"Hysteria — an exclusively female illness, its name derived from the Greek word for "uterus" — was something of a catchall condition. It was irritability, it was sleeplessness, it was anger, it was feeling solemnity. Any behavior beyond the prescribed feminine ideal. Anything that was pretty much unacceptable to the people around you."
*sigh* Any behavior beyond the prescribed feminine ideal. Seriously. I read this and know that it's in reference to prevailing wisdom of the Victorian 19th Century, but I can't help roll my eyes at the reality that many would presume this text was contemporary. Furthermore, my eyes roll completely out of my skull knowing that many would find nothing objectionable about it.
It pisses me off. Actually.
That's why playwright Sarah Ruhl and I would be friends. Like, if we both lived in New York and ran into each other in a coffee shop or some fabulous dinner party at a mutual friend's loft, we'd end up hanging out. A lot. BFFs, Sarah and I.
Her play, In the Next Room, tells the tale of women who used to visit the doctor for hysteria, the doctor would proceed to...ahem, manually stimulate them, and post-orgasm: voila. No more hysteria.
Sure, this is funny at first. Then, it's really sad. As this NPR piece points out, the play explores issues of intimacy and awareness. "Ruhl centers her play on how we separate out bodily functions and labor and love." I've been ruminating a lot lately on how disconnected women can be from their bodies, how unhealthy I think that is, and how culture/society can perpetuate (and even honor) that disconnection.
Clearly, I'm not the only one to ruminate on such issues as of late. I would've loved to see this play.