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Phyllis Chesler

Psychotherapist, college professor, and author
Phyllis Chesler

Phyllis Chesler (born October 1, 1940) is an American writer, feminist psychotherapist, and professor emerita of psychology and women's studies.


  • Most of the views that Spender attributes to me … are still my views. Some are not. For example, .... I am probably more of a feminist-anarchist than ever before; more mistrustful of the organisation of power into large bureaucratic states than I once was.
    • as quoted in Spender, Dale, For the Record: The Making and Meaning of Feminist Knowledge (London: The Women's Press, 1985, ISBN 0-7043-2862-3, p. 214.

Women and Madness (1972, 2005)Edit

  • If women take their bodies seriously—and ideally we should—then its full expression, in terms of pleasure, maternity, and physical strength, seems to fare better when women control the means of production and reproduction. From this point of view, it is simply not in women's interest to support patriarchy or even a fabled "equality" with men. That women do so is more a sign of powerlessness than of any biologically based "superior" wisdom.
    • Women and Madness (N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan, rev'd & updated ed., 1st ed., 2005, ISBN 1-4039-6897-7, pp. 337–338 (emphases in original), and Women and Madness (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972, ISBN 0-385-02671-4, p. 287 (emphases in original).
  • It is clear that women who are feminists must gradually and ultimately dominate public and social institutions—so as to ensure that they are not used against women. I say "dominate" because I don't think that "equality" or "individuality" will be possible for women who have never experienced supremacy in public institutions as men have. ... The point is to have our entire social drama played out as fully by women as by men. And it is revolutionary by definition to have women "out of the biological home," both psychologically and actually. Whatever happens after that is then a matter for . . . everyone.
    • Women and Madness (2005), p. 347 (emphases & latter ellipsis in original), and see Women and Madness (1972), pp. 298–299 (similar text).
  • Miracles of consciousness aside, I see no way for women to defeat or transfer patriarchy without achieving power. Unlike male groups, women have little power with which to either avoid or commit violence. Women traditionally are physically weak and politically powerless in a culture that values physical strength and its extended representation in the form of weaponry and money. Women, like men, must be capable of violence or self-defense before their refusal to use violence constitutes a free and moral choice, rather than "making the best of a bad bargain."

    Survival is the characteristic property of power.

    • Women and Madness (2005), p. 341, and see Women and Madness (1972), p. 292 (similar text).
  • To those who think I am suggesting that we have a war between the sexes, I say: but we've always had one.
    • Women and Madness (2005), p. 345, and Women and Madness (1972), p. 297.
  • Amazon society, as mythology, history, and universal male nightmare, represents a culture in which women reign culturally supreme because of their gender. Amazon societies are also important because women were trained to be warriors—military and, presumably, in other ways as well. ...

    In Amazon societies, women were mothers and their society's only warriors; mothers and their society's only hunters; mothers and their society's only political and religious leaders. No division of labor based on sex seems to have existed in such societies. Although Amazon leaders existed and queens were elected, the societies seem to have been … ones in which any woman could aspire to and achieve full human expression.

    In Amazon society, only men, when they were allowed to remain, were, in widely differing degrees, powerless and oppressed.

    • Women and Madness (2005), pp. 335–336 (emphases in original), and see Women and Madness (1972), pp. 284–285 (similar text).
  • I am not saying that a female-dominated or Amazon society based on the oppression of men is any more "just" than is a male-dominated society based on the oppression of women. I am merely pointing out in what ways it is better for women.

    Perhaps someday a choice between forms of injustice will not be necessary.

    • Women and Madness (2005), p. 338 (emphasis in original), and see Women and Madness (1972), pp. 287–288 (similar text).
  • Should or can there be a single standard of behavior for both sexes? Is there such a thing as a biologically rooted female culture that should remain separate from male culture, partly because it is different than or superior to male culture?

    Women must convert their love for and reliance on strength and skill in others to a love for all manner of strength and skill in themselves.

    • Women and Madness (2005), p. 346, and see Women and Madness (1972), p. 298 (similar text).
  • Women must begin to "save" themselves and their daughters before they "save" their husbands and their sons; before they "save" the whole world.
    • Women and Madness (2005), pp. 348–349, and Women and Madness (1972), p. 301.
  • For women not to fear rape because we can successfully defend ourselves against it is not anachronistic but revolutionary. For women to be considered as potential warriors (in every sense of the word, including its physical representation) is not anachronistic but revolutionary. If realized, it might imply a radical change in modern life. ...

    What would it mean for a woman to be a warrior today? How could modern women control the means of production and reproduction?

    • Women and Madness (2005), p. 340 (emphasis in original), and see Women and Madness (1972), pp. 290–291 (similar text).
  • Women … do not have to forsake the "wisdom of the heart" and become men. They need only transfer the primary force of their supportiveness to themselves and to each other—but never to the point of self-sacrifice.
    • Women and Madness (2005), p. 348, and see Women and Madness (1972), p. 301 (similar text).
  • Perhaps only some young women, perhaps only a minority of all women, will be able to effect such changes through consciousness alone, through the strength of understanding, which, if transformed into wisdom, always means the performance of necessary actions.
    • Women and Madness (2005), p. 349, and see Women and Madness (1972), p. 302 (similar text).

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