For a long time, hysteria was a medical diagnosis reserved exclusively for women—especially women who manifested some kind of emotional disturbance, or physical symptoms that appeared to have no physical cause. Probably the most famous hysteria diagnoses were made in 19th-century Europe, when middle-to-upper class women were constantly falling ill with some form of “nervous disorder” or other, though “hysteria” as a woman’s ‘disease’ has been around since at least Ancient Greece, whose leading physicians decided that women’s irritability was caused by a “wandering uterus,” which apparently bounced around Greek ladies’ insides, and occasionally up to their brains. Or, to break it down: bitches is crazy! Or at least in need of a good fuck to set ‘em straight, amirite? But seriously, one of the more common “treatments” for the hysteria diagnosis during the 19th century—besides “the rest cure,” (which is to say, “locking that chick in a room till she calms the hell down”)—was (ahem) “massage” of the genitals, either with the hands or a vibrating device, to bring about nervous release. Oh, you read that right.
Anyway, long after mainstream psychology abandoned the hysteria diagnosis, it lives on in popular culture as the most awesome way ever to dismiss the concerns of any woman who dares to Be a Bitch, or even just be someone you don’t happen to like. Women are portrayed as paranoid, hysterical harpies when we refuse to just shut up and look pretty, and especially when we speak out against abuse or sexism. It’s really a pretty genius (if fucked-up) move, when you think about it, since it has the dual benefits of dismissing whatever we do say, and at the same time, putting us on the I’m-not-crazy-defensive. So it’s no surprise that when women say things like “I’m not a feminist, but…” that’s often a roundabout way of saying, “I’m really not a hysterical, humorless bitch, I promise!”
This blog, Hysteria!, is a way of saying the opposite: fuck yes, we’re pissed, and we’re done apologizing for it! Or, to put it another way: for women, for people of color, for queer people, and trans people, and disabled people, and working-class people, the world is often both shitty and dismissive of our attempts to call it on that shitty-ness, or even of attempts to find ways to cope with it. Hysteria! says: F that S. Here, we’re going to call bullshit when we see it, and do literary and artistic work that stubbornly refuses to stay in the lines—and if that looks a little bit crazy, then so be it. So come on in, stay a while, look around. If you’re going to get called a hysteric, you might as well have a good vibrator blog handy.