Women Listening to Women: feminism, self injury and the Bristol Crisis Service for Women

Event Details
Date: , 2024
Time: to
Location: Studio 1&2 Level 1
Venue: M Shed, BS1 4RN
Price: Free
With: Rosie Wild, Sarah Chaney
Series: Bristol Radical History Festival
Page Details
Section: Events
Subjects: Radical Bristol, Women
Tags: , , , , ,
Posted: Modified:

In April 1986, a group of women drawn together by their experiences of trauma, self injury and punitive psychiatric treatment started the Bristol Crisis Service for Women. An explicitly feminist user-led and volunteer-run listening service for women suffering mental health crises, it offered callers space to talk about their pain and how they endured it. Through listening without judgment, BCSW showed women a solidarity they had rarely experienced. Amplifying their voices, it began to forcefully challenge the psychiatric understanding of why women self harm.

This talk contextualises the formation of BCSW within existing psychiatric models of self injury. We begin by exploring the origins of self injury as a gendered concept, steeped in stereotypes about female psychology, in the twentieth century. We then look at the founding of BCSW, explaining how their structure and aims resisted and challenged orthodox medical views of self injury and gender in mental health. Finally, we look at how BCSW’s work created a radical new model of recovery, based on a recognition of power imbalances, that saw reduction of self injury as just one possible goal.

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