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Feminist Dialogues on Women, Madness, Language and Power

Jane M. Ussher.  Gender, Culture and Health Research Unit, University of Western Sydney, Australia

The Construction and Regulation of Women’s Madness: Managing the Monstrous Feminine

This paper will examine the construction, regulation, and experience of the women’s madness, focussing on the positioning of transgression from ideals of hegemonic femininity as embodied pathology, which acts to maintain fears of the monstrous feminine within. Drawing on interdisciplinary theory and interviews conducted with women in the UK and in Australia, I will examine the ways in which women negotiate the contradictory discourses associated with the pathologised fecund body, and the impact this has on their embodied subjectivity; their taking up of the subject position ‘woman’.

Self-surveillance and disciplinary regulation of the reproductive body starts at menarche, with menstrual blood positioned as sign of contamination, requiring careful concealment and adherence to hygiene rules. Pregnancy is positioned as a ‘normal illness’, the body a mechanical object subjected to medical surveillance and intervention, fecundity under technological control. In the case of the reproductive syndromes - Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), Postnatal Depression and Climacteric Syndrome - the problem is located within: the monster in the machine of femininity positioned as endocrine or neurotransmitter dysfunction, or ‘female sex hormones’, a pathology within the woman, outside of her control.

Yet women are not passive in this process of regulation. They do have the capacity for agency; for negotiation and resistance of the discursive positioning of fecundity as sign of abjection.  This paper will examine this process, and explore the implications of this analysis for theory and practice within psychiatry and psychology.

Leslie Roman.  Educational Studies, University of British Columbia

In/visible: Indivisible?: Barriers, Accomodations and Epistemic Rightful Places

One of the formidable and parodoxical challenges remaining for rights’-based groups struggling for equality concerns how to recognize and work for the specific set of needs, resources and challenges faced by women with invisible disabilities. On many fronts, particularly in some racially and class-specific places in the West, women with disabilities have won some significant gains, including deinstitutionalization, the abolition of compulsory sterilization laws, and waged workplace physical

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