Gender, psychiatry and the rhetoric of science
Johnson, Davi Alynne
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Throughout history, women's identities have been closely linked to their reproductive capacity and hence their bodies while men are associated with the mind and abstract reason. In this binary, women's bodies are thought to infect their capacity to reason and leave them susceptible to diseases of the mind. This project examines historical manifestations of the associations between women and madness and specifically dissects diverse discourses related to current instances of this association. Specifically, the recent psychiatric diagnosis premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) carries on this tradition dating back to early Greek times when women's wombs were thought to wander about their bodies causing various and sundry ailments. The analysis examines medical documents, television discourses, and advertisements to understand both the continuities and ruptures of this modern female malady in terms of its historical development. The current malady is dangerous because it encourages women to view their bodies as the source of social ills and mitigates against individual activism and collective change.