The problem with being called crazy is that there's no response you can give that will make you sound less crazy. No, I'm not crazy! is exactly the sort of thing that a crazy person would say. So is "I AM THE REINCARNATION OF FAMED WISCONSIN POLITICIAN ROBERT "FIGHTING BOB" LAFOLLETTE AND I AM HERE TO COLLECT YOUR HAND SKIN AS TRIBUTE. FORWARD!" "You're crazy:" keeping women quiet (or at least stymied into silence) since forever.
While the Madwoman in the Attic trope has gone the way of the corset (both are utilized in 2013 by weirdos only- HEYO), men still try to shut women down all the time by calling them crazy. It's unfair. It's inaccurate. It's sexist. And it's a pain in the ass of historical proportions. Now, despite decades of research to the contrary, two male researchers are saying that actually women ARE less sane than men. They're not sexist; them's the breaks. Sounds to me like some bullshit.
In the cringe-inducingly titled It's Not Just Sexism, Women Really Do Suffer from More Mental Illness; brothers/academics Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman acknowledge that discussing gender and mental illness is some touchy terrain, and that addressing it may reinforce damaging stereotypes about both gender and mental illness.
No one, of course, wants to be accused of sexism. This might partly explain why today mainstream mental health professionals, psychologists, and psychiatrists give surprisingly little attention to the question of gender differences. And why the official line is that, though men and women vary in their vulnerability to particular types of mental illness, total rates are the same. The World Health Organization, for example, states: “Overall rates of psychiatric disorder are almost identical for men and women.”
Now that we've got the I'M NOT SEXIST, BUT... out of the way, let's dive into some sexism.
But this is inaccurate. When you take a detailed look at the international epidemiological data, as we did when writing The Stressed Sex, the picture that emerges is very different – and pretty shocking. It turns out that in any given year total rates of psychological disorder are 20-40% higher in women than men.
As they'd say in my parents' neck of the woods — uff da. I'm not a sexist but. I'm not a sexist but here's something kind of sexist. Women are less sane than men. That's just a fact. A science-fact.
Far be it from me to try to out-science scientists, but a bold, potentially problematic statement to the effect of "population-wise, women are more mentally ill than men" without giving a pretty damn convincing explanation as to why the World Health Organization is wrong and they are right is hubristic at best and irresponsible at worst.
If the Freemans are going to make a bold claim about the relationship between mental health and gender — which they acknowledge is an "awkward" discussion — then they should do a better job proving that the way they reached that conclusion isn't based almost entirely on subjective self-reporting, but rather an objective measure of mental health that doesn't draw from people who are a product of a world that emphasizes the sanity of men and the insanity of women. You can't peel open a person's brain and count the anxieties. All we have is what people communicate.
To the Freemans' credit, they point out that the structure of society may be to blame for a preponderance of reported mental illness among women. And claiming that the fucked up way the world treats women is literally driving women to the point of mental illness is a lot more palatable and less regressive than claiming women are less mentally sound than men. But no. That's not what they're asserting. They're saying this:
This data isn’t illusory: it shows that huge numbers of people are struggling with psychological problems – and the majority of them are female.
No; the data they reference shows that the majority of people self-reporting symptoms of mental illness are female. People lie about embarrassing shit on surveys all the time. I pretended to not be a virgin during games of Never Have I Ever from about ages 17-20. People over-report their incomes, over-report their height, under-report their weight. Doesn't it stand to reason that, when facing stigma against mental illness and assurance that whatever they're feeling is "normal," men may also refrain from recognizing or reporting symptoms of mental illness when asked?
If anything, this supports the notion that society still views men's mental state as the default and women's as deviant — a man experiencing disordered anxiety levels or mental health concerns may think nothing's wrong because he was raised in a society that told him that his mental state is the default mental state. Of course more women will self-report mental illness than men. The world is telling them that they're crazy.