"If this is what I can expect of my species, I need another reason to stay here". In the documentary, Dialogues with Madwomen, this was the one line that I will not soon forget. The woman exclaimed that this is what went through her mind after she was raped for the first time. The film as a whole gave us an in-depth look into the lives of various women who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. It features illnesses such as depression, personality disorder, and schizophrenia. After critically analyzing the contents of the documentary and taking into account the truly difficult life histories of the featured women, I ask myself the question - how does the marginalization of women contribute to the onset of mental disorders amongst women? I feel that a lot of difficulties women face, even today, puts them at a greater risk for becoming mentally ill. The film, Dialogues with Madwomen, explores mental illnesses among women in a way that goes beyond a general list of symptoms.
All of these stories have a common thread in the sense that all of these women experienced abuse in one way or another. I have reason to believe this triggered many of their mental illnesses, thus, making them even more marginalized. One of the women featured in the film speaks about how rough she was treated when being transporting to mental hospitals. She implies that the people transporting her figured that because she was "crazy", she didn't have any feelings or sense of mistreatment. The common thread amongst all the stories was that they all wanted to gain control - whether this was by cutting or creating multiple personalities. Knowing how little power and freedom women are given, this most likely contributed to their mental illnesses. I believe anyone taking a Psychology of Women course would greatly benefit from watching this film. Students taking this course will see real life applications on many of the concepts discussed in lecture. They will also gain insight on why it's so important to educate oneself about the psychology of women. If sexual violence lead to some of the truly painful lives some of the women in the film have to endure, then it's more important than ever to become an advocate for change. This film does an exceptional job at displaying the themes studied in a psychology of women course in a way that's both raw and thought-provoking.
One of the main things I noticed while watching the documentary was the ways in which the women presented themselves. One time I performed a monologue in which I played a woman who had been circumcised at the age of 12 and as a result could not bear children. The director wanted my character to come off as sincere so she instructed me to speak in a way that was more "this is what happened" rather than "woe, it's me", as if I had long since come to terms with my situation. The women presented in Dialogues with Madwomen started off speaking in the "this is what happened" tone and I found it to be a refreshing change from watching a television drama or movie portrayal. However, as the interviews went on, we see a gradual shift in many of the women. Their emotions and fears and true beliefs on themes such as suicide come out and the audience suddenly feels their pain. I know from experience that is the true structure of an interview. Participants usually start out reserved and simple but after talking for a while they reach some sort of peak in which we see the raw emotion that cannot be duplicated with any other medium. We spent a lot of time in class reading about women who have been through turmoil, but there's something about watching an interview and feeling that emotion that makes the messages so much clearer, and so much more relate-able. Any woman who's suffered from mental illness could watch this movie and suddenly feel understood. That's the effect of direct interviewing.
In the realm of the psychology of women and the method of direct interviewing, this film exceeded in giving the audience an in-depth look at what it means to be a woman in America diagnosed with a mental illness. Watching this film really affected me in the sense that I now feel it's so much more prevalent to be a woman and be depressed. It also made me think deeper about physical abuse and how it's never just physical, it's mental as well. Bruises heal, but sometimes the mind never fully recovers. By going beyond the general list of symptoms associated with the illnesses presented, this documentary has a very powerful delivery that can speak to women everywhere. The marginalization of women must stop for it acts as a direct highway to mental illness.
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