“Making Women Mad”

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MacDonald, Courtney
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Mount Saint Vincent University
In this thesis, I look at the complicated business of “Making Women Mad” through a feminist and gender aware lens, with an interdisciplinary approach to examining women’s narratives of psychological oppression and resistance in an autobiographical short story and one book. I draw on women’s written experiences from the Victorian Era of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and her personal treatment by Silas Weir Mitchell’s “The Rest Cure,” Kate Millett’s personal narrative as told in her book having taken place in the 1970s and 1980s, The Loony-Bin Trip where she chronicled her struggle with navigating the social and healthcare system which was concerned with “madness,” and my experiences in the 21st century, living and working within the mental healthcare system with those charged with real mental illness and the social and cultural construct of “madness.” I base this on the theory of the “misbegotten man” and Aristotelian views that women possess innate flaws directly due to their defective biology from the moment of conception. These flaws and defects occur at every stage of women’s naturally occurring stages of biology, therefore their whole being has been pathologized. The new and emerging field of “Mad Studies” will be paid attention to, along with issues of violence and stigma. In conclusion, I present my personal remarks and a path forward as a way to provide information based upon experience and hope for the future of women’s healthcare and mental and physical well-being as a means of resistance, the restoration of agency, and empowerment.
Women's narratives, psychological oppression, madness