Two hundred years ago, people spoke of hysteria to refer to a supposed disease that was only associated with women . Her symptoms were as varied as dizziness, insomnia, fluid retention, abdominal heaviness, muscle spasms, headaches, lack of appetite, and especially what was seen as a tendency to “cause trouble.” That is to say: women who, for whatever reason, end up generating some kind of annoyance to the men around them .
A woman who answered, who did not obey orders, who was slightly dominant, or who tried to impose her opinion, was called hysterical. Basically, women who behaved following the gender role associated with men. The moment a man felt that a woman was bothering him , or was against him, he would tell him that he was suffering from hysteria.
To understand to what extent the concept of hysteria was different from today, we have to understand that, at that time, it was considered a real disease . If a woman was considered hysterical, it was really thought that she was ill and that she should be treated in a special way. They spoke of symptoms, cures, problems associated with hysteria … When, in reality, this disease did not even exist.
Hysteria: a macho invention
The treatment given to women who were considered hysterical was what was known as a ” pelvic massage .” The doctor manually stimulated the patient’s genitalia until she was able to reach orgasm; but they did not know what orgasm really was, but called it “hysterical paroxysm”. If it was not treated with a pelvic massage, it was done with a vaginal wash.
Hysteria has been talked about since ancient times; philosophers as relevant as Plato spoke of it. According to them, the uterus roamed freely through the woman’s body and, when it reached the breast, caused diseases in the woman. One of these diseases was hysteria. According to a 2nd century doctor named Galen, hysteria was caused by the absence of sex in women who were considered sexually active. The fact that a woman was sexually active was considered a problem. It was considered that, while men should have a sexual desire act, women should be much more passive.
In Victorian times, a doctor claimed that out of every four women, one suffered from hysteria . When asked what the symptoms of this supposed disease were, he showed a report with a total of seventy-five pages describing these symptoms. They were so varied, and all so different, that practically any little ailment was enough to cause a doctor to dismiss a woman as hysterical. Something interesting should be noted at this point: medicine was private, and very expensive. When a doctor diagnosed a woman with hysteria, years and years of continued treatment was guaranteed . Although it did not take long to invent alternative therapies, since manual massage seemed too laborious.
Hysteria has always had all these macho connotations, and lacks scientific rigor . There is no disease called hysteria, far from it; there is nothing wrong with a woman having character. It is exactly the same as when a man shows his character. The difference has always been that when a man raised his voice, the rest were silent and listened; when a woman did it, she was considered hysterical and recommended therapy that was as invasive as it was unpleasant for them. We are talking about a masturbation performed by a doctor whom, in many cases, they did not know anything about, and with whom they did not have any kind of relationship, neither sentimental nor sexual (consensual). The womanI ended up having an orgasm because the body reacts that way to the stimulus , because that is something biological and not something that can be chosen, but probably very few enjoyed this therapy.
Women continue to be branded hysterical
The problem with everything related to hysteria is that women continue to be insulted with the term “hysterical.” When a woman raises her voice , or is dominant, or becomes nervous, the word hysterical is used as if it were a thrown weapon. It is a macho term, since it relies on gender roles; According to them, women are much passionate, less rational, more inclined to act without thinking and to let themselves be carried away by their impulses.
However, these are still gender roles . Neither women are more passionate, nor are men colder; This has nothing to do with sex, but with the individual personality that each one has. Gender roles are nothing more than a social creation and, as such, society gives them and takes away power, depending on what suits them.
No, having character is not being hysterical
It was throughout the 20th century that it was concluded that hysteria was not a disease . But the term continues to be used, always with pejorative connotations, as an insult, and, on many occasions, totally unaware of what is hidden behind that word. Because to call a woman hysterical is to accuse her of expressing, in one way or another, her thoughts, ideas and feelings. Not only that, but it is a way of making women shut up, that they feel that what they are saying has no value or is an exaggeration, and that they end up being submissive as long as they are not considered hysterical.
The term hysterical is so negative that many are the women who prefer to control themselves, to silence their genius and their character, so as not to be considered that way . The problem is that when a man acts in this way, he is considered a “strong” man, capable, a “real man”. We return, then, to gender roles and all the negative connotations that these have. Unfortunately, they are entrenched in our society in such a way that ripping them out could even be impossible. Still, it would be good if we avoided using this term; a small contribution to try to end machismo.