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Customer Review

on April 3, 2004
Caplan spends a lot of time developing an ideology around what American society views as normal and what it doesn't, and how we come up with those categories, as well as the consequences for those who don't happen to fit into the "normal" category. One of her main premises is that because of the categories in the DSM, women can almost never be categorized as normal. She further describes her journey in trying to keep particular categories out of the book that would have marginalized women further, using scientific data that actually refuted the non-scientific process the psychiatrists used to place categories and their criteria in the book. It was sometimes something as "lofty" as, "My wife has that symptom." "Oh, well, we'll take that one out then."
Her book is powerful, because it demonstrates the social construction of concepts like "normal," the power of labeling people "abnormal," the relative power and authority one must have to label someone "abnormal," and how much easier it has been for males to do it to females in the medical (esp. the mental health) establishment because until recently, females have been kept out of medicine.
Because her book is coming from such a strong "powerful vs. the powerless" perspective, it does lack a strong point that could have made this a more balanced view, and that is how individuals, even though they may lack power relative to the "labelers," can be complicit in their labeling. There can be benefits to being labeled, such as that it can legitimize women's complaints to have an official diagnosis, it can relieve individuals of full responsibilities for their actions or duties, it can give people an identity, and give people the illusion that the problems are contained within themselves rather than the environment or social structure in which they live, which probably won't change. All of these reasons help explain why people might accept a label or even label themselves. Caplan only seems to suggest that people are labeled against their wills and that's the end of it.
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