In Post-Industrial Society, Women Are Either "Princess Crazy" Or Her Handmaidens

Illustration for article titled In Post-Industrial Society, Women Are Either Princess Crazy Or Her Handmaidens

How many times has a dude accused you of being "crazy" when you think you're being perfectly rational? Well there's a new book out by Paris-born writer Lisa Appignanesi, Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800, which argues that women's so-called madness has been gerrymandered by shifting definitions that often equate craziness and "feminine" behavior. In a review of Mad, Bad and Sad, Telegraph scribe Melanie McGrath says that, "Our current expectations to be made, as one advocate of Prozac puts it, 'better than well', along with ever-expanding definitions of what constitutes mental illness, have served to turn us all, if not into Princesses of Crazy then into her handmaidens."

Appignanesi discusses cultural expectations of "madness" by citing the biographies of suicidal, cultural icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Sylvia Plath, and Virginia Woolf. According to McGrath, "We are not simple creatures,' [Appignanesi] says, in something of an understatement. By accepting, even colluding with, the continual expansion of categories of mental illness, we deny life's natural ups and downs and by doing so, impoverish its quality."


Appignanesi isn't the only one lamenting the over-diagnosis of a captive public. There has been much ink spilled on the over-prescription of psychiatric medication, and stereotypically (as Appignanesi points out), women are more demonstratively emotional than men are — so are they being more aggressively over-prescribed? Should we be pulling up the proverbial yellow wallpaper of our feminine oppression instead of swilling Prozac? As we watch former icon of ultra-girliness, Britney Spears, mentally unravel before our eyes, these are all valid questions to be asking ourselves. As we ponder, I'm just going to call myself a handmaiden of princess crazy because, you know, it has a nice ring to it!

Femininity As Mental Illness [Telegraph]
Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 [Amazon]

Earlier: What's The Difference Between A "Real" Depressive And A "Lazy" Pill Freak?
In Defense Of Depression
Boys Who Use The Word "Drama": An Investigation


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@veraikon: do you have any documentation of this? like old journals or anything? or is it just a family story? because i'm a major history dork and one of my favorite things ever is reading old journals/letters and reconstructing people's lives. and i find even your short synopsis fascinating (and tragic).