A Tale of Two Women
The differences between Christine Ford and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman.
Hysteria was the first mental health illness attributed to women. For centuries it was considered both a common and chronic medical disorder. Female Hysteria was intrinsically intertwined with women’s sexuality and reproductive organs. The origin of the term hysteria stems from the Greek equivalent for uterus ‘hystera’. Symptoms included everything from nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, irritability, loss of appetite, and a “tendency to cause trouble”. Hysteria was the diagnosis for everything that men found mysterious or unmanageable in women and was used as evidence of the instability of the female mind. Many women who were diagnosed with hysteria were forced into insane asylums or to undergo surgical hysterectomies. One of the major triumphs of the feminist movement was to eradicate the diagnosis and stigma of female hysteria.
After centuries of fighting against stereotypes of women as irrational emotional hysterics, Christine Blasey Ford and her cult of feminist victims reestablished the worst stereotypes of women as fragile, defenseless, erratic and unstable. When women were marching for equal rights, equal pay and equal position in society, they did not envision being represented by a woman who is the very personification of female hysteria. Christine Blasey Ford’s fragmented recovered memory of a sexual assault, her 36-year-old ongoing trauma, uncorroborated allegations, childlike affectation, feigned helplessness and alleged irrational fears are a profile in female hysteria.
The American Psychiatric Association dropped the term female hysteria in 1952. Subsequently, the classification of disorders formerly known as female hysteria have been controversially categorized in other conditions such as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, conversion disorder, and anxiety attacks. Another condition that was formerly associated with hysteria is referred to as Factitious disorder also known as Munchausen Syndrome and related to Malingering. Malingerers commonly fake psychological disorders such as anxiety and fabricate trauma for a variety of reasons – most often financial compensation tied to fraud. Munchausen Syndrome is a factitious disorder where people feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves. Symptoms include phobias, anxiety disorders, a history of recurrent hospitalization and dramatic, extremely improbable tales of their past experiences. The person often exaggerates or creates symptoms of illnesses to gain attention, sympathy, and/or comfort from medical personnel. In some cases, the person becomes highly knowledgeable about the practice of medicine and can recite and produce symptoms to garner more attention.
Christine Ford received a lot of attention and sympathy when she testified before Congress about her alleged assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. During her testimony, Ford frequently responded not as a victim but as a physician. When asked by Senator Feinstein about the impact the events had on her, Ford responded:
Well, I think that the sequelae of sexual assault varies by person, so for me personally, anxiety, phobia and PTSD-like symptoms are the types of things that I’ve been coping with. So, more specifically, claustrophobia, panic and that type of thing.
When Senator Feinstein asked her how she was sure it was Judge Kavanaugh that assaulted her, Ford responded:
It’s — just basic memory functions. And also just the level of norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain that, sort of, as you know, encodes — that neurotransmitter encodes memories into the hippocampus. And so, the trauma-related experience, then, is kind of locked there, whereas other details kind of drift.
The press praised her unusual responses by characterizing her as a research psychologist who appeared as her own expert witness. The reason expert witnesses do not testify on their own behalf is that a court and jury rely on expert witnesses to be disinterested parties, who are not biased and have no motive to fabricate an issue. It never occurred to the media to question Ford’s self-diagnosis as the result of a trained political operative or the manifestation of a mental disorder. In fact, people who suffer from factitious disorders often research and study symptoms and diseases, so they can better fake them. Ford has made a career out of studying mental illness, writing prolifically about the long-term impacts of trauma, including trauma related to sexual abuse. She would know exactly how to lie about the symptoms and trauma associated with sexual assault.
There is a significant difference between studying trauma and authentically experiencing it. The genuineness of Christine Ford’s choice of language, affectation and disclosures were questionable. Throughout her entire testimony there was no other person, event, detail, or evidence that corroborated her testimony. Her demeanor and body language appeared rehearsed and coached. The most obvious pretense was her speech pattern. During most of her testimony she used a deliberate and calculated childish voice to project vulnerability and helplessness. When responding to specific questions about her trauma, she spoke in the third person in the guise of an esteemed physician. Survivors of sexual assault do not describe their trauma in the third person nor do they have to read from a written script to remember the details.
One week after Ford’s testimony, Nadia Murad, a 25-year-old Iraqi Yazidi woman was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for her campaign to end wartime sexual violence and to free the Yazidi people who were captured by ISIS terrorists. Murad became the voice and face of women who survived sexual violence by the Islamic State after she escaped sexual slavery. At 19 years old she was captured from her village of Kocho. Six of her brothers and her mother were killed in the massacre. Murad was sold as a sex slave and repeatedly gang raped, tortured and beaten until she escaped. Nadia Murad is a true survivor. By definition survivors do not think of themselves as victims. The differences between Ford and Murad is evident in their own words.
The first time Nadia Murad attempted to escape she was caught and was punished by being gang raped by six of her slave owners guards. She was then subjected to even more abuse as she was passed around to other militants. She described the incident in her memoir, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State:
‘Nadia, I told you that if you tried to escape something really bad would happen to you,’ … A moment later Morteja, Yahya, Hossam, and the three other guards walked in, staring at me. …As soon as I saw them, I understood what my punishment would be. Morteja was the first to come to the bed. I tried to stop him, but he was too strong. He pushed me down, and there was nothing I could do. After Morteja, another guard raped me. I screamed for my mother and for Khairy, my brother…… My body was covered in filth left by the men ….The bed still smelled like the men who had raped me.
Senator Leahy asked Christine Ford: “What is the strongest memory you have, the strongest memory of the incident, something that you cannot forget?” She answered, “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the laugh — the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.” Ford’s diagnostic answer of the strongest memory of her alleged sexual assault is being laughed at, while Murad remembers being covered in filth and what her rapists smelled like.
On June 21, 2016, Nadia Murad testified before members of Congress during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. The comparison between Ford and Murad is striking. Murad is not reading from a script, nor talking in a childish voice. She does not use medical terms or repeatedly refer to herself as a traumatized victim of sexual assault. She remembers every face, name and smell of her very real multiple serial sexual assaults. She holds her head up high and states that she was raped, sold and abused but wants Congress to know that there are hundreds of other victims and that girls as young as nine also suffered that.
Nadia Murad is a true profile in courage and bravery. Christine Ford is a profile in female hysteria. Murad refused to accept the strict social codes that require women to remain silent and bravely spoke publicly about what she had suffered. She did not remain anonymous to avoid personal pain. She inspired the world to collect and preserve evidence that would allow ISIS militants to be brought to trial.
Christine ford inspired mass hysteria resulting in roving mobs of hysterical women stalking senators in the halls of the capitol screeching about rape like some primal scream group therapy session. Ford inspired women to disrupt the confirmation vote by chanting “Shame! Shame!” like the religious zealots in a Game of Thrones episode.
Nadia Murad is a remarkable brave woman, a true survivor, a heroine fighting for justice for both men and women and the future of both women’s and human rights. Christine Ford is a professional victim, a throwback to female hysteria, the poster child for the infantilization of women, a disgrace to every woman who fought for women’s rights and an insult to every victim of sexual violence.