The relationship between women's mental health and their sex/gender/social rôles.
This was a discussion paper I wrote years ago when I was studying Women's Issues. Some of it is rather dated, therefore, but I hope that readers will recognise the continuing relevance of most of it, e.g. here.
"... women healers were increasingly associated with witchcraft and the practice of the black arts. As medicine became a science, the terms of entry into training excluded women, protecting the profession for the sons of families who could afford education."The barring of women from access to medical schools and universities effectively stopped them from entering the medical profession until the end of the 19th century. More women are now being admitted to training as doctors, but because of the hierarchical power structure of the medical profession and because of the prevailing male ideology and authoritarianism this is not as helpful to women as it might be.
"Medical science has been one of the most powerful sources of sexist ideology in our culture. Justification for sexual discrimination - in education, in jobs, in public life - must ultimately rest on the one thing that differentiates women from men: their bodies. Theories of male superiority ultimately rest on biology....Biology discovers hormones: doctors make public judgements on whether "hormonal imbalances" make women infit for public office. More generally, biology traces the origins of disease; doctors pass judgement on who is sick and who is well.Medicine's prime contribution to sexist ideology has been to describe women and sick, and as potentially sickening to men."
Compared with men, women are significantly more likely to seek help and be treated for mental disorder, and this applies whether the diagnosis is neurosis, psychosis, transient situational disorder, or attempted suicide.The incident rate of these disorders in women has been increasing in the last few decades.These findings seem mainly related to the types of social rôle women are expected to fulfil.
"We have concentrated on demonstrating that there is a link between clinical depression and a woman's daily experiences."
Psychiatry has been attacked by women's liberationists on a number of grounds - for adopting and perpetuating untenable theories of basic female passivity and dependence: for over-diagnosing women's problems as being personal rather than institutional in nature: for treating women as though they should, in all situations, be the ones to 'adjust'. Even if these critiques have not yet led to substantial changes in psychiatric practice, they have publicly exposed the previously latent gender politics of psychiatry.
(1) Traditionally there has been an almost mythological belief that mental health is contingent on the successful adoption of the appropriate sex-typed personality characteristics.e.g. (2) that passivity, dependence, nurturance are healthy female attributes and that assertiveness is a sign of neuroticism would seem to prevail among mental health professionals.
showed that high androgynous people were the highest in self-esteem, followed by those high in masculine qualities, and then those high in feminine qualities, while those who were low in androgyny were lowest in self-esteem.It can be speculated that women who possess a high level of feminine traits are likely to deal effectively with interpersonal relationships and have a passive orientation to many aspects of the environment - both these factors contributing to a reduction of stressful life events. In contrast, women who possess a high level of masculine traits are likely to have an active orientation to the environment, and also be less likely to deal effectively with interpersonal relationships - both these factors contributing to an increase of stressful life events. The possession of high levels of both masculinity and femininity in the high androgynous (HA) group lead to effectiveness in both expressive and instrumental domains and is reflected in the low life stress reported in this group.