did not deserve to be there when she had paid.”

    “It was also reported that others complained that limbless servicemen were scaring children at the centre.”

  64. Jen

    @otoc Thanks for the link about Borderline Personality Disorder diagnoses vs. heuristics.

    I was first diagnosed with BPD (and co-morbid disorders) as a 16-year-old. Since then I’ve had an interesting, and often upsetting, relationship with this “diagnosis.”

    The relationship became more interesting and less upsetting when I “came out” as borderline to a friend, and she immediately responded, “Oh, that is bullshit misogyny. BPD is the new hysteria.” I’d never heard such comments before, but it turns out there is literature on this topic.

    I’m not saying the disorder doesn’t exist, but it’s very interesting that such a high percentage of those diagnosed are “difficult” or “overly sensitive” women.

    Anyway, thanks again for the link.

  65. Rididill

    I keep getting stuck in moderation. Am I blacklisted somehow?

  66. Rididill

    Ooh it got through. hopefully my other posts will come through one day.

    Now, Otoc’s link – didn’t read it that carefully the first time but read it again and once again found it somewhat troubling.

    See the list he puts for people who get labelled as borderline. Number 3:

    ‘Thin female with a lot of anger. By example, the woman who comes for treatment of “depression” but describes most life events in terms of attacks, sleights, harm, etc– i.e. power differentials.’

    Hah! Could you see any more blatant medicalization of political resistance? But, this is not the argument the last psychiatrist makes.

    The last psychiatrist says,

    ‘number 3, for example, is better described as narcissism, especially when anorexia (restricting type) is involved… The above #3 female doesn’t need limit setting, she needs mirroring transference, etc.’

    Just the dehumanizing, sterilizing language he uses makes my skin crawl. Sounds like he is training a dog. This is why I no longer see things in terms of the language of psychology or psychiatry, but power and politics.

  67. Rididill

    Funny because he also seems to be doing what he himself decries…

    ‘When you read articles saying “borderline is a pejorative term, and these patients are often really bipolar” what you need to understand is that “bipolar” is not a more valid or reliable diagnosis, it’s simply another heuristic.’

    Yeah, and narcissism?

    The whole thing is a crock of sh1t in my opinion.

  68. otoc

    Rididill — I agree, he’s not necessarily a feminist. His other posts confirm that as well. But I have heard several times from people within psychiatry/the mental health field that BPD is mostly a misogynistic diagnosis that they give to “difficult” women who annoy them. I think it’s more likely women and girls suffering from unrecognized PTSD and they don’t act the way they are “supposed” to act if they have PTSD, which is like men or boys (self-harming versus threats to others as an example).

    Definitely psychiatry seems to have a long history of bullshit and hurting women and poor and marginalized people.

    @Jen — I also found that post helpful and am glad to pass it along.

  69. Rididill

    Hah, damn straight he’s not. Have been browsing. Some of his posts are good but then the misogyny comes out. Like the one in the hunger games where he blames 40 year old women who like the hunger games for the fact that his daughters are ‘somehow’ still receiving sexist messages.

    But, it is interesting nevertheless to hear such things from people who are not even feminists. If even they notice it, it must be pretty dire. Obviously, I do not begrudge it if anyone finds his writing useful! It is certainly valuable to hear it straight from the horses mouth. I just think we can go a lot further.

    Maybe I’m falsely universalizing here, but in a lot of cases I think half the battle is realizing that you aren’t actually defective and ‘wrong’ in some way, a view the mental health industry fosters.

  70. KittyWrangler

    @Rididill – Wait, that guy? The Last Psychiatrist? Well how convenient, I wrote a post a month or two ago ripping his Hunger Games post to shreds: http://cianapullen.blogspot.com/2012/04/last-psychiatrist-on-hunger-games.html

    I’m neither defending traditional psychiatry nor saying he’s right or wrong about BPD but I don’t think he’s at all representative of mainstream psychology & psychiatry. He seems to write from the POV of a self-important renegade outsider who isn’t afraid to “tell it like it is.” Most of his blog capitalizes on anger and disgust for people who have problems and guilt for readers with problems. And he is completely obsessed with people he deems “narcissists” (how transparent). He really chaps my hide.

  71. Jen

    Yes, TLP is definitely a misogynist. His blog is like a blackberry bush–there are more thorns than fruit.

    I think reading criticism of BPD (or of psychiatric diagnostics in general) is enjoyable because it gives some power back to the “patient.”

    When I was 16, my psychiatrist (a conservative Christian women selected by my conservative Christian mother) diagnosed me as having “borderline traits,” and basically said that they (psychiatrists, psychologists, etc.) try to avoid diagnosing people who are under 18 with full-blown BPD because their personalities are still forming, and more memorably, because BPD is a terrible disorder that could spell disaster for all current and future relationships, so the label is a heavy burden to bear.

    Of course, once you’ve told a teen about BPD, and that she has “traits,” she is already bearing it.

    I’d love to read more feminist critique of BPD and of psychiatry in general.

  72. Rididill

    The one I read was actually his second post on it I think, I just skimmed through it because I haven’t actually seen the hunger games but it was about ‘why do middle aged women like the hunger games’ or something. It stood out to me that he actually believes that middle aged women are responsible for continuing patriarchy, and he blames them for the world his daughter will have to grow up in, because they like the hunger games. Or some shit.

    ‘ Most of his blog capitalizes on anger and disgust for people who have problems and guilt for readers with problems. And he is completely obsessed with people he deems “narcissists” (how transparent).’

    Yeah totally. What is that about?

    His commentariat is also awful.

    God, even after just reading stuff by him for a while I started to wonder if I was a narcissist. I just need to stay away from that shit.

  73. Rididill

    Also, interesting feminist critique of BPD and psychiatry

    http://sistersinside.com.au/media/papermepstein.pdf

  74. roseh

    Feminism has done more for me in this respect than any ‘professional help’ ever did. Why? Because I realized that my responses were a natural response to a fucked up world. It helped me learn to trust myself. Only when I could trust myself did the turbulent and uncontrollable emotions improve. Only through learning that I could say ‘fuck society’ and that’s ok, did I improve. To stop getting angry, I had to stop valuing the aspects of the world around me that were screwing me over.

    I appreciate you posting that. I have been dealing with a “biologically based mental illness” for the last ten years and my life has been pretty fucked up. I got my dx when I was in my early 20s and I’m in my early 30s now. I totally agree that women with PTSD get way more than their fair share of bullshit, stigma-laden diagnoses. I have been fortunate to have insurance for 7 of the last 10 years, but the amount of money and medication that has spun through my system is ridiculous.

    It has only been in the last couple of years that I have been able to start looking at why I am so angry (it’s not irrational, it’s a rational response to being treated like shit) and start to unpack some of the anger that I have, move beyond it, channel it into ways that better my life instead of self-destructing. It is also damned hard to find a shrink who won’t pathologize you for being angry at the P, they will instead write that you have paranoid delusions, which I certainly do not have.

    Lastly, I don’t know if you blog, but it would be immensely helpful for me to hear some of your examples on how you got yourself better, specifically how you learned to trust yourself and disengage from the P. If it’s too personal I totally understand; I just think your story is important and it could help people a lot. Thanks for your posts.

  75. Rididill

    Not at all Roseh I am more than happy to share. In fact it would give me a great deal of joy if sharing my experiences can help other people. I do have a blog, which you can get to by clicking my name, but in actual fact I have never blogged about this. I’ve been meaning to for ages, but somehow it never came out quite right. I definitely intend to though, certainly now after people here have said my comments have been helpful to them.

    One piece of writing I found very helpful was this

    http://www.feminist-reprise.org/docs/kaplow.htm

    It helped me to think about my anger in a different way. Though, at the time, a lot of my anger was related to my newfound transition to feminism, and this piece of writing speaks to that specifically. Nevertheless, it was a start, and helped me to look at my past and my life in general in a different way.

    Mainly, I think anger is a healthy response to feeling powerless. When people have hurt you, your anger is saying, this is not ok, I am worth more than this. But when you can’t fight against whatever it is directly, or you can’t escape from it, or you can’t even see clearly what it is that’s hurting you, the anger has nowhere to go, so it’s easy to turn in on yourself. The most important thing first was realizing what it was that was making me feel so powerless and actually just identifying the reasons for it – most of which had to do with my family, and then the unhealthy environments I continued to stay in due to the way this had shaped me.

    Mostly what has been helpful has been finding ways that validate my reality – the powerlessness came from having my reality constantly denied, being always told that I was the problem, that I was seeing things wrong, that I was crazy, basically. That included reading a lot of feminist stuff, but also realizing that I could seek out different friends and different environments for myself. Of course it has not been easy, it has been a very long process and by no means is everything perfect now but it has improved a lot.

    I have much more to say but I think I have taken up enough space on this thread – but I will try and blog about it soon.

  76. Barracuda

    Hello, don’t usually post, but

    ” “I regret the inclusion of the ableist word “skitzo””

    Noted.”

    What about its use in the context of madness-affirmation? Marginalization and dehumanization of the so-called “mentally ill” is in some important ways linked with sexist and racist, and generally patriarchal Western oppression, practices and attitudes. (Links between hysteria and femininity in the 19th century immediately comes to mind).

    Schizo and schizing are terms that are readily applied to late-capitalist internet-based rapid-fire cultural intensification of the hatred of women. The rate at which violent internet pornography and the glorification of rape culture manifest themselves, being depressing as all hell, I find is best described the context of patriarchy as infection of humanity.

    The history of psychiatry is as patriarchy-ladden as is imaginable. Anti-psychiatry, or the simple idea that people are made “ill” through trauma, dysfunctional nuclear-family structures, marginalization, poverty, and so on, takes the blame and stigma away from so-called schizophrenic, psychotic, or otherwise mentally unruly people. The truth is that the schizophrenic women I know are some of the most powerful critics patriarchy, and their experience speaks to the ancient association between women and madness. As such, blame the patriarchy, blame psychiatrists, blame Freud, blame male doctors, and never hesitate to accuse culture and society of being the schized, sick, manic, depressive, hell that it is, and affirm madness as the refusal to participate in civil society on the grounds that it is the unruly, irrational, intolerable problem. Being crazy is a reasonable response to a crazy place, and patriarchy, being insanity-provoking, should be screamed at, set on fire, and attacked as much as it can. Being crazy, much like not performing femininity, is a risky, dangerous, form of rebellion.

    After being raped twice I realized that I couldn’t function sanely or “normally”, and didn’t really want to either. I see the world much more accurately now, seeing heterosexuality and rape culture for what it is, and to wish to be ‘happy’ in some trivial or patriarchy-appeasing way is nauseating. Outrage, and authentic response to trauma, involves what will be clinically diagnosed. Such a diagnosis is a confirmation of inadequate performance of femininity coupled with acceptance that such refusal is medical and clinical. Fuck that! I blame the patriarchy, and call bull-shit on the schized violent culture that I have no choice but to live in.

  77. lizor

    “After being raped twice I realized that I couldn’t function sanely or “normally”, and didn’t really want to either. I see the world much more accurately now, seeing heterosexuality and rape culture for what it is, and to wish to be ‘happy’ in some trivial or patriarchy-appeasing way is nauseating. Outrage, and authentic response to trauma, involves what will be clinically diagnosed. Such a diagnosis is a confirmation of inadequate performance of femininity coupled with acceptance that such refusal is medical and clinical. Fuck that! I blame the patriarchy, and call bull-shit on the schized violent culture that I have no choice but to live in.”

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    Have you seen the 1994 documentary “Dialogues with Madwomen”? I remember it making this case quite clearly.

  78. qvaken

    Barracuda, perhaps you’re one of those people who is usually quiet, and pipes up every now and again to say things that are simply brilliant.

  79. Rididill

    @Barracuda – well said.

    ‘anti-psychiatry, or the simple idea that people are made “ill” through trauma, dysfunctional nuclear-family structures, marginalization, poverty, and so on, takes the blame and stigma away from so-called schizophrenic, psychotic, or otherwise mentally unruly people. ‘

    This is what I have been trying to get at, but you put it so much better.

  80. Ashley

    “Anti-psychiatry, or the simple idea that people are made “ill” through trauma, dysfunctional nuclear-family structures, marginalization, poverty, and so on, takes the blame and stigma away from so-called schizophrenic, psychotic, or otherwise mentally unruly people. The truth is that the schizophrenic women I know are some of the most powerful critics patriarchy, and their experience speaks to the ancient association between women and madness. As such, blame the patriarchy, blame psychiatrists, blame Freud, blame male doctors, and never hesitate to accuse culture and society of being the schized, sick, manic, depressive, hell that it is, and affirm madness as the refusal to participate in civil society on the grounds that it is the unruly, irrational, intolerable problem. Being crazy is a reasonable response to a crazy place, and patriarchy, being insanity-provoking, should be screamed at, set on fire, and attacked as much as it can. Being crazy, much like not performing femininity, is a risky, dangerous, form of rebellion.”

    This is the most concise, perfect, and, ironically, “rational” explanation of the institution of mental illness which in my opinion is a simple construction of patriarchy. Women who can’t accept the horror or the “nightmare” as Daly described it, of the everyday reality of abuse of nature, women, kids, and animals, are neatly shuffled into this category and become experiemental fodder for psychiatrists, which are some of the most sick, fucked up people ever.

    thanks for your comments, Barracuda.

  81. nails

    Ashley- if schtizophrenia is just patriarchal construction how do you explain the strong evidence that it is inherited? The genetic research on this is well established; the closer you are genetically to someone who has schtizophrenia, the more likely you are to suffer from it.

    There is no doubt that psychology is steeped in sexism just like everything else, but there are biological explanations for many disorders which should not be ignored as being completely cultural in nature. Many of them can be caused by exposures to specific chemicals or brain injuries. The evidence for each disorder needs to be examined critically, not tossed into a pile called “mental illness” and then dismissed out of hand.

  82. Yessenia

    Nails is absolutely right. And it’s worth noting that it’s thanks to psychiatry that we even have words now for the very real biological/neurological mental illness that’s specifically a result of living through a nightmare and not being able to accept it: post traumatic stress disorder.

    The mere fact that a mental illness is the result of nightmarish experiences does NOT make it any less legitimate, biological, or a good reason to take medication (if you need it) to have some semblance of your life back.

  83. Ashley

    Nails-

    I’m not at all saying that a manifestation of trauma/chemicals/group of symptoms as schizophrenia does exist, but I’m saying, whether it’s trauma induced or “chemicals,” that shit is not natural and wouldn’t happen in an in-balance world/universe. I blame the patriarchy for everything. I am in no way saying people who have those symptoms shouldn’t do whatever it is they need to do, I’m just saying exactly what it is I said. no disrespect. my comment stands.

  84. Ashley

    and yeah, psychiatry has done some good, to fix stuff that other arms of patriarchy have screwed up, but it
    s still an arm, and it’s done a lot of horrific abuse, and it’s largely misogynist. what would do a lot MORE good is if men weren’t in charge, people didn’t get fucked up and abused, and we had a woman-centered global culture that accepted all manifestations of emotion and looked at humans as whole- spiritual, physical, emotional, mental.. and not as fodder for use/abuse, “work” heirarchies, and the nuclear family. i guarantee if that was true we wouldn’t need psychiatrists or psychologists to “help” us.

  85. Ashley

    should say “not at all saying.. does NOT exist.” I’m saying. yes, it does exist. sorry!

  86. Yessenia

    that shit is not natural and wouldn’t happen in an in-balance world/universe

    I’m curious what your control universe is.

    It sounds like you never let go of the idea that we were handcrafted in the image of god, put into a happy garden, and then sin entered the world and we could no longer reach out and eat from the tree of life.

    That’s just not at all how it works.

  87. yttik

    I used to have to do a quick evaluation of teenagers, to make sure they weren’t a danger to themselves or others. It was difficult because every single boy’s entire identity revolved around being harmful to himself and others. It wasn’t a quirk or a bug, it was their entire identity. Their goal in life was to kick somebody’s ass and then do something harmful to themselves, like try to overdose on drugs, gamble with bullets, see how long they could lay down on the freeway. I had this little check list I was supposed to go by, and if I had honestly used it, I would have had to reject every single one because my paperwork said they were unstable and in need of immediate mental health intervention. But see, boys will be boys, so the standard for what is “crazy” behavior in them is much different than for girls. Girls are viewed as way out of control if they’ve ever expressed any anger, if they’re sad, if they object to how they’ve been treated.

    So there’s a huge double standard because of gender expectations. To make it even more complicated, under patriarchy traditional “crazy” male behavior, violence, outbursts, anger, self destruction, is considered quite normal, while women, no matter how they react or act, are almost always viewed as crazy and irrational. To make the whole thing even more illogical, in spite of women always being perceived as crazy, their mental health status is never an excuse or an explanation for anything. Women are always motivated by our innate evilness. So women are forced to live with these dual identities, crazy, out of control, and innately evil, while also hyper responsible not only for our own behavior but the behavior of others.

  88. Noel

    yttik -

    Yep. Wonderful.

    Ever-shifting sands of toxic duality and denial.

    “You’re crazy! You’re incapable of taking care of yourself! You need help!”

    “You’re not sick, you’re just being lazy/manipulative! You could ‘be normal/responsible’ if you just tried hard enough!”

    “What do you mean you can’t cope with daily life/support yourself/your kid because you have mental health issues (among other things)? What do you mean you need help? I’m not going to help you! LIfe’s hard, suck it up, get a grip!”

    “You can’t take care of your kid, you’re sick/crazy/a weirdo!”

    “What do you mean, you can’t take care of your kid because you’re crazy/sick/a weirdo? What’re you, some kind of MONSTER?!”

    And on, and on, and on.

  89. Regular commenter who shall remain anon for this

    @yttik
    Out of curiosity, did you ever get a sense of how accurate such “danger to self or others” evaluations turn out to be? I’d love to hear a little more about that experience.

    I once had to have my now-husband involuntarily committed for about 2 weeks. It was probably the most frightening, confusing and downright shittiest experience of my life (and his), but getting the ER to believe there was a problem was nearly impossible. We went to the ER three days in a row, ostensibly for a typical symptom of panic attacks; they should’ve noticed something was up the first time; they didn’t. They should’ve noticed something was MAJORLY up the second time; they didn’t. I told them what had been happening; I was obviously scared and in over my head but was told it was just “stress” and to “keep an eye on him.” Third time in the ER (after tricking him into going with me, which was difficult, scary and heartbreaking) I was pleading with the guy doing the evaluation to admit him for psych problems. I told him I was afraid, I was extremely concerned, I couldn’t handle this by myself, I needed help. But I kept getting the brush-off until I uttered the magic words: “I’m afraid he’s a danger to himself and others.” It was like an imaginary bell went, “ding ding ding!” Doors opened.

  90. Ashley

    Wow, Yessenia.

    first of all, that’s not at all what I’m saying. also, how do you want to find a “control” universe, when it’s global patriarchy? that’s the idea, that it’s all-pervasive.

    also, are you even a feminist? the idea that women have an innate sense that things are out of balance is in a lot of feminist literature. that’s what i’m stating.

    I’m sorry, but you’re pretty argumentative and obviously personally offended by what i’m saying. if you don’t agree, that’s cool. but it’s what i think.

  91. Yessenia

    first of all, that’s not at all what I’m saying. also, how do you want to find a “control” universe, when it’s global patriarchy? that’s the idea, that it’s all-pervasive.

    Indeed. That was the point. If that is true, then how can you say what would or wouldn’t happen, what is or isn’t natural, in a world without this all-pervasive system?

    I’m deeply sorry for being argumentative and personally offended by what you’ve said. It was both unfeminist and unwomanly of me.

  92. Ashley

    I don’t think your sarcasm or rudeness is really necessary. you do seem personally offended and I’m not sure why. I don’t have any religion issues to “let go” of because I was raised by an atheist father and a mom who was really into nature and camping. I don’t have any dogma. what i was saying was, I do think that the natural world is a kind of eden- not perfect, but I don’t SEE animals with the issues humans have , and i blame the patriarchy. next time, clarify first? because i do think you read some religion issues into it that weren’t there. I wasn’t saying it was unwomanly at all or unfeminist. you just didn’t get what I was saying. read Mary Daly. no hard feelings.

  93. Yessenia

    Dude, it was a metaphor.

    You may not use the pvert religious language, but you’ve internalized the story to the point where you think there’s some way for humans to be free of mental illness, like there was some point in the distant past where this wasn’t an issue, then patriarchy came along and ruined it.

    That’s not how it happened, becase evolution, because selfish genes, because go read a book.

    Your theory that there’s an eden we can return to where we wouldn’t have mental illness (because you’ve never had a schizophrenic cat? or something?) and we wouldn’t need psychiatry is completely unfounded.

  94. Friend of Snakes

    @Yessenia

    Is “Dude” the new omnisexual “you guys?” Because if it isn’t, it feels like what guys intend when they call us the names we know so well. So why do it on a feminist site? Can’t you just make your points/objections/arguments without that kind of barb?

    Or maybe you know that Ashley is, in fact, a man? Please share.

    p.s., I just followed your link. I note you describe yourself thusly:

    I’m transmasculine, which is a short way of saying health issues preclude transitioning but I would if I could. I spend far too much time correcting the wrong people on the internet.

    So you consider yourself a dude and your idea of calling out someone who’s a woman is to call her a man? My head is spinning.

  95. KittyWrangler

    Yeah, I think Yessenia is being rude.

    But I also would like to point out to Ashley that, though I’m sure you didn’t intend it this way, being told that mental illness doesn’t exist (or a statement that could be construed that way) can be incredibly inflammatory for someone with a mental illness or experience with mental illness.

    There is a rich history of denying the experiences of people with mental illnesses (or who exhibit those symptoms, whether they’re from Patriarchy or not) and chances are such attitudes have been used against the mentally ill people you are addressing.

    @Friend of Snakes
    Bringing Yessenia’s transmasculinity into this seems way out of line.

  96. lizor

    @yttik July 19, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Excellent analysis. You are spot on. Thanks.

  97. Mia

    I think it’s ridiculous that men can go out topless but women can’t. And this is is just terrible. Why would they treat someone like that?
    Your sentence that read something along the lines of “1 in 7 women get breast cancer but people aren’t comfortable seeing a post-op chest” was beautifully written.

    -Mia of binksandplues.wordpress.com

  98. Jessie

    The natural world is not like eden. Nature is really quite brutal.

    Forced copulation, cannibalism, siblicide, infanticide, violent territorial disputes, violent (even fatal) disputes over mates, etc. all occur regularly in nature.

  99. Yessenia

    Friend of Snakes, you’re reading way too much into my use of the word ‘dude.’ It’s not an epithet or a barb, at least not where I’m from. The idea that because I’m trans, I must therefore be insulting a woman by calling her a man is certainly an interesting theory. Us transmen are famous for thinking it’s a bad thing for women to be masculine.

    KittyWrangler, thanks! And yea, you’re right; I’m definitely being rude. It seemed like the appropriate response at the time.

  100. Rididill

    Well, Yessenia certainly woke things up again. But who said anything about going ‘back’ to anything? There’s a a difference between believing another world is possible and suggesting there is some pure happy pre-patriarchy.

    @Kittywrangler
    there is a total difference between saying ‘mental illness doesn’t exist’ and what is being talked about. We just had a whole conversation about it. ‘Mental illness’ is just an interpretation of a condition. ‘Damage caused by patriarchy’ is another interpretation. Neither affects the actual symptoms, feelings, whatever. It recognizes a condition of severe emotional bad stuff but considers causes and solutions in totally different ways. That is a million light years away from ‘denying someone’s experience’. It is actually way more validating in my opinion than the suggestion of ‘mental illness’. I very much doubt that rhetoric has ever been used against them.

    Hey, your trauma was only caused by the hideous experience of patriarchy, so pull yourself together and sort it out!

    Nah. What people say is, you’re whining about nothing, pull yourself together. It’s a completely different thing.

  101. JaneDoe

    ^this^

    “”"”Anti-psychiatry, or the simple idea that people are made “ill” through trauma, dysfunctional nuclear-family structures, marginalization, poverty, and so on, takes the blame and stigma away from so-called schizophrenic, psychotic, or otherwise mentally unruly people. The truth is that the schizophrenic women I know are some of the most powerful critics patriarchy, and their experience speaks to the ancient association between women and madness. As such, blame the patriarchy, blame psychiatrists, blame Freud, blame male doctors, and never hesitate to accuse culture and society of being the schized, sick, manic, depressive, hell that it is, and affirm madness as the refusal to participate in civil society on the grounds that it is the unruly, irrational, intolerable problem. Being crazy is a reasonable response to a crazy place, and patriarchy, being insanity-provoking, should be screamed at, set on fire, and attacked as much as it can. Being crazy, much like not performing femininity, is a risky, dangerous, form of rebellion.”

    This is the most concise, perfect, and, ironically, “rational” explanation of the institution of mental illness which in my opinion is a simple construction of patriarchy. Women who can’t accept the horror or the “nightmare” as Daly described it, of the everyday reality of abuse of nature, women, kids, and animals, are neatly shuffled into this category and become experiemental fodder for psychiatrists, which are some of the most sick, fucked up people ever.”"”"”

    Ditto, Exactly,

    and on another thing, someone mentioned, the cruelty in nature,

    may I remind all, that what we know of, in nature, ALL nature has been effected by PATRIARCHY, meaning,

    WE don’t know what Nature was like before the creation of money systems, hierarchies, mass murders and mass rapes–in Every place where women are cruelly oppressed,

    there is Desolation, in EVERY SINGLE PLACE–the EARTH dies, FACT.

    what we see often today, what many ‘apologists for male violence’ like to refer to as ‘the nature justifications’, such as,

    apes rape, dolphins rape, etc etc etc.,

    yes they do, HOWEVER, critical thinkers WAKE UP,

    dolphins have been murdered down and slaughtered in horrid ways for Eons–so their population numbers are effected, when animals are threatened with extinction, they populate immediately to preserve their line, THEREFORE, we as critical thinkers [not brainwashed by the patriarchal mind set/necro phallic center] must ask ourselves, how much of the Violence in nature, among dolphins, is due to MAN’S interference and control/violence?

    Same with Apes, etc., mass hunting, land grabs, violence, we know monkeys IMITATE HUMANS, as critical thinkers, how much of animal behavior IS IMITATION OF THOUSANDS OF DECADES of them watching

    man?

    WE don’t know, we tend to take the OPINIONS of certain MENZ and take them a God truth, when in fact, they always leave out, the effects of centuries of WAR, BLOODSHED [innocent blood in particular, what That does to the earth and this gets into the spiritual], VIOLENCE, MINING for WEAPONS to KILL, which in turn

    poisons the Eco environment which in turn impacts ALL PLANT LIFE which in turn impacts ALL ANIMAL LIFE–DNA, ALL OF IT, creating what?

    hybrids of violent dna????

    WE don’t know, but we Do know,

    nuclear disasters caused by man Does cause mutations, environmental disasters caused by man Does cause mutations, mass hunting for greed done by man Does cause mutations, unhealthy hybrids [fact, look at birds bred for sale], etc etc etc

    entire lands where there has been war/bio chemical, etc., the land is permantly scarred, FACT, WWI, there are still places scarred, there are cities and war zones scarred, permanently, places where mountains have been RAPED, aka mined, permanently scarred,

    where animals cannot thrive, populations dwindle, they become Violent

    all as the result of Nature?

    or the result of Desolation, man’s grab for Power?

    The Native Indians believed in the harmony, animal guides, MOTHER earth, funny how in ancient reliefs we don’t see the nature as violent, we DO see [esp in masculine Patriarchy's power monger house, the Middle East], man as gawd king mass murdering Lions,

    oh yes…as well as mass forcing sex slavery for their WAR GODS…FACT

    Desolation.

    So I beg to differ, nature herself is NOT violent, nature Reacts in violent ways after she gets FED up with man’s raping her, torturing her, mass killing her fields, murdering her animals, messing up the Eco balance, teaching ANIMALS corruption AND MASS

    DEFILING THEM….

    but even still, people ignore what is clearly before us. They mass murdered dolphins, brutally stabbing and torturing, N Korea just came out with a film, where they showed dogs being skinned alive

    and we Wonder ‘why nature is brutal’? No, Man, gawds, power whores, made nature violent, sick, NOT the other way around…

    and it is spiritual, one has to ask, Who colonized this earth? Mind binding, colonizing, while I don’t get into the paranormal type of stuff here, I will say, Ashely nailed it, what Mary Daly said, she nailed it, there is a necro energy force, of murder, rape and mayhem, that COLONIZED this planet, that hates female LIFE, bio energy,

    those who don’t see it, perpetuate it and support it.

    This goes way back, to the ancients, I don’t understand it all nor know really What aspect of much of it to believe, as far as the spiritual goes, but I do know, what is spewed today as the violence of nature, just leaves out, too much, of the TRUTH that nature, has become

    what the Dominion of Evil, has made of it.

    Just my two cents…btw, a while back, another Jane posted, something about a donkey, that was not me…, I am Janedoe and won’t post again today…just so you know, there seems to be two of us. So from now on I’ll post as JaneDoe.

  102. Yessenia

    So let me ask you a question. Does patriarchy run in families? Mental illness does. That generally suggests a genetic component, though epigenetics (under which category ‘patriarchy’ would fall) would surely play a role.

    Your brain is a complicated organ. I’d be shocked if it didn’t get sick.

    It also looks like you’re defining ‘mental illness’ incredibly narrowly. Is epilepsy cauesd by patriarchy?Seasonal depression? Autism? OCD?

    Asthma is strongly linked to environmental exposure to pollution. Does that mean it’s not an illness? Should I feel ‘validated’ that my asthma is probably caused by pollution? Is my personal sense of validation even relevant to what asthma is?

    Does it mean that in a world without pollution, there’d be no asthma? Nope.

  103. KittyWrangler

    I was here for the conversation and I understood what was being said (I disagree somewhat but I’m happy if that is a workable solution for people on this thread). The point of my comment was to hazard a guess as to why Yessenia, who seemed to be talking past Ashley, reacted so strongly.

    While I haven’t specifically been told, “Hey, your trauma was only caused by the hideous experience of patriarchy, so pull yourself together,” I’ve been told by people who have their pet cause that I’m the symptom of a broken society: the Adbusters crowd is always saying I’m just the sickness of capitalist “sheeple,” Godbags think I’m a symptom that society doesn’t have enough Jesus, that sort of thing.

    I get what Ashley is saying but I had to seriously consider at first if she meant that people like me are just a symptom of Patriarchy and in that light Yessenia’s reaction made sense to me. Ashley seems like the kind of commenter who would be receptive to that sort of feedback.

  104. Friend of Snakes

    @Kitty Wrangler
    You said: Bringing Yessenia’s transmasculinity into this seems way out of line.

    Oh, I forgot. WHAT ABOUT THE MEN!

  105. yttik

    Regardless of what causes mental illness, patriarchy makes the whole thing worse. PTSD in male soldiers for instance, is compounded ten times over because of the expectation that men remain strong, disconnect from their feelings, don’t ask for help, etc..In women it can be compounded by the fact that women are perceived as weak and also entirely to blame for our own issues. A culture’s response to mental illness, combined with internal messages you’ve received over a lifetime, plus any patriarchal traumas you’ve experienced, can transform a slight chemical imbalance into a full blown disabling disease.

    People, women especially, still have this idea that if an illness is caused from psychological things, it’s shameful and our fault. The truth is, you can’t really separate the physical from the psychological. Somebody with a healthy, functioning brain chemistry will actually experience changes in that chemistry due to trauma.

  106. lizor

    @yttik, you nail it again. I would add to “women are perceived as weak and also entirely to blame for our own issues.” that we are blamed for EVERYONE’S issues. Most emotional disorders are blamed on the mother, rape: the victim’s fault, misogyny (if you dare broach the link in the other thread) is the fault of the “victim mentality” of feminism and on and on…

  107. Yessenia

    @Friend of Snakes, you tell me. Or did you really forget that you’re the one who brought them up?

    I’m not sure whether to be offended that you’re trying to kick me out of the feminist club for, of all things, my gender identity, or flattered that you’re taking my gender so seriously you’re dismissing me for being a man.

  108. KittyWrangler

    @Rididill – Having just re-read my last comment I realized it sounded angry; sorry it’s not meant to be!

  109. TotallyDorkin

    @Yessenia
    Look at you, you breath of fresh air!

  110. Friend of Snakes

    @Friend of Snakes, you tell me. Or did you really forget that you’re the one who brought them up?

    I’m not sure whether to be offended that you’re trying to kick me out of the feminist club for, of all things, my gender identity, or flattered that you’re taking my gender so seriously you’re dismissing me for being a man.

    @Yessenia
    Dude, I’m not the dude who came on here calling a female poster a dude as a put-down. If you don’t want me “dismissing [you] for being a man,” then you should stop linking to a site where you describe yourself as one, as well as stop calling females, “dude.” What is difficult to understand here?

  111. Yessenia

    Yea, only I didn’t do that. If you’ve gotta resort to lying, why not just stop responding?

    Maybe I was too subtle in what you originally quoted, but I’m FEMALE and I identify as a transMAN. Why in god’s name would I think calling a female poster a dude would be a put-down? Just please think about what you’re saying for two minutes. It does not make any sense.

  112. lizor

    “So let me ask you a question. Does patriarchy run in families? Mental illness does. That generally suggests a genetic component, though epigenetics (under which category ‘patriarchy’ would fall) would surely play a role.”

    Abuse runs in families.

    Sexism runs in families.

    A number of people have been making the point that environment can shape/create biochemical conditions. You materialist point is correct but your apparent assertion that mental/emotional states are primarily material does not encompass or acknowledge the fact that being pissed on constantly by your culture/social environment can make you very sick.

  113. Yessenia

    Lizor, I don’t think that’s a fair reading of what I’m saying. I acknowledged that fact upthread, in one of my very first comments, where I pointed out that PTSD is a biological mental illness that is nevertheless induced through the external experience of trauma. It can be both/and.

    The point I wa clumsily trying to make is this: However effective the revolution is, it’s not going to change our fundamental genetic propensity for mental illness. That’s all I’m saying.

    And yes I am saying that mental and emotional states are primarily material. We’re material brains. What else would they be?

  114. quixote

    “And yes I am saying that mental and emotional states are primarily material. We’re material brains. What else would they be?”

    Um, no, Yessenia. Just no. The genetic component can have a variable amount of influence, depending on which genes you’re talking about, but if you say that mental and emotional states are primarily material, the evidence is against you.

    Extreme example: the few cases of largely feral children. They don’t show even recognizably human emotional or mental states, but they definitely have human genes. Less extreme case: an Italian newborn brought up by Swedes in Sweden will tend to show Italian cultural traits of extroversion or a more Swedish-flavored reserve? Of course there are extrovert Swedes, and of course that trait has measurable genetic components, but its expression is primarily determined by environment.

    There’s a spectrum whenever you’re talking about complex biological traits. Some people can have such a strong genetic predisposition to variant neurochemistry that they might become, say, schizophrenic under almost any circumstances. Somebody else might dissassociate only after extreme trauma. For others, the constant daily traumas of injustice can be enough. And somebody else might be resistant even to trench warfare in the P.

    So, you’re right to the extent of saying there’s a genetic component. But it’s not even close to right to say that’s the primary factor for mind or feelings for most people.

  115. Rididill

    @kittywrangler

    no probs, I am in no way offended! I was probably way more dismissive in my comment.

    I do find it interesting though, that you describe it as ‘you’ being a symptom of patriarchy/capitalism/whatever, rather than your state of mental/emotional turmoil. The former is certainly a great deal more dismissive than the latter. I would be interested in hearing more of your views on this.

    Personally, I think Yessenia is just trying to push people’s buttons. I mean, that epilepsy argument is dumb. No one considers epilepsy a mental illness, it’s a neurological condition. Like a stroke, or MS or something. Sure, there are relationships between them but it is fundamentally different to what is being talked about. Why would you even try to put them in the same box? That isn’t an ‘extraordinarily narrow definition’, it’s a definition that makes sense. Because they are different. The asthma comparison is also dumb. Why would you even consider them side by side?

    Patriarchy totally runs in families. Cos of social conditioning. And of course, the fact that the family is itself a patriarchal institution. By the way, a propensity is just a propensity. Whether or not we lose propensity after the revolution, that does not mean such propensity will be activated. So I believe you have undercut your own argument there.

    @Yttik – you are awesome.

  116. KittyWrangler

    @Rididill

    I meant it to sound dismissive because I was trying to sum up attitudes I’ve heard from different groups of people which I experienced as dismissive at the time. While I do consider having experienced mental illness (MI for short) as part of my identity, I consider the actual MI as merely an issue I deal with. So I wouldn’t ordinarily say “I am a symptom of patriarchy/capitalism/whatever.” Is that how you see it?

    The way you described Patriarchy and MI is a perfectly rational approach that I agree with intellectually: an outside-in approach, viewing MI through Patriarchy. The reason this makes me uneasy is that when I take an inside-out approach I come up with something else. [Content warning for Twisty: "I" statements, anecdotes ensue!] Every solution to my MI that I’ve had success with has either been physical or has had to do with re-structuring my thoughts the the way they occur (as opposed to thinking different things).

    While I did have a traumatic experience at one point which increased stress and temporarily worsened the MI, that experience similarly worsened a physical issue I have, which persuaded me to view my MI s as having to do with physical health. At the same time I became more and more involved in feminism, and while this has changed my life it hasn’t had much of an effect on the MI; while I hear other blamers who found blaming to be healing to symptoms, on this front I simply became a mentally ill person with hairier legs.

    I read a similar account from an American Buddhist nun. Even though she is a leading “practitioner” of meditation and leads a life of religious remove she still found that meditation had no effect on her depression, which she had to deal with through traditional psychiatric means.

    Though MI and Patriarchy are obviously related and this leaves plenty of wiggle room to interpret it like Ashley, I’m leaning toward Yessenia’s “primarily material” explanation (if I’m interpreting it correctly).

  117. Rididill

    So just to clarify, it was they who said YOU were a symptom, not your mental illness a symptom?

    No, that is not how I see it. I am trying to figure out how you see it, and how they see it, and in what way that was dismissive.

    Well, it does appear that you and I have had very different experiences with our mental ‘illnesses’ (I put scare quotes because that is how I see it). I do not, on the whole agree with that approach… Kind of goes hand in hand with my idea of ‘radical’… getting to the root, rather than just trying to heal the symptoms.

    I appreciate that may not work for everybody. I also might say you might not have uncovered the reasons yet, if that would not be too presumptuous to suggest.

    My problems have also had their physical causes, actually, but that was just my IUD. I have also had physical health problems which have been intertwined with mental ones, but I do not see their mutual interaction as evidence that my psychological issues are purely physical, nor vice versa.

  118. KittyWrangler

    Your IUD caused a mental illness? I’m so sorry, that sounds awful.

    In the two examples I gave– Adbusters and Godbags– they’ve described the “dramatic increase” in certain MIs as symptoms of a [whatever bad] society, while at the same time denying that MI is a real thing (saying with MIs are just being lazy / greedy / what have you). This would translate, then, as “the (lazy greedy) behavior is a symptom of (bad) society” But I DO believe MI’s are real, so it isn’t just behavior. It’s the same logic train that I follow when people say gay men are choosing a lifestyle which is ruining society, yet most gay men say they’re not choosing to be gay, leading me to read that as “gay men are ruining society.” You asked, so I answered, but I’m not hell-bent on describing it that way or anything.

    I don’t mind if you suggest that I haven’t yet uncovered the real root of my MI. It’s certainly possible. But if I’m “getting to the root, rather than just trying to heal the symptoms,” how will I know it’s the root if it’s not healing the symptoms?

  119. Yessenia

    @Quixote,

    Paintings are primarily material, but that doesn’t mean you can predict the painting based on the colors in the box. In other words, yea, I understand emergent properties and epigenetics, and I don’t disagree with the substance of your comment in the slightest – except to say that ‘material’ was not intended as a euphemism for ‘genetic.’

    @Rididil,
    I guess I don’t share your division between ‘mental illness’ and ‘neurological illness.’ One’s a subcategory of the other. Your opinion of my asthma comparison is noted. As far as activating propensities, the point is that patriarchy is just ONE of those things that activates it. Other things include: earthquakes, loss of a loved one, physical illness, and many other things that will still be here when patriarchy is gone.

    Full disclosure here: I’ve got a pretty severe anxiety disorder that’s a combination of patriarchy directly (thanks, rapists!) and an untreated (thanks, patriarchy!) physical illness that got really, really bad before anyone thought hey, maybe it’s not all in her head. I’m a sincere blamer that’s been reading this blog for oh, seven years now; I’m not just trying to push people’s buttons because of my gender identity or whatevs.

  120. TotallyDorkin

    It’s sad that so many commenters are making sure the IBTP retains its reputation for extreme transphobia.

  121. Rididill

    @totally dorkin/yessenia
    Extreme transphobia? what are you talking about? I made no insinuations about Yessenia’s gender identity, s/he brought that one up on her own. I said nothing. No one has said anything apart from Friend of Snakes, which I found kind of incomprehensible to be honest. And yet Yessenia is insinuating that is what I am getting at when I say s/he is pushing people’s buttons?

    Has nothing to do with what I said.

    ” Is my personal sense of validation even relevant to what asthma is?”

    Clearly not. Also, no one gets out of a jail sentence for an ‘asthma’ defense. It’s about personal validation because mental state affects your ability to choose, the legitimacy of your point of view, etc. That is the fundamental difference. Between the psych and the physical. At least in terms of their societal context. Same applies for epilepsy etc.

    Good point about different activating mechanisms though.

    @Kittywrangler – I see what you are getting at but I try to make a distinction between the state of being and the person… I would never try to argue that mental illness is a positive thing. If everybody is mentally ill, it IS ruining society. And it’s ruining your life too. It’s not desirable. That doesn’t make you a bad person though. There is nothing damaging about being gay, so I don’t like to compare the two. It depends what they are saying is ruining society… if they are talking about gay men having lots of unsafe sex, for example, then that might be a valid criticism, but that’s not a fundamental part of being gay. It’s one thing to say they are choosing a lifestyle, it’s quite another to say that lifestyle is a fundamental part of being gay and therefore if someone criticizes that lifestyle then they are saying gay people are bad.

    “But I DO believe MI’s are real, so it isn’t just behavior.”

    It’s a bit of a double edged sword that one. On the one hand, you can say, I can’t help it, I’m just sick. On the other, if you act a certain way or say a certain thing, that you actually mean, and believe in, and someone dismisses it by saying, oh they don’t mean it, they’re just sick, then you don’t really have a leg to stand on. Either you have responsibility or you don’t… and if mental illness is treated like an illness, something you can’t help, it robs you of responsibility, and that means it robs you of a voice.

    “But if I’m “getting to the root, rather than just trying to heal the symptoms,” how will I know it’s the root if it’s not healing the symptoms?”

    Well, it will heal the symptoms. It’ll just do it when you’ve realized something, or discovered something, rather than just trying to retrain the way you think when negative thoughts come along, or take pills. I have found this to be much more permanent.

  122. tinfoil hattie

    “Why in god’s name would I think calling a female poster a dude would be a put-down?”

    Well, only you know the answer to that. But the point isn’t that all us feminists are just so stupid and sensitive for dislliking being referred to as “dude,” especially since you, a man, don’t mean it to be insulting.

    The point is: This is a feminist blog, and we do not call each other “dude.” In fact, dudely comments aren’t even accepted here.

    As for your comment, TotallyDorkin, please give me concrete examples of “transphobia” in this thread. I can’t wait.

  123. KittyWrangler

    @Rididill-
    I think we are still miscommunicating, possibly on a massive scale.

    I don’t think MI is categorically a positive thing; I don’t think it is ruining my life (it’s difficult but that’s not the same thing), and I don’t think it makes me a bad person. I don’t think being gay is damaging and I’m not comparing homosexuality with MI. I don’t think MI has any particular bearing on responsibility; they’re separate issues that interact just as responsibility interacts with any other condition.

    I didn’t exactly “retrain the way you think when negative thoughts come along, or take pills,” and I single that out in case anyone reading this thread is considering Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I (mostly) re-trained myself not to engage in a debilitating spiral of self-defeating nastiness (or worse); negative thoughts are fine to have. I, for one, relish my negative thoughts; there’s nothing like a good snarky complaining session among friends. In my (best) experience with therapy I didn’t have to choose between being myself and getting better.

    As for the rest I’m sort of at a loss to explain my comments any further, unless I can think of an alternative before this thread dies. Sorry.

  124. Friend of Snakes

    Sweet Jeebus, thank you Tin Foil Hattie.

    Why the fukity fuck should WE be the ones to divine and then explain what the reasons are a first-time poster sweeps in and irritably calls a female poster a “dude.” I don’t really give a shit what this female guy’s motivations are. A simple fucking apology would have gone a long way towards making me feel he or she wasn’t a giant fucking troll.

  125. Friend of Snakes

    And Yessenia, dude, do not dare come back again and tell me I am lying and that I need to stop posting here. Fuck that sideways.

  126. Yessenia

    Ha, are you reclaiming dude, now? Or did it abruptly become ok to put a woman down by calling her a man on a feminist blog? I mean why would you even do that? My head is spinning.

  127. Friend of Snakes

    WWTD?
    I fervently hope, Cleanup on Aisle Dude Troll.

  128. yttik

    This is a complicated discussion, but elderly people in nursing homes can get UTI’s that are so severe, the infection will actually cause delusions. Older people can develop a mental illness that alters their perception of reality and makes it appear that they have dementia, simply from having a raging infection going on. So their mental illness is actually only a symptom of another physical problem.The “root cause” is the infection, but another “root cause” is the patriarchy that has placed them in a for profit nursing home that puts one minimum wage employee (usually a woman) in charge of toileting 25 people, like you’re working in a factory or something.

    So in this case, patriarchy creates the conditions that lead to the infection which then manifests itself as a mental illness. You can’t just treat the mental illness because it’s not going to go away as long as the infection is present. You can’t just treat the infection because six weeks later they’re going to get another UTI because the patriarchal conditions that led to first the UTI are still present.

    If the whole patriarchal system disappeared, many mental health issues would go with it, because the environment would be different. Just as bacteria requires a warm, dark, moist place to thrive, if you alter even one of these environmental conditions, it will stop growing. Post patriarchy, a few UTI’s may still exist, but they would not be left untreated for so long that they manifest themselves as delusions.

  129. Twisty

    I realize I haven’t dropped by the blog in over 73 years, but I’m still in charge, and do hereby declare the Yessenia/Friend of Snakes thread to be a Commenter Feud and that it shall cease immediately. See Section B, Subsection 3.f. of the Guidelines for Blamers.

    Yessenia, since you identify as a dude, I suggest you take a gander at the Handbook For Commenters before commenting here again. I allude, particularly, to the part that says “if you’re a dude, don’t post here.”

  130. Twisty

    Also, since this thread seems to have turned into a referendum on my ill-advised use of the made-up word “skitzo,” I guess I’d better weigh in.

    “Schizo” has become shorthand for “the simultaneous expression by a single entity of two or more contradictory or conflicting viewpoints or behaviors.” Rightly or wrongly, I specifically sought to differentiate the aforementioned concept from actual clinical schizophrenia by changing the spelling. I thought if I did this it could morph into its own thing and not annoy people. But as usual, intent is irrelevant. Too bad, too, because I really like that word “skitzo.” It’s almost onomatopoetic.

    As a sidebar, I’d also like to suggest that “schizo” in fact inaccurately references schizophrenia. When used in the sense defined above it actually draws its meaning from a (possibly specious) condition known as “dissociative identity disorder,” a.k.a. “split personality.”

    I am not insensitive to actual schizophrenia. Thirteen years ago I was obliged to stand helplessly by and watch it kill my erstwhile S.O. I am currently standing helplessly by while it ravages the family of a close friend.

    Epilepsy is not a mental illness. I say that as the world’s leading authority on neurological disorders, and as someone who once dated an epileptic. Boy was that a wild ride! Although not because of the epilepsy.

  131. buttercup

    Twisty, my sympathies. Schizophrenia is a mean thing and when it kills, it does so in hard, hard ways.

  132. ew_nc

    An internet asswipe is an internet asswipe, no matter the gender identity.

  133. Yessenia

    Hey, Twisty,

    I identify as transmasculine, but I still have a female body and get all the shit that entails, and probably get red as ‘butch’ more than ‘dude’ most of the time.

    I’ve read the dude policy. I’ve been reading and occasionally commenting (though under a different pseudonym – Shira) for years, without any problem, and so I’m really shocked at being asked to leave because someone else discovered my gender identity and outed me. Christ on a pickle.

    I’ve never gotten this reaction from the commentariat, so I have to conclude that it is transphobia. I will of course respect your cease and desist this feud order.

  134. Jen

    While we’re on the subject of schizophrenia and MI, I highly recommend this TED Talk by legal scholar Elyn Saks, who is a schizophrenic and fascinating woman.

    “A Tale of Mental Illness from the Inside”:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/elyn_saks_seeing_mental_illness.html

  135. Twisty

    If you have posted here for years without raising any dude-recognition hackles, congratulations; you already know that comments proceeding from a dudely viewpoint are prohibited. This isn’t transphobia, it’s dudephobia.

    The no-dudes rule does not exist to preserve some golden separatist state just on arbitrary principle, but to prevent the effects of dudeliness (i.e. male privilege) from seeping in to this one miniscule and remote corner of the internet. Despite the rule, there are a few dudes who post here unmolested; one’s gender is not always automatic grounds for the heave-ho. There is a sort of quasi-tradition that if your dudeliness is detectable by the blametariat, out you go. But in reality, as long as one checks all dude-supremacist shit at the door, and of course remains civil in a general sense, all is well. I have found that most dudes are not up to the challenge of never, ever talking about their dicks to a roomful of feminist ladies, and will eventually out themselves in a spectacular explosion of mansplaining.

  136. Yessenia

    No argument here. I’ve read the policy. All I’m saying is that my dudeliness was not detected – it was discovered. The hostility came after I was outed as a masculine woman. And to me, that’s pretty weird for a commentariat that seems otherwise on board with the idea that gender is a social construct.

  137. Rididill

    “I’ve never gotten this reaction from the commentariat, so I have to conclude that it is transphobia.”

    Well, I guess that’s where the rep for extreme transphobia comes from, any time a trans person makes assholish comments and people react, = TRANSPHOBIA!!!!

    You were being an asshole from the beginning. Remember this?

    “I’m deeply sorry for being argumentative and personally offended by what you’ve said. It was both unfeminist and unwomanly of me.”

    Do you recall saying this about your own comments?

    “I’m definitely being rude.”

    @Kittywrangler

    Well, in that case i don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Can you explain how MI has no bearing on responsibility? Because there is a reason why it is mitigating evidence in the legal system.
    Also, you just did compare MI and gayness so…?

  138. KittyWrangler

    @Rididill

    What I said was,

    “I don’t think MI has any particular bearing on responsibility; they’re separate issues that interact just as responsibility interacts with any other condition.”

    I said it in response to this: “Either you have responsibility or you don’t… and if mental illness is treated like an illness, something you can’t help, it robs you of responsibility, and that means it robs you of a voice,” which in turn was your response to the assertion that MI is real and not “just a behavior” in the dismissive, “it’s just choosing to be lazy” sense. What I’m saying is I don’t think MI (with certain exceptions such as when one is severely confused or hallucinating) is about responsibility or voice any more than any other condition. You can be a responsible person with a MI or an irresponsible person with a MI– but either way you’ve got a MI.

    As to comparing MI and gayness, here’s what I actually said:

    “It’s the same logic train that I follow when people say [...]”

    because you asked me about how I was interpreting social attitudes and dismissive statements. I was comparing the method with which people put down people with MI’s, with how people put down gay men, not MI and gayness. Looking back I should’ve picked a different example, since homosexuality has the problematic history of having been listed in the Diagnostic Manual once upon a time, but I just didn’t think of that in time. Also you seemed, in a comment upthread, to be arguing the validity of what “people say” about gay men. But I was quoting narrow-minded people who like to get their bigot on regarding people with MI and/or gay men, not putting forth for discussion if gay men are actually ruining society or not.

  139. stacey

    Another hallmark of dudeliness is NOT SHUTTING THE FUCK UP.

    Twisty, your reasoning for using the word skitzo is perfectly reasonable; I’m sensitive to mental illness-ism (ill mentalism?) and also a pedantic asshole, so I tried to point it out as neutrally as possible.

    Also, in no way would i mean to excise the word when it is used as a term of empowerment for those who are illin’. More luck to you.

  140. Rididill

    Uh oh, guess I qualify for dudeliness then….

    @kittywrangler

    It isn’t about being a responsible or irresponsible person, that isn’t the sense I meant it. I meant responsible as a concept… what you can be considered to be held responsible for, and what is considered to be out of your control. MI is usually considered a reason for things being out of your control, i.e. criminal acts, and therefore in the law it is interpreted differently. Concept of diminished responsibility.
    How can that apply to other conditions?

    What you are talking about on the one hand, is you are saying, I can’t help it, I’m ill, so I’m not just “choosing to be lazy”. Therefore, you are saying that whatever behaviour results from the MI is not a choice, so you are not responsible for it. So people should make allowances. Therefore they treat you as a person not fully responsible for their actions. Which is, as I said, a double edged sword.

    Also, if you are trying to compare the logic trains, it follows that the two things in question should be comparable. This is why I highlight gayness being fine, but mental illness being, in general a bad thing that people suffer from. That is why you can’t compare how people talk about them, because one is a bad thing (that’s why they call it illness and not health…) and one is just being gay. Which is fine. So, you can’t interpret comments about them in the same way in any case.

    I don’t know what anyone was saying about gayness, that was just hypothetical. I was trying to make a distinction between what people do and what people are. Which was the whole point of my argument. You seem to like to conflate the two.

  141. KittyWrangler

    Well, it should help clear things up that the very first time you asked me for clarification, I explicitly said that I wouldn’t ordinarily use language that conflates mental illness with identity (what people do and what people are), except that I was quoting bigoted and dismissive statements I’d heard.

    The bigots using the dismissive language you asked me about don’t give a crap if and how gay men and people with MIs are different as long as both are stigmatized, which is why they use comparable language when making judgmental complaints. I was hoping you’d recognize the pattern of language and ill intent that I was trying to describe if I gave another example.

    As for responsibility, I get that how people with MIs are treated makes a massive difference in how one decides to define one’s own MI or symptoms. But I have zero control over other people and whether or not they decide to hold me accountable to what I do. However I define my MI, they’re going to do what they’re going to do. So, as with everything else in Patriarchy, I have to satisfy my own gut and my own logic– and that’s how I reached the conclusion that MI’s are real. In a post-Patriarchy I think people would simply ask the person whether or not she was responsible for what she did at a particular time, perhaps with some expert advice if it was really crucial. I can’t do certain things because of my MI– well, I can some of the time but not always– and I know what those are. That is pretty similar to any other condition.

  142. yttik

    Somebody once told me to view mental illness not as a set of behaviors, but rather as a communication problem. “Behavior” implies shame, responsibility, choice, etc, and confuses the whole issue. Many people with mental illness behave just fine while those who have no illness at all behave atrociously. Not having control over your behavior sometimes is pretty scary, but that doesn’t mean you’re behaving “badly.”

    Post patriarchy we could avoid a whole lot of misery by treating people with mental illness as if they have a communication issue. When people are having emotions, thoughts, visions, that aren’t related to what is going on right now, it’s hard to communicate with them. It’s hard for them to perceive our reality and it’s hard for us to perceive theirs. The less you can communicate with others, the more difficult it is to function in the world.

  143. KittyWrangler

    @yttik
    That makes a lot of sense to me.

  144. Rididill

    @Kittywrangler

    What you said was this:

    “In the two examples I gave– Adbusters and Godbags– they’ve described the “dramatic increase” in certain MIs as symptoms of a [whatever bad] society, while at the same time denying that MI is a real thing (saying with MIs are just being lazy / greedy / what have you). This would translate, then, as “the (lazy greedy) behavior is a symptom of (bad) society” But I DO believe MI’s are real, so it isn’t just behavior. It’s the same logic train that I follow when people say gay men are choosing a lifestyle which is ruining society, yet most gay men say they’re not choosing to be gay, leading me to read that as “gay men are ruining society.”

    Note the phrase “leading me to read that..”.

    So, you state that the interpretation “gay men are ruining society” is yours, not what they actually said, which is criticising the lifestyle, the behaviour. The conflation is entirely your own, unless this is not what you meant to write. So, the reason I stated they are not comparable, in any case, is because you are making the same interpretation in both cases, but the relationship between being and doing is different in each case.

    I get that you are just talking about assholish things people say, but my point was I think it’s far more legit to say that the behaviours caused by mental illness are bad, maybe ruining your life is a bit strong, maybe ruining society is a bit strong, but surely it would be better not to have it, no? The same cannot be said for being gay. But, if there is a criticism of behaviour, then that is very different thing from saying “gays are ruining society” which is your interpretation. Depends what behaviour.

    “But I have zero control over other people and whether or not they decide to hold me accountable to what I do. ”

    There I disagree. How you describe or explain your behaviour to other people makes a huge difference to how they are going to react to it.

    But fundamentally I guess I was talking about my own internalized ideas about it – when people reacted to me like, oh, that’s just the mental illness talking, whatever, I wondered if it was true. And it was that self-doubt that was causing most of the problems in the first place.

    “I can’t do certain things because of my MI– well, I can some of the time but not always– and I know what those are. That is pretty similar to any other condition.”

    That sounds very different to my experience… MI to me was always about my ability to interpret reality, not about whether I could or couldn’t do certain things. I see now why we have such different attitudes to this – like you said, you just needed to restructure your thoughts, not change the content. For me, the first thing I had to do was realize that I didn’t need to change the content. After that, everything else pretty much followed.

  145. KittyWrangler

    First things first– it sounds like you’ve got a handle on what you need to heal, and that is wonderful. I’m relieved and happy for you.

    Ok, here’s what I understand of your POV, just to make sure I’m reading you right:

    1. Patriarchy can cause one to develop unhelpful behaviors as a result of trying to deal with the P-inflicted damage. Those behaviors are called MI by the Patriarchy, which in turn denies the experience of those with MIs, causing even more doubt and confusion for people suffering from MIs (sometimes resulting in more abstract confusion such as hallucinations or inability to interpret reality, rendering that person unaccountable for their actions). Rejecting the stigma of MI and rooting out the real reason– Patriarchy– allows one to either cease or make peace with (I’m not certain on this point) behaviors that are damaging one’s ability to live life and to reclaim one’s own experience.

    2. You can’t compare it to gayness, and can’t compare the stigma of MI to the stigma of gayness, because the behavior called MI is actually damaging, thus criticism of it comes from a different place and people may have a point. I take, “You seem to like to conflate the two,” to mean that when I interpreted criticism of MI as criticism of people with MI you see that conflation as connected to my POV that MI isn’t necessarily a behavior resulting from the P but in some cases more like (but not exactly like) a physical condition that exists on its own and that one needn’t reject (and thus separate oneself from) the label, “MI.”

    Sorry for abbreviating and flattening your POV, I’m just trying to avoid typing a novel.

    Your first point– your experience and understanding of MI– sounds completely plausible as a thorough understanding of your own MI. I respect your understanding of your own experience in part because I think enabling people with MIs to define their own experiences and to control their own healing processes is the most important key to society dealing with MI responsibly (aside from, of course, P-smashing– but such behavior would dismantle a little smidgeon of the P). However that also leads me to rely on my own experience of my MI, which is somewhat different. If both are legitimate experiences, one cannot say that MI is the result of the P (or that it wouldn’t exist without the P), only that it can be those things. And one cannot say that rejecting the label and concept of “MI” is the way to healing, only that it can be. If both experiences and interpretations are legitimate, that would place MI as existing beyond the frame of Patriarchy, but certainly interacting with the P– not necessarily as either of us described it.

    As to point #2 it sounds like you did get what I was saying (and I’m glad you understand I’m not interested in conflating homosexuality and MI) but were wanting to prove me wrong under the guise of asking for clarification, and I don’t appreciate that. I put a lot of time into attempting to re-frame my experience because I actually am interested in communicating with you. I realize that I’m disagreeing with many Blamers here when I argue that MI (mine) doesn’t necessarily originate with the P or always heal through the rejection of the P, and it’s perfectly fine with me if you disagree. I’m not nearly as interested in Being The One Who Is Right as I am in sharing experiences, learning and respecting others who have found their own solutions and theories. You don’t need to pick apart everything I’m saying to disagree– and I mean that to sound mildly frustrated, not patronizing.

    In fact it’s really unhelpful to try to wear me down into doubting my own experience of bigotry against people with MIs; I wasn’t born yesterday and I know a “dog whistle” when I hear one. When Westboro Baptist Church say they oppose “the gay lifestyle,” I know full well they’re not concerned with the spread of HIV, as evidenced by their “God Hates Homos” signs; they oppose gay people, and I’m perfectly confident in calling their BS even though I can’t read minds. When it comes to criticizing behavior of people with MI’s, I’ve heard people discuss how much of a toll MI can take on a person’s caretaker/family, how painful it is when people sabotage their own lives, etc. Those people tend to have experience with MI and a more sensitive, empathetic and comprehensive understanding of the situation and I very much doubt they would conflate the destruction caused by MI with the person who has the MI. But when I hear clueless, thoughtless crap like, “Rich American sheeple just buy stuff and don’t want to deal with life so they pop a Prozac– look at Africa, they don’t even know what mental illness is there,” or “I’m praying for all the souls of those who don’t accept Jeeeezus into their hearts and surrender their problems unto Him, who run away to head-shrinkers and crazy pills and reject the Word,” or “girls today just want to be sluts and blame it on being “bipolar” like that Britney Spears,” I’m going to call it as I see it.

    You said, “‘But I have zero control over other people and whether or not they decide to hold me accountable to what I do.’ There I disagree. How you describe or explain your behaviour to other people makes a huge difference to how they are going to react to it.”

    Well, I agree with that; but in that situation you still only have control over how you communicate, not the other person’s judgements of you. Some people are just going to suck no matter what you do and you can’t control it; those people are usually the dismissive ones who don’t listen.

  146. Rididill

    I’ll try to keep this one short.

    point 1 – sort of but not quite. I find the term ‘denies their experience’ quite vague. The difference is between locating the problem as something faulty within them, or as a legit response to society. It is the self doubt inherent in understanding oneself as inherently faulty in some way that is the cause of the problem in the first place. Realizing one’s reactions are in fact a legit response to being dismissed, belittled, oppressed, removes or at least relieves the emotional turmoil. This is my basic argument. I appreciate it may not apply to all.

    As for responsibility/accountability, that isn’t really it but I don’t really feel I can explain any further.

    point 2 – yes that is right. I see them as connected because you seem to be using the same ‘I can’t help it so leave me alone’ argument for both.

    I was not seeking to prove you wrong under the guise of asking for clarification. I was asking for clarification to know if my disagreement made sense. In terms of what you said before, it seemed my disagreement did make sense. Having heard your explanation of what these discourses are, not so much.
    I am not trying to wear you down. Like I said, I am not familiar with these discourses. I am not from the US. The ones I have heard are rather different.

    I don’t appreciate the insinuation that I am not trying to communicate. Would I have bothered with all this if I wasn’t?

    “Some people are just going to suck no matter what you do and you can’t control it; those people are usually the dismissive ones who don’t listen.”

    Agreed.

    @Yttik – I like this communication problem idea.

  147. Rididill

    Elaboration on point one – the emotional turmoil is caused by being in a constant position of wondering, was X event/feature of society totally messed up, or do I just perceive it that way because I have something wrong with me?

    When everyone around you is telling you the latter, you can get stuck in a constant spiral of anger at what you perceive, and extreme self-doubt in wondering if this anger is in fact legit – if you are actually just sick, hurting everyone around you with your anger and need to get help to resolve these problematic perceptions (or delusions, according to everybody else) that make you angry.

    The acceptance that your perceptions are real allows you to move forward to realizing, ok, the world is this way, and there’s nothing wrong with me, so now I can find ways to deal with it.

    This is where I’m coming from.

  148. yttik

    People’s perceptions are always real, even those with mental illnesses, because it’s real to them. It goes against intuition, but we need to honor people’s perceptions and trust that for them they are real. Anybody ever try to argue with somebody with schizophrenia having a perception crisis? In that situation, they aren’t the ones acting irrationally, you are. Their brain is perceiving what it’s perceiving and you’re trying to tell them that it isn’t.

    Feminism can help because it validates people’s perceptions and helps them become more self accepting, which is the same thing we want to do for people with mental illnesses.

  149. Twisty

    I don’t think you want to validate everybody’s perceptions. I guy I knew who had schizophrenia thought that John Lennon and Kurt Cobain were sending him personal messages from beyond the grave through their lyrics, and that aliens were shooting mind-control darts into his brain stem (he grew a mullet specifically to deflect these!), and he would never eat any food he thought had been prepared by a woman, as all women, especially me, were evil witches who would poison him at the drop of a hat.

  150. yttik

    Interesting Twisty, that sounds just like the people with schizophrenia that I’ve known. You would think those would be unusual delusions, but they sound pretty typical.

    But you especially want to validate people with those kinds of delusions, or at least the feelings somebody is having about them. The last thing you want to do is get in their face and try to point out reality to them. That’s the hard part about schizophrenia, people’s brains tell them they’re perceiving everything correctly. You pointing out that they aren’t, isn’t going to help.

  151. KJ

    Hi everyone, I’m a long time reader/lurker/blamer but first time commenter. Here are some points I wanted to make-

    1. The discussion between KittyWrangler and Rididill has been really interesting (and extensive). To me, both sets of views and beliefs on mental illness have a lot going for them.
    My own experience- when I first became ill, (mentally that is), some people were very vocal in letting me know that what I was experiencing was a legitimate and rational response to a seriously unpleasant society and some traumatic life events that had happened in my teens. My closest friends were of that opinion and the iller I became, the less patience they had with me. After all, I was doing my thing, being a bit weird and emotional- this was OK, life’s nasty. But, when I was psychotic and suicidal, they seemed to think that I’d taken my “protest” a bit far. After all, I’m intelligent, was young and had lots of privilledge and a bright future. They couldn’t (and still can’t) seem to understand that my behaviour/ experience/ illness was something that I couldn’t control or stop when it became inconvenient. Yet, despite them being very alarmed and concerned at my symptoms, they kept telling me that taking pills/ ect/ hospital stays were of no real use- because the mental illness was something that was happening because I was unhappy/ society is a class ridden, sexist, racist, capitalist mess. They seem to think that if you develop an awareness of this, and become more angry about it, and try to improve things somehow, mental illness will go away, or something like that. I thought this for quite sometime, and was firmly anti psychiatry. But after being sectioned (committed involuntarily) and experiencing forced medication, forced ect and hating everything about mental health, illness and everyone I knew, plus many years passing and still being ill from time to time, I’ve come to realise that for me, illness is horrible, real and it’s to do with something in my brain that’s functioning in a way that makes me feel bad. Plus there’s the world and its problems to contend with. I am responsible for everything I do. Even when I’ve done awful things, and I’m very lucky that I haven’t done anything too destructive or murderous. But that would be the case if I had no mental illness, or a different one. I guess I’m with KittyWrangler, and when I hear another lecture from a well meaning but insensitive friend that “life’s what you make it” (yes, it is, but it’s still a life I live with whatever illness/ circumstance I may be unable to change), I fantasise about changing my life and feel like I need to just pull myself together and then the illness will disappear. Then I remind myself that if I take anti psychotics or see a shrink, I’m not saying that the patriarchal, opressive elements of the world have “won”, and the side effects are not points that some doctor is scoring against me. I’m just attempting to be me, at my wellist. But I used to believe that meant I was somehow copping out, if that makes any sense.

    2. Respect and thanks to KittyWrangler and Rididill, and others for this discussion.

    3. As always, the comments of Yttik, Tinfoil Hattie and Twisty (obviously!), are super and incisive. Actually, everyones are, I love this site so much; it inspires, infuriates, uplifts, confuses, informs, amazes, amuses and most of all comforts me, that it exists and the women writing on it are real, even if I don’t know any of you in the “real” world. IBTP and thank you for helping me realise that.

    4. God, sorry I went on so long!

  152. KJ

    Just wanted to add, I love the fact that my comment is (kind of) time travelling to the US where it’s just after 7pm. It’s after 2am here -amazing and a bit of a head spinner. Is time meaningless on savage death island?

  153. Swanhilde

    If anyone here has online access to The New Yorker magazine, I found this article about schizophrenia, patients’ rights, and patient care to be a good read: “God Knows Where I Am,” by Rachel Aviv. Here is the link:http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/05/30/110530fa_fact_aviv

    I do wish that it was more socially acceptable and comfortable to discuss MI, including schizophrenia. My personal experience is that almost everyone knows someone who has schizophrenia or who has died–or tried to–from suicide, but people almost never talk about it. The shame and secrecy surrounding MI causes tremendous pain to people who have MI and their loved ones.

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