The Durham Gender and Sexuality Research Network present:

Jane Ussher

A seminar by Professor Jane Ussher and Associate Professor Janette Perz (University of Western Sydney)

‘Rejecting Raging Hormones: The Socio-cultural Construction and Experience of Women’s Distress’

Wednesday 18 May, 3-6pm
Birley Room, Hatfield College
Refreshments will be available
All are welcome

Abstract: For centuries, expert explanations for women’s distress have centred on the corporeal body, with the wandering womb, and more recently raging hormones or neurotransmitter imbalances, being positioned as to blame. This has resulted in women’s distress being medicalised – positioned as madness within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM), with psycho-tropic medication being offered as the primary “cure”. It has also led to a narrow bio-medical conceptualisation of women’s reproductive experiences, and the positioning of the reproductive body as the epitome of the ‘monstrous feminine’, through disorders such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), peri-natal depression (PND), and climacteric syndrome.

Janette Perz

This paper will present a historical and contemporary overview of the limitations of this narrow bio-medical approach, which has resulted in a neglect of socio-cultural factors associated with women’s distress. It will be argued that a multi-factorial model, which acknowledges socio-cultural context, as well as intrapsychic, relational, and corporeal factors associated with women’s distress, is needed. Drawing on clinical case examples and empirical data from a series of qualitative and quantitative research studies, the implications of this multifactorial model will be considered. In conclusion, examples of effective interventions which adopt this model will be provided, demonstrating the need for women’s centred mental health care that acknowledges the construction and lived experience of distress.


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