Cultural Appropriations · Rants For Thought

That Old-Fashioned Hysteria

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather lately, both emotionally and physically, so I went back to one of my comfort books – Ami MacKay’s “The Birth House”. Now, I’m not really a natural birth advocate at all, but I love this book because of its mysticism. I also love this book because it talks about turn-of-the-century treatment of women, including the much-diagnosed “condition”, hysteria.

It’s easy to sit back and laugh. The main character, Dora, gets diagnosed with hysteria. She buys a special machine that “inflates and enriches her blood” (note: it gives her orgasms which apparently are supposed to make her less hysterical and healthy). Then events follow where the doctor uses this diagnosis of hysteria against her. Really funny. So out of this world. That never happens today!

Except, it’s not.

So, “The Birth House” describes 1918 rural Canada, but I don’t think that society has ever stopped believing in hysteria and its effects on women. Things haven’t changed. And we might not call it “hysteria” now, but I don’t think that one woman in this world hasn’t been written off because she’s “PMSing” or “moody”.

Jezebel posted an article today about how PMS doesn’t make you incompetent, it just makes you moody. But moody equals incompetence, especially in the workplace. People often wonder why some women in management positions appear hard, cold, and unfeeling. Because if they cry at work, they’re considered “hysterical”. Must mean they can’t do their jobs. Must mean that the old hysteria is messing with their work ethic. And it continues.

I’ve been told to “calm down” in debates I have online with people. I’m perfectly calm. I’m explaining my points calmly. But because of my big ol’ uterus, I’m hysterical. That woman isn’t making sense. She’s ranting and raving. Her opinions don’t matter – they’re just born of hysteria.

Listen. I get PMS. I think every woman has experienced it at least once. But it has no bearing at all on my ability to reason, think, and do my job. I might be in a bad mood, but guess what, men? You guys get into bad moods all the time! If your sports team loses, if you have a bad commute to work, if you have a fight with your partner. There’s even a theory that states that men get “seasonal PMS”, which means they get moody around the changes of the sun and seasons. So how come you’re not hysterical?

Oh. Right. Because you don’t have a uterus.

Well, better sign me up for Dora’s uterus inflator or whatever she ordered to combat that darn hysteria. Here I am ranting all over my blog again!

Look, when I’m hysterical, you’ll know it.  It doesn’t happen often, and it rarely happens when I’m debating something. Until then, how about looking me in the eye and realizing that hey! Women are people, too! And we have brains, and can think for ourselves! Wow! Your opinion isn’t the only one that matters, bucko.

And next time I have PMS? I think I’ll go and be hysterical over the next feminist blog I see. At least those women will understand, amirite?

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2 thoughts on “That Old-Fashioned Hysteria

  1. I read that article, and I really love your response to it! I have to agree with you – it’s annoying when I’m being mostly calm and other people are telling me that I’m getting overly agitated. Have PMS all over everywhere! I think it would be great to get all hysterical at somebody so they know what it would look like if you actually did start having a hissy 🙂

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