The Role of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder in the Subjectification of Women
Ussher, Jane M.
Journal of Medical Humanities 2003 Summer; 24(1-2): 131-146
This paper will examine the way in which premenstrual symptomatology has been represented and regulated by psychology and psychiatry. It questions the "truths" about women's premenstrual experiences that circulate in scientific discourse, namely the fictions framed as facts that serve to regulate femininity, reproduction, and what it is to be "woman." Hegemonic truths that define Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and its nosological predecessor Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) are examined to illustrate how regimes of objectified knowledge and practices of "assemblage" come to regulate individual women through a process of subjectification. Five interconnected "truths" are presented as objects of scrutiny: PMDD is a thing that can be objectively defined and measured; PMDD is a pathology to be eradicated; PMDD is caused and can be treated by one factor; PMDD is a bodily phenomenon; PMDD causes women's problems or symptoms. I examined the way in which these hegemonic truths function in framing the reproductive body as a cause of disorder or distress that leads women to interpret premenstrual experiences within a pathological framework deserving medical or psychological treatment. Finally, I offer an alternative framework drawing on Eastern models of selfhood that provides a more empowering model of women's premenstrual experiences.
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