Madness and Sanity
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Over time, several issues have been explored as they relate to women's health. One of the more taboo topics involves the idea of madness and sanity. It has been said there is a fine line between madness and sanity, particularly in history, as it relates to women. In the past, if a woman chose not to conform to societal norms she would be deemed mad. Many believe men used this to their advantage as a means to enforce women's submissiveness, the expectation for women. Many times, women who exhibited symptoms of madness, or unacceptable behavior, were committed to mental institutions; unsurprisingly so in a patriarchal society. This would explain why there was more diagnosis of madness amongst women than men.
Madness Among Women
In many ways, these instances of madness amongst women can be viewed as history putting women in their place.
- History forced women to display more "sane" behavior by forcing them to conform to societal standards, in order to avoid retribution.
- Sanity, by history's standards, meant suppressing otherwise normal happenings inclusive of, but not limited to, depression and sexual desires.
- Historically, in order to be deemed sane a woman had to relinquish control over her life. While not as strict, societal expectations are still placed on women today.
Fortunately, women are now more empowered to stand up for themselves; as a result, they are taken more seriously.
Research on the Idea of Madness
The idea of madness is one which many writers have explored. By becoming mad, people are granted leave of social, moral, and political expectations. In essence, they become free because as they take leave of their senses, they are shown the societal exit door and enter a world of their own creation. In the process of discovering the self, we often find that what we believe and what is true about ourselves are two very different things. For most, particularly literary characters, awareness of personal reality is reserved for the outside observer. In denying the presence of madness, those who are 'afflicted' are acting much like our general society which denies categorical wrong-doings in order to preserve the general peace. That madness is a loss of control, it implies that, at one point in time, those affected were not mad. Therefore, more often than not, those characters who are mad have been driven to that state. The metaphor is clear, society is sick, it is a force which has the power to turn men against themselves, to shun that which is at the core of our human existence, the company of others.