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Is hysteria a feminist response or is feminism an expression of hysteria?

The Letter, Issue 3, Spring 1995, Pages 67 - 75


IS HYSTERIA A FEMINIST RESPONSE OR IS FEMINISM AN EXPRESSION OF HYSTERIA?


Mary Cullen & Nellie Curtin*


Some Introductory Remarks

To begin with, I wish to highlight some of the issues relevant to womens' lives in Ireland today, and I speak from a feminist perspective, or perhaps I should say, a hysterical position! In the last few decades Ireland has changed beyond recognition. We have moved from a largely rural and traditional society to a largely modern and urban one. The shift has been so great within such a short period of time, a single generation, from the 1950s to the 1980s, that Ireland has been considered unique within the history of family studies, a point noted in a recent ESRI research paper.[1] The patterns of the traditional extended family have dissolved and have been replaced by the norm of the nuclear society.

This shift has had an impact on all of our lives and womens' role has undergone a major change. Widespread education, the influence of the media, increased living standards, however unevenly spread, and career opportunities for women have led to changes in the traditional hierarchical structures of marriage. Indeed, the very constitution of families has changed dramatically. More women are working outside the home and are financially independent. In working class areas too, more women are working outside the home, but at low pay in service industries. These are often the breadwinners in families in which the father is a recipient of Social Welfare.


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