PR as Valium – español, traducido por Manuel Talens, de Tlaxcala
Saltpêtrière is a legendary Parisian hospital. Built in the 17th century, it was known as the cradle of neurosciences for having hosted great teaching doctors such as Charcot, Babinski and Freud. In the image above, a famous painting by Pierre-André Brouillet, the French doctor Jean-Martin Charcot is portrayed explaining how to diagnose hysteria in a female patient whose name has gone down in the annals of medical history: Blanche Wittman.
The scene is unmistakably sexist: a roomful of men deciding how to treat a woman for a condition whose very etymology reveals its sexism. Simply by virtue of the fact that she is a woman, she is at the mercy of their decisions. A victim. The two nuns waiting to catch Blanche as she collapses are mere voiceless spectators. The men in this image know everything, the women, nothing.
A century and a quarter later, the story behind this painting suggests nothing so much as the case of Judy Gross, the wife of the USAID contractor imprisoned in Cuba. Paternalism remains very much alive, and both The New York Times and Washington Post confirm this through their participation in the inane media campaign to pressure Pope Benedict XVI to counsel Cuba to exchange Rene González for Alan Gross. Counseling Cuba, as though it were an unruly child, not a sovereign country, is offensive enough. But it’s nothing new. The counsel that Judy Gross is receiving on the other hand, is another matter. Instead of being treated as an active subject, capable of taking her future into her own hands, Judy’s campaign to bring her husband home is being managed and reported by people who have their own, very different priorities. Continue reading