After World War II, feminism provided another important influence in the overall intellectual environment. Throughout this time, feminist thinkers were attempting to define an alternative, feminist style of thinking, relating, and defining the world. In doing so they offered critiques of the dominant male view of every important area of life, including the practice of psychiatry. This critique actually had its inception much earlier in the work of women such as E. P.W. Packard, who was committed to an asylum by her husband because of her religious views. She was completely released only when members of her community assisted her in obtaining a court hearing which resulted in her release. She devoted the remainder of her life to successful reform regarding the rights of women in several different states .
Phyllis Chesler's Women and Madness was published in 1972. In it she exposed the social and political underpinnings of psychiatric diagnostic criteria and treatment as it was directed at women, demonstrating that only men could be mentally healthy because it is male behavioral norms that establish the definitions of normality. She discussed how women's reality based experiences of rape, sexual abuse, and physical abuse were denied, minimized, or blamed on the victim . Ehrenreich and English extended this critique to include all of medicine . Building on the work of workers such as Karen Horney, later writers such as Jean Baker Miller, Nancy Chodorow, Judith Lewis Herman, and others opened up a powerful corrective to the predominantly male voices of traditional psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy[4-6].
1. Packard, E.P.W., Modern Persecution or Married Woman's Liabilities. 1882, Hartford: Case, Lockwood & Brainard.
2. Chesler, P., Women and Madness. 1989 (1972), San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
3. Ehrenreich, B. and D. English, For Her Own Good : 150 Years of the Experts' Advice to Women. 1978, New York: Doubleday.
4. Chodorow, N., The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender. 1978, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
5. Herman, J.L., Father-Daughter Incest. 1981, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
6. Herman, J., Trauma and Recovery. 1992, New York: Basic Books.