The current illegitimate mental disorder paradigm, where labels are brazenly called diagnoses and life problems are tackled with chemicals, is a perfect handmaiden to male privilege and yet another manipulation in the age-old effort to gaslight women.
It is ever so much better for men who seek to greedily hold onto power and to subjugate women to have women believe that they are ill, rather than to have those women notice the extent to which their distress is caused by men. When an event like rape causes lifelong psychological pain, it is ever so much better for privileged men to call the matter a medical one, provide the woman with a PTSD label, supply her with chemicals, and skip investigating the rape. In the current mental disorder model, there are no rapists and no victims of rape. There are only mentally-disordered women.
We can easily trace the history of this manipulation, no doubt from the dawn of time but most clearly from Victorian Vienna and Freud’s “hysterical” women. The secret pact among smug, self-aggrandizing men has been to make sure that a system is in place that provides cover for a mental health male power grab. The basic idea is brilliant and simple. Let’s make sure that people, when they experience something like despair, take it to be a personal medical issue. Let’s make sure that they do not wonder if their despair is perhaps being caused by being stuffed in a corner and forced to wash floors. Let us absolutely make sure that it never crosses their mind to laugh loudly at those experts who claim that they are ill rather than oppressed.
The way this is currently said is “the prevalence of mental disorders is lower in men,” making it once again sound like women are weaker and sicker. Of course, the “prevalence of mental disorders is lower in men,” just as a person with his boot on another person’s neck is rather happier than the person in the dirt. Who is more likely to experience “clinical depression,” the one stomping or the one stomped? Who is frolicking more, the Nazi chasing the Jew through the forest or the Jew? If you dare label that Jew with an anxiety disorder or a mood disorder or any other label that takes your eye of the Nazi chasing him, you are colluding with the makers of horror.
Ah, you will say, but there are female psychiatrists, female psychologists, female psychotherapists, female social workers, females everywhere in the system who couldn’t possibly stand for all this gaslighting, if that was what was really going on. But that would be very naïve of you—or just a ploy on your part. People are people: selfish, self-interested, venal, and all the rest. Women included. If you train as a mental health professional, slowly but surely you will likely become invested in flag-waving for your profession, whether or not it is a fair or decent profession.
Suddenly the woman who comes to see you, who is being bullied by her husband, becomes your “patient,” just by virtue of the language you use. It is as if there were some magical process in play where, by virtue of them crossing the threshold of your office, patients get produced out of thin air. Whether you are a man or a woman, you might rather enjoy and profit from this magical process, one created whole cloth out of how language operates.
Who wouldn’t like to think of himself or herself as practicing medicine? What fun to be able to say to the person sitting across from you—and whether or not you have spent one second in medical school—“I’m sorry to have to tell you that you meet all the criteria for clinical depression. Yes, just as you suspected, you do have a mental disease.” How utterly easy, convenient, and charming. And the next thing out of your mouth? “And, you know, we have a pill for that!”
The way that the psychiatric mental disorder model functions is a feminist issue. It is designed on purpose by identical men sitting around identical tables to provide all sorts of useful labels to make women think that they are sick, ill, diseased, broken, and, as corollaries, incompetent, unreliable, suspect, and scary. When a psychiatrist spends seven minutes with you, runs down a checklist, and announces a diagnosis, that is a feminist issue—and an injustice. It is a perfect example of how power operates to say with a straight face that one person is entitled to proclaim to another person that she has a mental disorder by virtue of running down a male-choreographed checklist designed to label, control, and disempower. If you wanted one good definition of power, this would be one.
In response to the objection, “advice like this will prevent millions of women from getting the medical attention they require,” let me just set that paternalistic objection aside. A woman looking for justice, a chance, her place, her rights, and everything else that a human being wants and deserves does not have a medical condition when she is systematically and relentlessly thwarted by men. She may be rightly outraged—but that isn’t a medical condition. She may be tremendously frustrated—but that isn’t a medical condition. Her heart may ache—but that isn’t a medical condition.
Let us try a simple experiment—let all human beings be treated as they ought to be treated—and let’s see how many “mental disorders” evaporate into thin air. Would all despair vanish? Of course not. Would children still not die young, causing irreparable grief? Of course, they would. But would it surprise you if 36% or 59% or 81% of all “mental disorders” disappeared, if everyone had a fair shake of it and a fair go at it? Right now, women are being gaslighted by psychiatry into believing they are sick when they are angry and diseased when they are outraged. Busting the mental disorder paradigm is a feminist issue.
I invite you to take a look at my latest book, Redesign Your Mind.
Would you also address this phenomenon ?as to “race”??? It seems to me that white (mostly but not exclusively ) males are gaslighting people of color but it doesn’t seem to show up in the DSM-?
White women and poor whites go along with the power grab in a identification with the aggressor style so they can stay “safe”…
You are so right about this. Psychiatrists maybe worse than psychologists in my view but the problem is pervasive. You are a voice in the wilderness only because critics want to suppress your trenchant criticism. Psychiatrists are not immune from cult like group think.
Bravo! Thank you for being courageous enough to write this.
Unfortunately, almost all institutions are patriarchal I do agree with what you say for the most part. I didn’t think you were so unbiased as to the plight of women.
This is a very powerful and important article. Thank you for looking at the system through this lens.
Excellent article! So true. It will take radical action to dismantle the male power model of control. Racial inequality, climate change, social poverty, health care and education disparity and much more are sad indicators of how society is failing the public.
Thank you for advocacy!
A perceptive and honest view of labels, and when there is a label, control of others is at hand, and money can be made.
Reminds of a conversation I had with a psychiatrist friend. “Do you think psychiatry has truly brought down the scourge of mental disease in the past 100 years,” I asked.
“No and no,” he said.
Thank you for this article Eric. The medicalisation of disempowerment, ha, ludicrous! So interesting too that the increase in depression and anxiety due to the stress and isolation of Covid induced lockdowns are suddenly not ‘chemical imbalances’ and non-Psychiatric help lines have been set up to at least TALK about the issues and feelings, rather than medicating them away. Anxiety and Depression caused by another cause? Another life event? Trauma? Grief? Somehow different! The medical model mental health world is not based on kindness, humour, being an ally first, all the things I needed when dealing with a marriage breakdown and workplace bullying followed by the sadism of workcover who rather then help me get back to work, put up obstacle after obstacle which just added to the stress. Fortunately I could access online information, had skills as a case manager and had a fighting spirit, even if it was buried by stress and anxiety and massive depression for a time, and I had a good, basic, kind GP and got myself out of the ‘system’. I always believed I was having a ‘sane reaction to an insane situation’ but that ‘insane situation’ was ignored.
As a feminist who read books that worked hard to bust open assumptions about women, I agree with you.
In the 1980s, I wrote a poem called “The Psychological Conditioning Of Women Or What Have We Got To Lose But Ourselves.” My last line of the poem was “We wept for our lost and unknown Selves.”
It is clear that those in power and with power will never give it up easily or willingly. Why give up the scenario that allows you to always be In charge, never be questioned, be treated like a God? Who would want to give that up? It is easier to blame the Other. They are responsible for creating their situation, however their society or community made it impossible for them to be treated like a human being with Human Rights.
Thank you for bringing up this issue in 2022 so that it can be examined and put in its rightful place.
Your a very descriptive and excellent writer. I thought this was a woman writing this.
This no doubtely has been throughout history. It’s a man’s world we live in this far. Even by womens preferring boys and not training them to cook and wash toilets.
Wow, hard hitting observation, glad it was written by you Eric, it holds more weight than if I’d written it, as I’m likely to have been labelled an angry feminist LOL. Food for thought, thanks for sharing your views.