chapter  6
Special women, special places: Women and high security mental hospitals
Pages 18

This chapter takes as its site of interrogation women and high security mental hospitals, or ‘special’ hospitals as they are euphemistically called in Britain. In this chapter we look at how ‘woman’ is constructed through discourses around madness, criminality and dangerousness and further interpolated through an emerging story of child sexual abuse. We explore how notions of essentialized femininity are both produced and are productive in defining what is normal and abnormal female behaviour and how this process is naturalized so that disposal of these particular women is achieved with little cultural comment or resistance. We address how these women are further defined by their experiences of sexual abuse and the reproduction of normalizing discourses in the practices defining these institutions. Finally, we open out the discussion of resistance to offer some analysis of the limitations of the identities in which these women are written.