Damn, feminists

I read your ice cold freezing blogs all weekend, disgusted by the cluelessness and miles to go before you take the first step. Final straw was this post at Feminism 101, detailing all the bleeding obvious feminist denunciations like female circumcision, routine maternal episiotomies, routine caesarean sections, cosmetic vaginal labiaplasty, radical clitoridectomies, clitoral excision, infibulation… seems every permutation of female genital mutilation gets its own bulleted outrage, and that sums up feminist condemnation of medical procedures. Come now, where’s the spark?

I know why it’s easier to look at injustice that happens in a third world country than it is to look at what’s going on close to home. It means you’re scared. And manufactured outrage comes de rigueur with identity politics. It’s on the list.

Crickets chirp at what’s happening in your own back yard; not a single post in the feminist blogoshphere about Simone D., New York Hispanic woman with an impressive story of injustice and a rather pressing need for acts which activists can and are being urged to do on her behalf in the activist way they pride themselves on. Given the right conditions. Which are what again?

I was looking for a place to introduce her story, a feminist blog where the burden would be rightly taken up, given it’s a feminist issue.

So what the fuck is this supposed to mean?

Rational people often assume that some opinions and judgements are so obviously part of their worldview that they really don’t need to be said. It seems a transparently clear expectation that if a person already knows that one supports issues A and C and opposes issues X and Z, then they ought to conclude that one is likely to also oppose issue Y and also support issue B. Indeed, it is a textbook example of logical inference.

Is that what feminism is, wordplay, image-building, impression management? Disembodied rhetoric while living women suffer routine legalized brutalities that you don’t want to know exist, and pre-empt any attempt at calling your attention to because

some folks, for ideological reasons, are so invested in performing a gloating gotcha dance that they ignore all the precepts of logical inference and triumphantly announce that they have caught one out, oh yes indeed, in not jumping through the denunciation hoops with sufficient spangles and spotlights that they couldn’t possibly miss it.

That’s a set up, nowhere to go from there. Introduce a pressing issue missing from that feminist list of complaints and you end up on the list yourself. Why they play these little princess games is beyond the fuck me. Grow up, learn, expand, listen, I want much more from feminists but right now I’ll settle for an opening.

Before flouncing I click the link at Feminism 101 to a page of recommended reading material, the feminist classics, I see they are claiming Kate Millet. Kate Millet, you don’t say. How dare they. Kate Millet is invisible to feminists, they spit on her. But she’s at the top of the list! Scholarship Kate, yes, safe and middle class. Hardship paper slippers Kate, nah, too honest, scary, invisible, trash. God I hate this.

The feminist community should be all over Simone D’s story.
Yes, identity politics has them so screwed up they ignore what has not been neatly dileneated as a gendered violation. But this has, they have simply not done their homework.

I will find the theory, some papers, the scholarship, we’re all lawyers now, build your case, god help anyone who tries to inject an issue into the discourse without the computer-crashing pdf files, the intoxicating and safe theoretical argument, the masters tools will explain it all, except why they need to be told that the elimination of ECT is a feminist imperative. It’s not that hard to empathize, all you have to do is remember.

How do you think it feels, and when do you think it stops?

21 thoughts on “Damn, feminists

  1. Hey, I’m a feminist, and I haven’t been ignoring Simone D.’s story; I just have never heard of it until now.

    You don’t have to dig out the research and build a legal case; I’ll be happy with a quick version of why eliminating ECT is a feminist imperative. I want to understand. Is it because eliminating all kinds of oppression is a feminist imperative (which it is, really)? Is it because female patients are disproportionately subjected to forced ECT or forced treatment in general? Is it because female patients are disproportionately diagnosed with mental illness? Is it because Simone D. is a Hispanic woman and is therefore being oppressed on both gender and class/ethnic lines? All of the above?

  2. Actually I’ve started digging and have found the work of Bonnie Burstow, which I’m going to read. A couple of very interesting-looking papers about ECT as a violence against women, etc.

    Of course I have always been appalled by shock treatments in general; it astounds me that they’re still being done. And being forced on people — jesus god. But I had not thought of ECT as being particularly a feminist issue, even though I know women have suffered disproportionately in the overall mental illness thing. I will go read.

  3. Women, especially older women, are disproportionately subjected to ECT, both “voluntary” (read coerced and not given full informed consent) and involuntary. ECT causes brain damage, permanent memory loss, reduced IQ. Even its biggest proponent, Harold Sackheim, has now admitted these facts. And it doesn’t “work” long term, thus maintenance ECT which causes more damage. It is also a dangerous procedure in that it involves having a general in most places, something most people avoid even for surgery if it’s possible/practical.

    Women are disproportionately diagnosed with mental illness in general, and not uncommonly when they have actual medical problems/illnesses which leads to undiagnosed and untreated cancers and other diseases and increased chance of dying. Today is the Yahrzeit of a woman I knew who died of ovarian cancer. She went to her doctor with symptoms long before it was diagnosed and was written off as psychosomatic. I lost my kidneys because some fool doctor thought my extreme toxicity was “all in my head”.

    It is and always has been a feminist issue, the treatment of women in the mental health system.

  4. It is and always has been a feminist issue, the treatment of women in the mental health system.

    Yes, I knew that; women get diagnosed as crazy just for not fitting into patriarchal norms.

    And I’ve also knew, separately, that ECT was a travesty — it IS a travesty, a barbaric torture that should never have seen the light of day.

    What I did not know was the connection there. I did not know, had never read, that ECT is overwhelmingly targeted at women and is still being used today as a form of brutal social control. I’ve just finished reading two papers by Bonnie Barstow and my eyes have been opened.

  5. Interesting post about a largely overlooked issue, and you’re right to note that the Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog is amongst those who’ve (so far) overlooked mental health “treatment” as a feminist issue.

    Now for the defensiveness: I do feel you’ve judged the Feminism 101 Blog unnecessarily harshly. It’s an FAQ blog, short summaries and a collection of links to use as cluebats on trolls. It’s not an activism blog, and this is made abundantly clear on the “About” pages.

    1. The list of denunciations is troll-control, pure and simple. It’s aimed squarely at anti-feminists derailing discussions between feminists. I wanted to contrast the atrocities feminists are always accused of overlooking with the coercions of the West that antifeminists always overlook. As feminists aren’t generally accused of overlooking mental “health issues by antifeminists, I overlooked coercive mental health treatments myself in compiling an admitted non-exhaustive list of denunciations.

    2. Kate Millet’s work Sexual Politics was mentioned in a post on Second Wave Feminist classics. A book she published in 1990 can hardly be included in the Second Wave of feminist theory, no matter how important it is. I’ve just read the conclusion to The Loony-Bin Trip online, and it is an amazingly powerful work that I’m happy to be made aware of. It’s still not Second Wave though, and I haven’t compiled a Third Wave reading list yet.

    3. Simone D’s case in New York, heartbreaking and outrageous though it is, had never crossed my radar. That might just perhaps be because I’m Australian. I try and include international issues pertinent to 101-level feminist FAQs, but they don’t always naturally cross my path.

    So, in conclusion, I’m not going to add Kate Millet’s book on mental health to the Second Wave reading list, nor am I going to make a special post about Simone D. I am however going to add a line to the denunciations list about “coerced mental health “treatments” used as social control”, after which I invite you to add a comment to the post with a link to the case of Simone D.

  6. tigtog, if you’d like a handy link for your coerced mental health treatments reference, I recommend this paper: Understanding and Ending ECT: A Feminist Imperative by Dr. Bonnie Burstow. Cogent statement of the overall situation.

    Robin, I will blog on this and the Simone D. as soon as I’m awake again (I’m having one of my weird-ass wonky weeks where I’m awake for 30 hours at a stretch and then sleep for a day and a half). I’ll see if I can get other feminist bloggers to pick it up, too, though obviously I have no control over what other people do. Well, at least not powers I choose to use. I think we Immortal Omniscient Q types should keep a low profile.

  7. I have my days and nights reversed too Vi, and just woke up. Now I’m gonna cry. Thanks for the perspective Violet, for being response-able, and so am I, your words have put my chimeras to rest, for now. I am angry, took a lot out on your blog tigtog, frustrations built up from being ignored at the ones I visited before, over and over in the past ten months. Stigma in the blogosphere is an unrelenting onslaught, to the point I could throw myself at the feet of a blogger and thank them profusely for not making fun of people with mental illness. I don’t know how I’d react to see un-biased recognition for psychiatric survivors out there, but it’s time for that. Crumbs are acceptable, which is unacceptable, warding off bigotry and yearning for better is humiliating, I’ve all but stopped engaging people at their own blogs; we’re in a ghetto not of our own making, freaks who blog about establishment psychiatry, but I’m also feminist and a big D democrat and refuse to be alienated from what I believe to be my own community.

    I was not gracious with you tigtog and the way these things so often spiral into childish blog wars was heavily on my mind. You attended to the content with aplomb, and I appreciate that.

  8. “Stigma in the blogosphere is an unrelenting onslaught”

    No kidding. I’m trying to take a new tack with this, perhaps best summarized by “no more mr. nice guy.” I don’t expect it to change them, but i do expect it to change me. I’d been getting worried by how invested i’ve gotten in some of these fights, and i’d like to cease putting my own well being in the hands of those who clearly are indifferent.

    I hear you on this…if feminism is defined by the struggle for justice for all women, then that clearly must include the gendered nature of mental health care. And there are reasons for sorrow here…there are inexplicable gaps in awareness and frustrating omissions.

    But i also want to remember that when i wrote the rawest account of life in the ward that i’ve put to my blog…that some awesome women showed up, noting similar memories of friends and family, especially women, who were let down by the same system. it’s not over…it’s just beginning.

  9. Pingback: Finally, some feminism on this damn blog! « The Mental Feminist

  10. I’d like to add, that not only is psychiary as social control a feminist issue, it’s also/more generally a civil right versus authoritarianism issue. I am continually surprised and disappointed that people who are fighting the way things are don’t see the dangers to themselves of looser and looser commitment laws that are getting to the point where they can and will be used against anybody who upsets the establishment, as has already happened in China and the Soviet Union. Even our history omits the fate of people with psychiatric disabilities under the Nazis, the famous saying that first they came for the Jews is a lie, and the person who said it knew it was a lie. First they came for German citizens with mental and physical disabiliites, first they sterilized them and then they killed them in the first gas chamber which was built in a psychiatric hospital, tried out there before being built in the camps. And psychiatrists who killed their patients in most cases got away with it, even getting to keep the brains of children they had killed for “research” into the 1990’s.

    As people with psychiatric labels fare, so fares everyone else eventually in my opinion. When our freedom to make our own medical and life decisions is taken away, it sets a precedent to take away the right to make one’s own medical and life decisions from everybody else. Already in Virginia it is possible to force somebody without a psychiatric label into medical treatment they do not want if you can get a psychiatrist and psychologist to say they lack judgement or insight, not a hard feat if you have the money to pay for the evals.

  11. Wanted to take this opportunity to plug Phyllis Chesler’s old book from the 70s, WOMEN AND MADNESS, even though lately she is kissing up to D. Horowitz, ugh.

    Still, that was my introduction to the idea that the whole ideology and accompanying definitions of “mental illness” are sexist and patriarchal, and intrinsically biased against women.

    Gender-variance of any kind is additional ammo in many (most?) mental-health-oriented diagnoses

    Thanks for the information and links!

  12. Forgot to say: I think one reason Millett stopped mentioning THE LOONY BIN TRIP is that people used it against her when she would argue about other feminist stuff. I clearly recall some TV show in the 80s (name long forgotten), in which Millett was talking about domestic violence or something, and the interviewer suddenly brings up the book and asks “Weren’t you committed involuntarily to an institution?” (!!!) out of nowhere. Obviously, to discredit everything she said. It was totally off-topic, as we say here in Bloglandia.

    Maybe she just got very, very sick of that? I know I was sick just watching.

  13. Pingback: Reclusive Leftist » Blog Archive » “Why isn’t the feminist blogosphere all over this?”

  14. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » New York Court Approves Electroshock On Unwilling Woman

  15. Dearie, although I’m laying low right now for both personal reasons (overwhelm) and technical ones (e.g. can’t even log into my own blog, awaiting tech support), I did stop by Alas and responded to the “annoyingly anti-feminist” remark, but I think their spam filter ate my comment. (There were links to pages within my comment which can trigger such filters; at any rate, I didn’t get a “your comment is awaiting moderation” message or an error message). If they rescue it from the filter (and actually approve the comment, which was less diplomatic than Violet’s responding to the same matter) it may still show up. If it doesn’t, I’ll leave it in comments here.

    Anyway girl, I tried.

  16. I got spanked by the guy in the moo-moo? Shallow and gratuituous criticism goes both ways, bud.

    Thanks guys, I’m reading now about the alternative view, blogger women writing in support of ECT, and thinking it through as best I can. More to come on this for sure.

  17. Pingback: » ECT and Feminism

  18. see Women Look at Psychiatry: I’m Not Mad, i’m Angry” Dorothy E. Smith and Sara Joy David eds, 1976 Preess Gang for a critique of mainstream, patriarchal mental health services and espcially psychiatry–of course including ECT, meds, pathologizing of emotioal turmoil created by the psychological and eonomic oppression of women.

  19. Pingback: An open letter to liberals and feminists – Beyond Meds

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