Does anyone think that was a decent shot of journalism? Then damn your eyes. Oh I can imagine an earlier me who would come away from that complete piece of shit grateful for the exposure and yay for recognition! But that column pissed off a lot of people in a number of ways I can relate to, beginning with its placement. I ask you, does this social stigma make my butt look too big? Because Gabrielle Glaser’s ‘Mad Pride’ Fights a Stigma is in the Fashion & Style Section, it must be tres chic, don’tchaknow, the fight against prejudice and discrimination, just one more set of kooks aboard the pop cult bandwagon with their self-important, trendy and disposable cause. Sigh.
First she pokes a stick at some prominent crazies in the blogosphere – Liz Spikol, Scatter at The Icarus Project, Mindfreedom’s David Oaks- then puts it all in perspective by quoting reigning tower of babel Fuller Torrey, as if he was just some random psychiatrist chiming in with all we need to know about Mad Pride (nudge nudge, wink wink). Bloody Christ on a catshit cupcake, if this quack has any place in a story about MAD PRIDE he should be correctly rendered as its ideological opponent, his views presented as subordinate to those of the subjects, rather than, you know, the authority on their movement.
Sara, commenting at furious seasons puts it well:
I think the article has all sorts of insidious undercurrents myself. Like I don’t think the author is really glorifying Liz or even Saks — in fact I think she’s almost denigrating them, especially Liz. I mean she sure is harping on the way Liz likes to revel in some of the more off putting aspects of her treatment — incontinence from ECT and drooling from meds — please — is this being respectful to Liz — are these the things that we remember about Liz when we read her blog? Ach — no. I wonder if Liz is angry about this. I think I would be. And David Oaks — well to me she’s kind of making fun of how he is controlling his purported madness as if it’s naive. She quotes Torrey because he’s of the school that thinks “mad pride” is bloody dangerous and maybe Gabrielle Glaser does too.
The psychologist John Grohol at Psych Central:
She also apparently believes that mental disorders can only be treated by drugs (which is mentioned a few times in the article; psychotherapy is mentioned zero times) …Really now? Having regular exercise, a good diet, and engaging in self-help support groups is “outside the mainstream thinking of psychiatrists” when it comes to maintaining good mental health and wellness? How does she know that? Did she survey them?
Of course not — this is the writer’s opinion creeping into the writing, and getting it 100% wrong. Most mental health professionals recognize the importance of maintaining a good diet, exercising, and self-help support groups in helping a person in their recovery efforts. None of these ideas are outside of the mainstream thinking
But I can think of no greater crime in a cultural study than ignoring its historical context. Mad Pride was founded by the tragic-comic powerhouse campaigner Pete Shaughnessy, who was linked to the English punk rock/DIY scene, the roots of which can be seen in the confessional poetry made famous by Sexton, Bukowski and Lowell. Mad Pride was about passion, policy and performance. There is history here. The writer should know it.
Let us pause to make an argument for history, for knowing where we are, how we got here, and how to move forward. I swear we could reduce the infighting by half if we’d do this kind of homework. It’s that lack of context driving the comments I’ve seen by some stakeholders who say they don’t “get” Mad Pride, that it’s bizarre to glorify what can be truly destructive and debilitating severe and persistent blahblahblah, which leads to the counter retort that hey man, mad pride makes me feel good about myself, yes, I know, but Mad Pride isn’t as much about how we’re feeling as what we’re doing, out there.
I realize the glib and stylish do invoke the term as a way to be groovy and I have nothing to offer them but a pox on their houses. How does “Glad To Be Mad” even begin to make sense? If I admonish a toothless schizophrenic living in a dumpster to take pride in her mad self what would that make me if not clueless and cruel? And yet, that is what some people are taking away from this discussion; that Mad Pride is a misguided attempt in building self-esteem. That it encourages navel-gazing in people who think too much. I believe Mad Pride was originally more ambitious than simple therapeutics, broader than the internal and solitary landscape. I think the focus was taken pointedly off the internal and made external, from the self to the group, uniting the twin and rival disciplines of psychology and sociology, which is revolutionary in itself, by pioneers who recognized that doing mental illness takes both disciplines.
So, Mad Pride as a frame. Who needs a frame? Wiki says “A frame defines the packaging of an element of rhetoric in such a way as to encourage certain interpretations and to discourage others. When done by political or social organizations, it is likely to advance their causes or views.” The point of framing is preparation for action, the groundwork in getting an agenda on the table. Vaughan shows how in his Mindhacks review:
Mad Pride is often rather clumsily related to ‘antipsychiatry’ but they are are often at the forefront of campaigns when essential services are threatened.
In London, the campaign against the shutting of the Maudsley Hospital psychiatric emergency clinic was spearheaded by several ‘mad pride’ organisations – who had a mischievous and witty banner at one demo saying “We must be mad! We want the emergency clinic kept open!”.
For the sake of pragmatism I endorse the actions taken in the name of Mad Pride, but that’s where I draw my own line. I juggle too many social identities (feminist, existentialist, liberal, punk) to over-identify with any of them, but I can think of nothing I want to define me less than the state of mental illness. And frankly, that’s where the message falls apart, when it’s patterned on the discourse of the civil rights movement. It’s one thing to make common cause with similar social justice groups (and the case can be made that we win the Oppression Olympics™ handsdown), but the identity politics in mental illness veers toward nonsense. In civil rights terms, Identity is not just about what I am, but what you’re not and can never be. You don’t understand what it is to be black/female/queer/outside the dominant white male patriarchy. I am the authority on what it means to be so situated, and it’s your boot on my neck that makes me your moral superior.
Except madness is not fixed and immutable, not even in the same person, much less categorically, as in some people have it and some others don’t. All humans have what it takes, anyone who denies their spark of madness this second remains eligible, if you have a mind you can lose your mind, there’s nothing to it really. We’re not exceptional. The language of diversity doesn’t fit. Crazies are not cast out of society because we are different from the rest, but because we are so similar.
Setting ourselves apart from a belief that we are the chosen few who are “mentally interesting” feeds a false dichotomy and endorses the fiction that we’re Other when crazy is more likely roiling under the surface of everyone you meet.
Setting ourselves apart as the world’s ruling victim class entails a preening sanctimony impossible to stomach.
But setting ourselves apart from an intent to get shit done makes practical sense, and for me that’s where it stops.
Inclusion by most out-groups is a demand for society to include them. I think our paradigm calls for the mad to include society. Mad Pride has this sensibility. Good god this post is over 1600 words and I am still muddling through what was said much better by the aching Anne Sexton:
For John, Who Begs Me Not to Enquire Further
Not that it was beautiful,
but that, in the end, there was
a certain sense of order there;
something worth learning
in that narrow diary of my mind,
in the commonplaces of the asylum
where the cracked mirror
or my own selfish death
And if I tried
to give you something else,
something outside of myself,
you would not know
that the worst of anyone
can be, finally,
an accident of hope.
I tapped my own head;
it was a glass, an inverted bowl.
It is a small thing
to rage in your own bowl.
At first it was private.
Then it was more than myself;
it was you, or your house
or your kitchen.
And if you turn away
because there is no lesson here
I will hold my awkward bowl,
with all its cracked stars shining
like a complicated lie,
and fasten a new skin around it
as if I were dressing an orange
or a strange sun.
Not that it was beautiful,
but that I found some order there.
There ought to be something special
in this kind of hope.
This is something I would never find
in a lovelier place, my dear,
although your fear is anyone's fear,
like an invisible veil between us all...
and sometimes in private,
my kitchen, your kitchen,
my face, your face.