Friday Ephemera
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Hand-Me-Down Trauma

In the pages of Scary Mommy, where progressive ladies roar, Elaine Roth wishes us to know about her mental health problems:

There’s a running monologue whispering in the back of my mind. Maybe it’s whispering in the back of your mind, too. 

Place your bets

My running monologue isn’t unique to me. Countless women across the country — maybe across the globe — experience a similar monologue. It results from a shared trauma, and it’s got a name: Patriarchy Stress Disorder, or PSD.

I fear woo may be incoming.

PSD is the idea that the mental, physical, and emotional impact of gender inequality is a trauma that impacts woman and builds over time, and over generations. 

It is, we’re assured, a “collective intergenerational trauma,” and “genetically transmitted,” “passed down in our genes” - albeit in ways left entirely mysterious.

PSD can impact anyone, including nonbinary people and men. Still, few people have heard of patriarchy stress disorder,

You see, you haven’t heard of it, this new and modish ailment, for which no convincing definition is offered, beyond unspecified “systems of inequality” and repeating the word patriarchy many, many times. And yet apparently, simultaneously, we’re assured that said ailment – and its purported transmission - is the obvious go-to explanation for why “high-achieving women” – ladies much like Ms Roth - have so often failed “to have it all and thrive,” despite the promises of feminism. Why supposedly empowered ladies fail to “own their own shine.”

We’re told that the term patriarchy stress disorder was coined by “Dr Valerie Rein, Ph.D.,” and that Dr Rein - allegedly a “women’s mental health expert” - “learned that trauma could be genetically transmitted.” A link is provided, introducing us to “Dr Valerie” - though, again, no explanation or evidence of this alleged genetic transmission is included. We’re merely told that “trauma lives in our nervous system.” Which, as you can imagine, is immensely helpful. A second link, written by the expert in question, supposedly explaining Patriarchy Stress Disorder and its transmission, does no such thing. A third link, to the pages of Good Housekeeping, is similarly mysterious and short on particulars.

The symptoms of this phantom, catch-all disorder are numerous, often vague, and seemingly unrelated. The list includes insomnia; feeling a “need to try harder;” feeling insufficiently happy about pretty much anything; feeling “uneasy,” or greedy, or ungrateful. Feeling that one isn’t a sexual athlete. Or just being displeased by one’s own fatness. Almost any kind of uncertainty or dissatisfaction, whether substantive or self-indulgent, can now, it seems, be blamed on “the trauma of our ancestors” and the drowning of witches, and thus on “gender inequality,” however non-existent in the here and now. Whatever the woe, or fit of neuroticism, the cause, we’re assured, is “as pervasive as it is invisible,” and, says Dr Valerie, “It’s not our fault… it has nothing to do with us.”

Exactly how Ms Roth, a writer and Pilates instructor, is oppressed by “patriarchy,” and how she has been traumatised by it, crushed by the aforementioned “systems of inequality,” is not made clear either, and no examples are forthcoming. None whatsoever. Perhaps expectations of evidence - even a single, relevant anecdote - are now considered superfluous and impolite. Readers of Scary Mommy are nonetheless expected to nod in agreement, before checking their breasts for signs of “inherited trauma.” Readers may wish to ponder the appeal of a worldview, an intersectional science-fiction narrative, in which one’s feelings and resentments – and any number of failures and shortcomings - aren’t actually one’s own, but are instead somehow inherited, like sickle cell anaemia or grandma’s knick-knacks.

Via Princess Cutekitten.

Ah, a button. I wonder what it does.