Appendix 42 - Women

by Michael Greger, MD and United Progressive Alumni

[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]

"A Woman's View of the DSM":

Not only are women punished (by being diagnosed) for acting out of line (not acting like women) and not only are traditional roles driving women crazy, but also male centered assumptions - the sunglasses through which we view each other - are causing clinicians to see normal females as abnormal.[469]


Early in the 20th century, psychiatrists developed a new use for the term "psychopathic." Progressive Era psychiatrists used this diagnosis to label sexually active women and commit them to mental institutions. Typically women committed to the hospital for such "hypersexual behavior" were working class women living on their own who had chosen to forego or delay marriage, or who were widowed or divorced. As one doctor wrote in the Journal of Mind and Behavior, "Psychiatry's response to the new sexual morality of the time was to target it as a mental disease."[470]

I always prefer the scissors - Dr. Isaac Baker-Brown

From a book called The Manufacture of Madness: "To treat masturbation in girls and women, Dr. Isaac Baker Brown, a prominent London surgeon who later became president of the Medical Society of London, introduced, around 1858, the operation of cliteridectomy."[471] From the book Medical Blunders:

Doctors, for reasons best known to themselves, have often reacted with emotional savagery to the thought of female masturbation.... In the mid 19th century... the practice of clitoridectomy... was so well known that it even had a euphemistic term - extirpation.... [It was] gynecologist, surgeon, and self-styled neurologist Isaac Baker-Brown['s]... catch-all remedy for female 'madness'.... Using his little scissors, Baker Brown snipped the clitoris off scores of women... [some of whom who had done little more than indulge in the aberration of 'serious reading.'

After observing one of his patients become a "happy and healthy wife and mother" he mused, "If medical and surgical treatment were brought to bear, all such unhappy measures such as divorce would be obviated."[472]



[469] Kaplan, M. "A Woman's View of the DSM-III." American Psychologist 1983(July):786-791.

[470] Brown, P. "The Name Game." Journal of Mind and Behavior 11(1990):385-406.

[471] Szasz, T. The Manufacture of Madness A Comparative Study of the Inquisition & the Mental Health Movement Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997:191.

[472] Youngson, RM. Medical Blunders: Amazing True Stories of Mad, Bad & Dangerous Doctors New York: New York University Press 1999:290.



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