Mad Matters: A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies
Edited by: Brenda A. LeFrançois, Robert Menzies, and Geoffrey Reaume
Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc.
Review by: Kristen, Pride in a Madness
Mad Matters sits on my shelf alongside Anatomy of an Epidemic (Robert Whitaker, 2010), Talking Back to Psychiatry (Linda J. Morrison, 2009), Psychiatric Power and History of Madness (Foucault, 2008 and 2009) and Behind the Rhetoric (Jennifer Poole, 2011); books that have influenced my life as a Mad person and professional. This reader is now an important part of my activism. As psychiatry has its “bible”, the DSM, I would say that I now have mine. Mad Matters is beginning to fill a gap within education (in and outside of institutions) and mainstream discourse, showing the complexity of identities, exposing a side of psychiatry and society many prefer to ignore and by providing language to describe the experience: sanism. My only hope is that it has opened the doors for more to come and for Mad studies, scholars and people to be taken seriously.
Mad Matters is filled with diverse and key topics such as housing, media, mental health literacy, law, Indigenous ways of knowing and the oppressions of psychiatry (just to name a few). Names of contributors jump out at me like Irit Shimrat, David Reville, Don Weitz, Bonnie Burstow and Lanny Beckman, long time activists within the psychiatric survivor, antipsychiatry, ex-patient/inmate and Mad movements. Good people who eat, sleep and breathe the cause are inside these pages. The amount of lived experience in Mad Matters is nothing short of beautiful.
On a personal note, I have often said to friends, family and colleagues that I find it unacceptable and ridiculous that the western world has made great strides in bring critical of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism etc. but sanism is still alive and well and at times outright denied to exist. I would like our system and our society to get to the point where, for example, my decision to not take psychiatric drugs is seen as a valid choice and not as wrong, a sign that I am not “truly in pain”, or as non-compliance and a symptom of “disorder”. I have received criticism for my Mad and antipsychiatry stance. They are identities I am still developing in a society that prefers I just think of myself as “sick”. I have engaged in a lot of self reflection while reading Mad Matters and this reader was a reminder that I am, as the ever famous anti-stigma campaign slogan states, “not alone”.
Mad Matters is a critical piece that I feel has been missing from the mental health dialogue and Mad studies is part of solution to changing these sanist perspectives, practices and values.
Purchase Mad Matters
Context: What I Can’t Say In Class
So, that idiot who’s in a course on AIDS that says condoms wreck sex is potentially a part of a group of AIDS denialists who have joined the course to interfere with the learning, discussion and sharing that is happen.
A few hours ago I got a mass email from the instructor sharing with us that she noticed that an individual was becoming verbally abusive to other students by calling them names and such so she stepped in and banned this person from posting (not the guy who I spoke with). This individual then hunted down the professors email and sent her an email accusing her of silencing him in regards to the questions he wanted answered by our guest speaker. He said that she’ll have to shut the course down before he stops. Our instructor encourages us to not communicate with these bullies and trolls who seem to be a group of HIV/AIDS denialists who want to hijack the course.
Why I think the condom guy is a part of this group is because of another rude and misinformed comment I say him make to another student in regards to her 7 year old niece who has HIV (contracted at birth). Something along the lines of doctors lying about it just to get her into the pediatric medical system.
But, you may be wonder what HIV/AIDS denialism is? It was a group of people who believe that scientists are lying about where AIDS comes from. Some believe that HIV does not exist or that it is not a big deal and does not cause AIDS. They also do not believe that HIV or AIDS treatments work. I’m sure you can see why these attitudes are horribly problematic! Some of these denialists are HIV+ for have AIDS themselves.
This always happens, you end up in a course with fools who just want to spew their disgusting, counter productive and oppressive, false views.
I reported condom man for his comment about the student’s niece.
I’ve had this conversation before but never did it turn out like this.
There’s this guy. We have a past. We occasionally talk on Facebook and he appears to be very hung up on appearances (I haven’t seen him in years so he has asked me if I’ve gotten fat). He has now enriched my life by showing me how I am not a girl.
Sometime last night this guy asked me if I wore TNA pants. TNA is super overpriced and not my style at all. I told him no, that I wear jeans, leggings and dresses. He responded with “lol you’re not a really a girl lol”. I stared at that statement for a bit and replied, “maybe not by your sexist and stereotypical standards I guess.” He then said, “Not like that.” It was then time for me to sign off.
So real women were yoga pants. Alright. I’m glad I know this. I hope all your lives have been positively effected as mine have by this amazing insight.
The kicker to all of this is he likes these yoga pants because of how they make a woman’s butt look! It’s all completely sexualized! Therefore a real woman wears clothing that makes her look in a way that men find sexually appealing. That is more than enough to make me NEVER buy yoga pants!
Alright, I’m going to settle down with some cake, my partner and watch The Daily Show!
Recently, actress Cameron Diaz (Charlie’s Angels, Shrek, There’s Something About Mary) stated:
“I think every woman does want to be objectified.”
Research has shown that objectification is extremely harmful to women. Type of “women objectification” into Google Scholar and you will find no shortage of studies that address the issue from a variety of angles.
After reading Diaz’s explanation I feel that she just used the wrong world to describe something I can stand behind.
No one wants to be an object but everyone wants to be appreciated. This obviously does not only include women but men as well. Objectification comes with disrespect whereas appreciation does include respect.
Currently, girls and women’s advocates are placing emphasis on intelligence, athletics, personality etc. instead of physical appearance. Rightly so! A problem with objectification is its sole dependence on one part of a woman and as we have seen that one part can be their physical appearance. But I think there is nothing wrong with wanting to be physically attractive.
Objectification is the wrong word. Objectification is dehumanizing.
Appreciation, for example, is what everyone should not only strive to achieve from others but also strive to give to others. I want to be attractive. I want to walk down the street and have people think I look good. This may be wearing jeans and a t-shirt or a tight fitting dress. I want my physical appearance to be appreciated.
In my 4th year of university I took a sociology course called Images of Inequality in the Media. during the class where we were looking at how women (in particular racialized women) are portrayed in film my professor asked the women in the class, “Raise your hand if you wear make up for yourself.” Many of my female classmates raised their hand. I did not. I knew what he was getting at and I agreed with him. The professor proceeded to tell my classmates that they were lying to themselves. One female classmate tried to fight him on this, saying that makeup makes her feel good and that she would wear make up even if she wasn’t going out that day (therefore she does it for herself). The professor told her that makeup advertisements tell women that buying and wearing their product will make them feel good, make them feel “more like women” and empower us.
I personally acknowledge I used to wear makeup to be attractive to men. I am wearing less make up the past few months because I feel more confident in my appearance. Men don’t usually wear make up on the same scale as women so why should I?
Back to my point though, there is really nothing wrong with make up, with revealing clothing and wanting to be physically attractive. What is wrong is what we believe all of that means. It is that idea the needs to change. We are a society of band aids solutions. It is easier to blame external things such as tight clothing than it is to blame the internal oppressive discourse that is everywhere in our society (I in no way think that both of these things exist independently of each other, they very much help each other along).
Objectification is oppressive and damages women and men. Appreciate someone’s intelligence, athleticism, personality and appearance. We are whole people and we have many great things to offer.
I need to tread carefully with this but it’s just another example of how people are degrading mental illness to prove points. It makes me very sad because it points out that some believe we are undeserving.
I hate the contradictions that people have when it comes to same sex marriage and same sex adoption etc. This isn’t even a problem in my country! There are many opposite sex couples who should not be raising children! If people want to have kids let them have kids! There is no sound proof that one group can raise children better than another group, it’s so stupid!
But I ask that we PLEASE stop using mental illness in ways such as a above!
At one point in my life I was determined not to have children because I was terrified of what they would turn out to be or what I would do to them. There are MANY people who believe I should not raise children because of my mental health history and if I ever lost it (like I do now) I run the severe risking of losing my children because I would be deemed unfit due to mental illness.
Being an “alcoholic”, “pothead” or “sociopath” does not make you a bad person (not all the time and there are some meanie LGBT people out there since we’re all HUMAN). All this poster says to me is that some still believe they should be able to parent and we should not. Don’t use oppression to gain freedom.
Please, just don’t.
If you want children and you can raise them then you should have children. I don’t give a shit about your sexual orientation, gender expression, health condition, colour of your skin or whatever! If you can do it and you can love them, then that’s all that matters.
Lupe Fiasco’s song “Bitch Bad” looks at how mainstream hip hop and society use the term “bitch”.
“Bitch” is yet another word that can be demeaning and empowering. Women especially seem to be able to to be an empowered bitch and then a mean bitch.
Here’s the video!
For me, “bitch” has been both good and bad. I can own being a “bitch” but I fully recognize that “bitch” is another word that places blame on women and girls. It is a female word, originally (and still is) the term for a female dog. We even use “bitch” to demean a man by say that he is “acting like a woman”.
What do you all this of this video and it’s message?
I was taking the subway to work yesterday and I happened to look up at the advertisements that ran along the top of the car I was in. An ad for the Sick Kinds Foundation “Do The Happy” Campaign caught my eye.
If the O’s as faces is confusing it reads: “If you sing out loud this month nobody will think you’re crazy.”
Sick Kids is not just a foundation it’s a HOSPITAL! It is The Hospital for Sick Children in downtown Toronto!
IT’S A HOSPITAL!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHH
So, what can we say about this advertisement that is supposed to encourage people to spread awareness and donate to children’s health?
- People who sing out loud are crazy.
- People who sing out loud should be considered crazy.
- You should be worried about being perceived as crazy.
- If you are already crazy you should feel shame about your behaviours.
- If you are already crazy we’ll “excuse” you for this month.
I cannot as the slogan says “Do the Happy”. I am very unhappy! I’m very disappointed! Sick Kids does in fact have a psychiatry department so they are not oblivious to the fact that they will interact with individuals, especially children, who are experiencing mental health issues!
This isn’t just a case of “It’s crazy we’re not doing more for children’s health.” This is Sick Kids drawing a blatant line between sanity and insanity! A HOSPITAL!!!!!??????
As a little girl I was taught that hospitals and doctors were safe places where you go to get better when you’re sick or hurt. It pains me now to see as an adult that this is not the case! Individual healthcare professionals and what’s more devastating is whole organizations can contribute to the oppression of those with mental health issues and create a further gap between “normal” and “abnormal”!
I’m going to send The Sick Kids Foundation an email explaining to them how I feel. I’m so outraged!
“There is more to me and more to my community than suicide, sadness and hopelessness.”
(I did not pursue anything beyond this letter because I deemed it not worth my time. My next experience with the Ryersonian was much better!)
My name is Kristen Bellows and I’m a Mad social worker, Research Coordinator at Young Ones Breaking Barriers, a researcher with a mental health group called the Madvocates, have spoken at mental health conferences and have written about mental health stigma.
I was an interviewee in the feature by Katherine in volume 66, number 7 of the Ryersonian. While I understand the intention of the feature article on my experience of depression while going through university as spreading awareness on the issue when I read the article I became extremely upset over how I was portrayed. This also stems to how individuals with mental health issues are portrayed in the media. It was mentioned in the article that stigma surrounding mental health issues can be isolating and doesn’t help in seeking treatment. I feel this article did not create the proper understanding and hope that I had discussed or wanted to discuss in the interview.
Instances such as the opening observation of “no glaringly visible scars” on my “bare wrists”, the placement of my positive message of strength in the middle and a negative, and I feel hopeless, closing paragraph describing my relationships, alcohol consumption and cutting, and finally the overall sombre tone help create the stigma you are supposed to be breaking.
The interview questions were all about symptoms, suicide and treatment. There was little to no thought on where I am now. I mention in my interview that I no longer have depression but this was not said in the article. Talking about recovery is extremely important in reducing stigma and creating hope for those experiencing the hopelessness of a mental health issue. I also mentioned that I joined groups that portray mental health positively and that was not included. There is more too me and more to my community than suicide, sadness and hopelessness. The article focused on the negative when it is the positive that is so important. When I have told my story at other events this has been the focus.
I would like a more positive rewrite where I am actually shown as the happy and successful woman that I am in the online article or have the article completely removed online. I am very upset by this article and feel that future articles on the topic should consider a more positive approach.
Thank you for your time and for beginning to pursue mental health awareness at Ryerson.