Women and Madness by Phyllis Chesler

Chesler is an emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies at City University of New York. This text was first published in 1972. What Chesler does is validate that most mental illness in women is due to conditioned behaviour.  “The cumulative effect of being forced to lead a circumscribed life is toxic. The psychic toll is measured in anxiety, depression, phobias, suicide attempts, eating disorders, and such stress-related illnesses as addiction, alcoholism, high blood pressure, and heart disease.” However, when these women go to seek help, they are classified as healthy, neurotic or psychotic by a patriarchal system. 90% of psychiatrists are male and the measure for a healthy woman is based on a gender bias that sees them as less competitive and more submissive than a healthy man. By these standards, the normal female is neurotic. When women seek help, they compound their mental illness because the system is patriarchal. It further enforces conditioning that requires them to be quiet and compliant. Chesler raises more questions and finishes the book with 13. The most significant of these being – where is a woman to seek the real help she needs to break free from this toxic conditioning? This book is both revolutionary and prescient.

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