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Busfield, J. (1986). Women and the Psychiatric Paradox, P. Susan Penfold and Gillian A. Walker, Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1984, 340 pages, pb £5.95. Free Associations, 1(5):140-143.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(5):140-143

Women and the Psychiatric Paradox, P. Susan Penfold and Gillian A. Walker, Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1984, 340 pages, pb £5.95

Review by:
Joan Busfield

The idea that psychiatry, despite its customary location in the list of helping professions, might not serve as a source of support and succour for women, but rather reinforce and maintain their oppression — the paradox to which the title alludes — is not new. A number of books and papers published over the last decade and a half have developed and amplifed this view. Phyllis Chesler's Women and Madness (1973) and Dorothy Smith and Sara David's collection of papers Women Look at Psychiatry (1975) were two important forerunners, presenting a diverse range of material about psychiatrists' interactions with their female patients, about the character of judgements of female and male mental health, about the construction of mental health statistics and so forth.

Women and the Psychiatric Paradox, by two Canadians, a psychiatrist and a social worker who acknowledge the central influence of Dorothy Smith and Sara David's work, has been written with the benefit of a decade of further research and study and offers a broader and more integrated overview of work in this area. Earlier arguments about women and psychiatry are here located in the context of explicit consideration of the general character of psychiatry and of the position of women in society.

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