Tag: psychiatry

Sabrina Chapadjiev on creativity & self-destruction, pt. 3 (of 3)

by on Oct.01, 2010

The following is the final part of a three-part excerpt of my interview with musician/writer/performer Sabrina Chapadjiev for Mildred Pierce. Here are the first and second parts.

These questions are about Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction (Seven Stories Press, 2008), an anthology edited by Chapadjiev that collects stories, essays, and art by mostly feminist and queer artists and writers who have lived through periods of self-destructive acts.

Sabrina Chap / photo by Justin Walker

MILDRED PIERCE: I appreciate the approach you (and the majority of the authors in the book) take to self-destruction, challenging the ‘bad bad’ psychological and social discourse on self-destructive behaviors that can be quite necessary — at the same time avoiding romanticizing such behaviors. Why do you think so much of the discourse around these issues is so simplistic and moralistic?

SABRINA CHAPADJIEV: I could talk for hours on this. But I will say that it is changing, and that we’ve come a long way in understanding/talking about mental health in the past twenty years. I am not an expert by any means, but I give a lecture on the history of sanity, specifically focusing on the gender difference in sanity/mental health through the years, and these moralistic and numbingly pedestrian outlooks on self-destruction stem from a place of power, which to me was the main way mental health was seen in the past. ‘Insane’ people were weak, ‘sane’ people were powerful. But who got to decide? Well, men, first and foremost. And then Religion took a stab at it. And then Freud came and since then we all want to fuck our fathers and have penis envy, and then there’s now.

For years, the pen of psychiatry was held by primarily by men. Before that, exclusively by men. Only women could be deemed ‘hysterical.’ It was primarily a ‘female disease’, this thing now called ‘mental instability.’ Though self-destruction is something that both men and women experience, there is definitely a gendered difference on how forms of self-destruction have played out. Cutting and anorexia — two primarily female related forms of self-destruction — are damned because a lot of the people studying it have been male, or been working in a relatively extreme male work-force. I think this moralistic misunderstanding is a form of patronization and an attempt of ownership over a woman’s true experience of the world.

Basically, it’s condescension, but a condescension that has been qualified over years of gendered or religious theology over mental health.

Again: I’m talking from an understanding of how females have been seen in the whole self-destructive manipulation. Dudes have their own problems. There is a lot less problematizing of male self-destruction — in fact, it is glorified. I do believe that female self-destruction is shamed and male self-destruction is either glorified or is simply not demonized in the same way.

(continue reading…)

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