Women and Mental Health

By Elizabeth Howell; Marjorie Bayes | Go to book overview

3
Psychological Consequences
of Sexual Inequality

JEAN B. MILLER

IRA MOTHNER

Our current concern with the role of women should lead to major changes in psychiatric theory. Already the reexamination of women's role has enabled some psychiatrists and psychoanalysts to help a number of women—and even some men—to deal in a new way with feelings of sexual and human inadequacy.

"Reexamination" seems too mild a term for the open conflict likely in the future. For many women, the revolution is at hand. Yet open conflict, if understood, offers far more productive possibilities for both women and men than the covert conflict it can replace. Is this conflict between the sexes the result of various neuroses and psychoses, or does it represent an existential dilemma, unrelated to time and place— the inevitability of the two sexes misunderstanding and thwarting each other?

Before one can settle on either of these explanations, one should examine the implications of another proposition, more obvious yet strangely neglected. In our society there exists a thoroughly realistic basis for conflict: Men and women are irrationally defined as unequal. It is striking that, in a field that attempts to define, differentiate, and promulgate rationality, so few psychiatrists have studied or even recognized the irrationalities with which we all live. Understanding the conflict between men and women requires some exploration of the psychological consequences of irrational inequality.

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