I posted last week in response to some fauxpert on AOL news calling post-partum depression a "crock" and then further claiming in response to criticism that all depression is just "people who don't want to cope with life". As a survivor of depression for more than half my life, and specifically a survivor who resisted antidepressant medication for far longer than was safe for me precisely *because* of attitudes like that, I was furious and jumped on her statements about depression as a whole. But in my anti-ableist fervor and my anger over the generalized stigma against viewing mental illnesses as real illnesses, I missed a seriously huge (and very feministly-relevant) aspect that I'd like to go back and revisit now.
Because while I focused on the "depression as a whole is bullshit" part of her statement, that was actually only in her response to the controversy, when she "clarified" her position. The original dustup was over her statements regarding post-partum depression specifically, and so in the grand scheme of responses to her, I am an odd childfree voice arguing about depression amidst a sea of mothers arguing about post-partum depression. I am kind of feeling like I missed the forest for the trees, or the trees for the forest perhaps, and I just wanted to clarify, because I feel like I focused on my own experience and the ableism against that, to the exclusion of a discussion of the misogyny in Pat Brown's position. .
See, the thing is, when a person talks shit about survivors of depression, that's a feminist issue because of intersectionality, and because women suffer depression at higher rates than men, and because of the way women are portrayed as overemotional, blah blah blah...but it's also talking shit about male survivors of depression, so it's more than just a women's issue. Post-partum depression, on the other hand, is a women's issue in a way general clinical depression is not, because PPD is a thing which happens to childbearing persons. While not all women are childbearing persons, all childbearing persons (with the exception of a scant few rare transmen who chose to exercise their gestational capability post-transition) are women. Thus, talking shit about PPD survivors is talking shit about an experience which happens specifically to women.
And in that context, the stigma against survivors of PPD is just another facet of Women Can't Win. Be thin, because fat is ugly and you don't want to be ugly, after all, your primary value is your beauty...but eww, too skinny, you're all skin and bones, go eat a cheeseburger! If you're a virgin (past a certain age), you're a pathetic prude, but have sex in any context other than your first time on your wedding night with the only husband you will ever have and you're a slut, a whore, dirty, used... If you work, you'd better be totally devoted to your career because you'll have to be twice as good to get half as far as the men in your field, but if you're devoted to your career at the expense of dating or having children, you're a selfish bitch and probably also a lesbian (and remember, lesbians are Bad). If you don't have or don't want children, you're sick and selfish and not a real woman, but if you have children, you are unequivocally NOT ALLOWED at any point to be anything other than happy and grateful for EVERY SINGLE MOMENT of your child-raising life, and if you fail that in ANY WAY AT ALL, including pregnancy-related mental illness like PPD, you are RUINING YOUR CHILDREN and you are a BAD MOTHER.
Stigma against depression is ableist and privileges a neurotypical experience of mood and happiness. But stigma against post-partum depression is both ableist and uniquely misogynist. It is deeply sexist to dismiss the experiences and suffering of thousands of women by telling them that their specific form of a debilitating mental illness is bullshit and doesn't exist. It's a diagnosis of "hysteria" for the modern age, and it is. not. okay.