I Found My Feminism In A Psychiatric Unit

By Katie Golway

My relapse began in December. My stomach was in perpetual knots, and I could not keep food down for weeks. There was nowhere that I felt safe. I could not sleep. Death was a constant thought. I had to be admitted to a psychiatric unit when I was deemed a danger to myself.

A few weeks into my hospitalization, my clinician gave me an assignment. His solution to my silence in group therapy was to find my confidence in a history of strong women. Most of the men that I interacted with in my lifetime demanded my silence. My clinician would not tolerate it. While I had expressed my excitement about this topic, he was surprised by the amount of notes I had.

I rattled off my findings to him and another clinician in the room. Modern feminism promotes equality of the genders. This branch of feminist theory includes trans* identities as well as cisgender identities.  It is often confused with radical feminism, which preaches the power of women over men and often excludes genders outside of the binary. Due to these behaviors, people often falsely associate feminist theory with the overthrow of men as a gender. This persuades people to advocate against feminists entirely.

Feminist theory considers how society views systematic racism, the hierarchy, sexuality, nationality, and disability. Some of the focuses are gender differences, inequality, and oppression. These issues present themselves in the division of labor in the household, such as expecting a woman to prepare meals and maintain a clean house daily. There are also dated expectations of a woman’s behavior in social settings. If a woman is outspoken, she is seen as a heretic. An outspoken man is seen as powerful.

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There were several other patients I referenced who were more than happy to speak out against women in groups. These were older men who spoke ill of their wives and mothers. My clinician mentioned that there was a significant divide between the generations, as though I should simply dismiss them. That notion has never settled well with me. Soon after this meeting I was challenged by one of these patients when I spoke of my assault. I argued clearly, loudly, and defended how I protect myself.

Through the tireless work of advocates before me, I am able to establish a common ground with those I surround myself with. I am able to feel safe in the workplace. I am able to speak my mind. A man gave me the encouragement to seek my history, but other women gave me my voice.

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