In Part Two of a two part article Jocelyn Crawley offers the reader a history and systemic analysis of the harms towards women. Part one has been published the day before.
One might hope that the patriarchal process of calling women who resist the sexual abuse and all other ideological inclinations of men would be a historical reality that lost traction and prevalence through time. However, this phallic phenomenon is an integral aspect of contemporary, mainstream (malestream) culture. In the chilling report “Booted: Lack of Recourse for Wrongfully Discharged US Military Rape Survivors,” readers learn that Juliet Simmons was drugged and raped in August 2007. The assault took place in her US Air Force barracks and she reported the abuse. However, her first sergeant made it plain that he did not believe her. Despite the fact that she continued completing her job-related responsibilities and received exceptional performance evaluations, she was discharged for having a “Personality Disorder not specified” after being sent to an appointment with an Air Force mental health provider.
As the report goes on to indicate, classifying women who resist sexual advances as mentally unstable is not an anomalous element of the military. In fact, the report documents the experiences of several other women who experienced similar modes of silencing and dismissal via the patriarchal mantra-modality “woman you are insane.” Like Simmons, Quinn was subjected to this patriarchal reversal in which the insanity of men is made to appear sane so that the perpetrator of a sex crime is recognized as innocent and rational while the victim is irrevocably depraved and maniacal. After joining the Navy in 2002, Quinn thrived and received awards but found that her vocational vitality was threatened after she rejected her master chief’s advances. Once this happened, she was informed that the master chief was waiting for her to commit a “mistake” so that he would be able to have her removed from “his” Navy.
Following these events, Quinn was raped by a Navy technician and did not report the abuse due to concerns regarding the fact that she had already been classified as a troublemaker. After suffering more abuse from shipmates who set her body on fire with a lighter, she was moved to another unit. While there, a first class petty officer groped her breast and verbally harassed her. Her transfer request was refused and she was then forced to complete a night shift with him. She refused to do so and was ordered to spend six to eight hours daily standing at attention. Shortly thereafter, she was discharged from the unit on grounds of her having a “Personality Disorder.” In addition to reflecting patriarchal society’s proclivity to dismiss and disempower women who resist sexual violence by asserting that they are mentally unstable, these real-life occurrences reveal the role that this phallic practice plays in destabilizing a woman’s job security (which in turn could increase her economic reliance on a man.)
As noted in her article “Price of calling women crazy: Military women who speak out about sexual assault are being branded with “personality disorder” and let go,” one component of a patriarchal society is accusing women who assert that they have been sexually subordinated of being crazy “while no one asks about the mental status of men who would do such things.”).
I construe this reality as a patriarchal reversal.
In her own work, Mary Daly talks about patriarchal reversals as men reconstructing reality in a manner which privileges them as innately valuable and superior to women. Within the realm of patriarchal reversals, male actions and attitudes are unquestionably right and any thought or behavioral pattern of women is immediately and incontrovertibly dubious. One of the most prevalent patriarchal reversals is that Eve came out of Adam’s rib, with this myth being utilized to promote the ideas that 1. men are the origin of life and creation and 2. “God,” like the male Adam, is male. In context of patriarchal reversals pertaining to mental health, the notion that women are less mentally stable than men works to perpetuate the myth that they are somehow more competent, logical, and therefore the ideal sex to “rule the planet.”
In her important article “Women Aren’t Crazy,” Jennifer Wright explains the role that portraying women as crazy plays in privileging men and creating environments through which members of the male sex can subordinate women. In her text, Wright notes that
“The notion that women who are not compliant are insane is one that’s been used to silence women for generations. One of the most remarkable things about the Harvey Weinstein scandal is realizing how many women would have been so easy to dismiss as crazy if they’d ever come forward before now.”
Wright goes on to elucidate this principle by articulating how absurd victims such as Rose McGowan would have sounded to most individuals upon stating that Weinstein had hired former Mossad agents to extract information from her and stifle forthcoming data regarding his behavior. Yet evidence exists that this is the course of action that Weinstein took for the purpose of suppressing information regarding his sexual depravity and abuse of women.
As made glaringly evident by the role that accusing women who challenge the patriarchal praxis of sexual abuse as being insane plays in structuring historical and contemporary society, this androcentric practice is designed to discredit members of the female sex who are not willing to passively accept malignant male activity. In discussing this in his piece “Women and Madness in Tudor and Stuart England,” MacDonald writes that
“The authorities define insanity so that it invalidates the protests of its victims and use mental institutions as repositories for malcontents and rebels. The feminist model is essentially a variant of the neo-Marxist one: instead of paupers, the casualties of bourgeois capitalism, the victims of psychiatry are women, the targets of repressive patriarchy” (261).
MacDonald’s assessments are accurate and they reveal the role that accusing women of being insane plays in perpetuating the patriarchy. If dissidents (here defined as any individual who adamantly and unequivocally rejects and challenges patriarchal praxes such as sexual violence) run the risk of losing social power and cultural capital because they are characterized as insane for speaking to power, they are much less likely to express dissent and create the palpable dissonance necessary to inform the general public that something is disturbingly and dehumanizingly wrong.
When a woman’s voice is invalidated due to gaslighting and cultural consensus that her accusations amount to insanity, the male perpetrator of the crime is empowered to continue victimizing other members of the female sex who may also feel intimidated into silence on grounds that they will not be believed. As usual, the patriarchy-not women-is the problem.
The solution is to listen to women and review the empirical data that painstakingly elucidates the pernicious, patriarchal processes that men utilize to perpetuate the oppression of members of the female sex.
Jocelyn Crawley is a radical feminist who resides in Atlanta, Georgia. Her intense antagonism towards all forms of social injustice-including white supremacy-grows with each passing day. Her primary goal for 2020 is to connect with other radicals for the purpose of building community and organizing against oppression.
Carlisle, Marcia R. “What Made Lizzie Borden Kill?” https://www.americanheritage.com/what-made-lizzie-borden-kill#2. Accessed 20 Feb. 2021.
Hendrik Hartog, Mrs. Packard on Dependency, 1 Yale J.L. & Human. (1989). Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlh/vol1/iss1/6.
Human Rights Watch. Booted: Lack of Recourse for Wrongfully Discharged US Military Rape Survivors.https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/05/19/booted/lack-recourse-wrongfully-discharged-us-military-rape-survivors#. Accessed 20 Feb. 2021
Macdonald, Michael. “Women and Madness in Tudor and Stuart England.” Social Research, vol. 53, no. 2, 1986, pp. 261–281. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40970416. Accessed 20 Feb. 2021.
Madison, Amber. “Stop Telling Women They’re Crazy.” https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2014/09/75146/stop-women-crazy-emotions-gender. Accessed 20 Feb. 2021.
Marcotte, Amanda. ““Price of calling women crazy: Military women who speak out about sexual assault are being branded with “personality disorder” and let go.” https://www.salon.com/2016/05/20/price_of_calling_women_crazy_military_women_who_speak_out_about_sexual_assault_are_being_branded_with_personality_disorder_and_let_go/. Accessed 20 Feb. 2021.
Showalter, Elaine. The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980 (New York: Pantheon, 1985). quoted in Macdonald, Michael. “Women and Madness in Tudor and Stuart England.” Social Research, vol. 53, no. 2, 1986, pp. 261–281. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40970416. Accessed 20 Feb. 2021.
Wright, Jennifer. “Women Aren’t Crazy.” https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a14504503/women-arent-crazy/. Accessed 20 Feb. 2021.