Hysterical Woman Phenomena

Hysterical Woman Phenomena

Written by Stephanie Siam

man goes to the doctor complaining of stomach pains; gets Rx. Woman goes to the doctor with same problem; gets straight jacket
man goes to the doctor complaining of stomach pains; gets Rx. Woman goes to the doctor with same problem; gets straight jacket. graphic by Nicole Elmasry.

Let’s get ready to rummmmble!!!!!!

The late 19th century (probably before and most certainly until some point after) saw a Western cultural predominance of labeling people according to disorders. If you’ve ever taken a look at literature or societal psychology from this time period, you’re sure to be acquainted with ideas such as leeching or frontal lobotomies.

Of course, if you spent more than 3 seconds looking at the recipients of such pleasant treatments, you’ll notice they often have one thing in common: the “fairer” sex.

Ah, yes. Throughout history, women have continuously been dealt the bad reputation of being unpredictable and emotional. Therefore, we tend to be considered weaker and prone to act irrationally based on our feelings at any given time.

Unfortunately, though the West has (mostly) progressed past this deluded mindset, other nations are still far behind understanding how a woman’s body works for – or against – her.

Not only that, but when it comes to women’s rights and inclusion, many societies base their ideologies on misappropriated ayat (verses) from the Qur’an and/or ahadith in order to subjugate, dismiss and maintain the patriarchal status quo on the (irrational and idiotic) basis that:

Women are easily confused and should not be given full responsibility or choice due to their precarious emotional states.

Go with me now to the year 2012. . . . .

We are still in Saudi Arabia, but it is nearing the end of my contract. We will be moving soon, and as the end grew ever nearer, I realize I am happy to go. Our time has been pleasant, but it is finished.

My husband’s niece has gotten engaged, so we make a weekend-trip to Kuwait for her engagement party. Now, I’m no extrovert, and I hate parties – but, it is for family, so I have to go to show support.

On the way to the border, we stop and eat lunch at a Hungry Bunny (fast food burgers) with bathrooms so clean I would eat off the floors. We hit the road, and I grab a cup of ice to go (because I have pica, and I crave ice).

Once in Kuwait, we get settled in the hotel (apartment) with my sister-in-law, and then we head to my other sister-in-law’s (mother-of-the-bride) for dinner. I don’t feel too well, so I don’t eat much. I think I am just tired from traveling. It was a long week at work, and there are lots of people in the house. I nibble.

Change scenes. We’re at the mall. Everybody’s happy and laughing. I can barely walk. Once again, I attribute it to being tired, plus I have major back issues, so I thought, “Eh, figures.” I sit and watch them walk around, having a grand time. I’m labeled as unsociable.

It’s the night of the party. I get all dolled up, and I even do my hair (it was just for women at the beginning). Get to the party. Start to get a migraine. I’m thinking, “Great….perfect timing.” By the middle of the party, I have to leave and go sit in the car. I’m dizzy, my head is throbbing and I’m pouring sweat.

The next day, we go to the movies. I’m still feeling queasy, but I warrior through. Afterward, all the family wants to go out to do something (I can’t even remember, I was so sick). I said I couldn’t, and I asked my hubby to take me back to the hotel. I barely got back to the room before I was choking and throwing up. He said, “I feel sorry for you, but I’m happy because now I can tell them there’s really something wrong!” (It sounds insensitive, but I understood what he meant.)

We finally get back to Saudi, and I start feeling better. I thought it was just a stomach bug. Then, Laila gets sick. And mine returns.

So, we head to the doctor. While Hubby takes Laila downstairs to the pediatrician, I wait to be seen by the doctor upstairs.

Now, you must understand this: I have a laundry list of medical issues that puts me at the doctor quite often. I have several chronic conditions that require treatment and stabilization — and they have been. At one point in the past, however, I had some chest pain. I knew there was nothing seriously wrong, but when you present with chest pain, they do the heart tests and make you see the heart doctor for a follow-up.

While I’m waiting to see the doctor, the heart doctor is sitting nearby talking to a nurse. . .about me. They’re speaking in Arabic, but he keeps motioning toward me. She keeps looking. Then the nurse of the doctor I’m waiting to see comes by and joins in the conversation. They continue talking about me. The gist: I’m there all the time. . .or, I’m a hypochondriac.

When it’s finally my turn, I go in to see the doctor (whom I’ve seen before). I run down my list of symptoms: sweating, fever, nausea, diarrhea, pain, etc.

Again, please note: The nurse did not take my temperature, and even though my blood pressure was high, it wasn’t seen as important.

The doctor asks about my husband. Yes, that’s right. My husband should be there to verify my problem.

“He’s downstairs with my daughter,” I say.

“Oh, is your daughter sick?” he asks.

“Yes. She’s got like the same thing, but not as bad.”

It’s like a light bulb goes off in his gray-haired head. “Are you worried about your daughter?”

I’m confused. “No, I’m not worried about her. I mean, of course I’m concerned for her health, but I know she’ll be okay. . .”

“I think you’re a little anxious. You’re probably upset because your daughter is sick.”

“No, that’s not what’s wrong. . .” To prove his point, I start tearing up.

“I’m going to give you a shot of _________” (I don’t remember the name, but it was an anti-anxiety medicine….Xanax, maybe?)

“I don’t need a shot. . .”

He sends me out of the office to wait for the nurse.

In the meantime, my husband comes up to check on me. He finds me crying.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“He won’t listen. I told him what’s wrong, and he thinks I’m just worried about Laila.”

“What?” He goes inside and speaks with the doctor. “Honey, come inside. . .”

I go back inside the office, and the doctor breaks down and checks my temp (imagine the concept!). It’s very high. Suddenly, he realizes I am sick, and he hands out a list of various medicines to collect from the pharmacy downstairs.

Royally pissed, we go to get them and leave for home.

That night, I can’t sleep, and I end up in the bathroom for hours. Anything that goes in comes out five minutes later. I can’t eat, and all liquid makes me nauseous.

We go to the emergency room, where the resident runs a bunch of blood tests.

“I have an idea of what’s wrong,” he says, standing beside my bed. “But I’m waiting for the tests to confirm it. I’ve ordered a Widal test.”

“What’s that?” I ask, completely out of energy.

“It tests for typhoid fever.” He leaves the room.

“Oh, my God!” I’m terrified. I don’t know exactly what typhoid fever is, but I’ve heard of it. And I know it doesn’t sound pretty.

The doctor comes back and confirms the test is positive. I have to be admitted. And I can’t have any human contact except for those whom I’ve already been around.

What is typhoid fever? It’s untreated salmonella poisoning which, if left untreated, can result in death. It takes months to recover from completely, and it took me nearly ten days in hospital to reach a level of being able to be around people again.

I had a “Do NOT Enter Without PROTECTIVE GEAR” sign on my hospital door!!!!

That’s right. I came *this close* to death, and I was labeled “emotionally unbalanced”. . . a hysterical woman.

I had my husband go down to the doctor’s office who had written me off with a diagnosis of hysterics.

His response? “Oh, really?” No apology. No realization of what could have happened. Just an, “Oops.”

Alhumdulillah rab-il al-ameen! Thank you, God, for your unending protection! It was a long road, and I recovered.

And I’d like to say this was a one-off. I’d like to blame it on Saudi Arabia.

Unfortunately, I can’t.

The moral of this story?

When women are quickly labeled as emotional and, thus, not even able to appropriately gauge whether their OWN BODIES are acting erratically, it can be more than just a simple “oops” that results. To allow the diagnosis of hysteria to persist as a cultural norm only risks further maltreatment for women in those locations. To be frank, it puts them at a clear risk for death.

This is why careful study and interpretation of religious doctrine is necessary and why biased and flippant prose that condescendingly discounts a gender is dangerous. When such verses are misappropriated to serve a specific purpose, they propagate the stereotype that women carry too much emotional baggage to think clearly.

Of course, by saying that women are the “weaker” sex and inclined to hysterics, what’s really being said is that men are the opposite. That they’re not prone to emotions because they’re “stronger”. That their judgment is solid and unwavering. That they think with their heads, and not with anything else (like their HEARTS). That they’re not easily swayed by gossip and don’t make rash decisions.

Yet, in this story (as well as many, many others), we can see this isn’t always the case. At times, we are all led by emotions instead of logic and clarity. This doesn’t make us “weaker” or “stronger” than the other. It makes us human. And, as humans, we must respect each other to create a stronger, united ummah (brotherhood) and present a positive image of Islam to the world.

But unfortunately for me, it didn’t end in Saudi Arabia.

So, join me next time, when we travel to Oman, and I continue the story of The Hysterical Woman Phenomena.

Oh, and PS. . .wondering what caused the salmonella? I suppose those bathroom floors weren’t as clean as they looked. Never eat ice from a border-town fast food restaurant.

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28 thoughts on “Hysterical Woman Phenomena

    1. Stephanie this was awesome and some of the information I had never heard both about the Arab men and you episode in Saudis Arabia with the typhoid. Keep writing. I love to read your posts.


  1. I sympathize with your horrendous experience. It bugs me when people whether doctors, friends or even parents downplay our problems or misfortune. And my anguish is even more so when women thinks you’re just overreacting at your distress of having unwanted leers from jahil men. When you complain about it, what would be their first response? Oh What did you wear? Or what were you doing outside? It is always the woman to blame!

    Take back Islam and treat your womenfolk with love, respect and honor.

    To the author, I am glad to know that you and your daughter are ok and managed to get the proper treatment for the typhoid fever. Alhamdulillah!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mrs. B — Thank you! It was a long road to recovery….almost a year, in fact. However, now, I am past it, alhumduillah!

    Unfortunately, even though the *West* claims to have moved past such tendencies of thought, women are still blamed for crimes against them. The first thing the police will ask if a woman is assaulted is, “What were you wearing?”

    In fact, one of the main reasons rape victims don’t testify is because they are not only forced to relive the attack on the stand, in front of a courtroom of other people, but they’re often the ones put on trial: their clothes, their backgrounds, their demeanor, their location, their sexual history……nothing goes untouched.

    Alhumdulillah, this was not the case in my situation. But the complete renouncement of responsibility toward women or the silencing of concern by women is just as dangerous as criminalizing a woman for being the victim of assault.

    Thank you for reading! Check back for Part II another time…..the story doesn’t end there!


  3. Rarrr- wordpress decided to not post my comment…but anywho what I wanted to say is the hospital (while probably the most important place to be taken seriously) is not the only place I noticed that benefited me to have a male present. Most government buildings (including police stations) and even the fruit market was the same way. Any Western female that has ever experienced a traditional mechanic shop in the USA knows that feeling as well. People try to benefit off of the assumed lack of knowledge of another. I would write more about this, but I have to run.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. gracielawrence…..Totally. While I hate being dismissed, I will admit I’ve taken advantage of the Men’s Club mindset…..in banks, government offices and, under my supervision, in the hospital. Yes, I forgot the old “stupid woman” mechanic trick. In this particular case, the doctor was not benefiting…..he was falling victim to gossip and judging me without caring to know all the facts (even the simple ones, like my vital signs!).


  4. Same here. Because we’re the women. Allah created us with the unique characteristics. We have soft hearts. Sometimes, we’re so strong and the other conditions we’re so weak. That’re the unique. OK, I’ll wait the sequel. Hope you’re feeling OK, Sister Stephanie. I love this topic.


    1. Allah gave us unique characteristics, but I don’t see uniquity as weakness. And when it comes to doctors, emotions do not excuse them from the Hippocratic oath. They must take each case seriously, even if there is no problem.

      Thank you for reading, Sister E! Stay tuned for the sequel in a few weeks!


      1. Here, so many doctors don’t care to their patients.It’s so miserable. Ok, Sister.!, I’ll wait. I hope it’s not the least your contribution for this blog.


      2. That’s such a shame. If they don’t want to care for their patients, why become doctors? In the United States, doctors get paid an obscene amount of money (especially if they’re private clinical doctors). However, I know in a lot of other countries, especially where there is socialized healthcare, that is not the case. Are doctors well-paid in your country? If not, then I REALLY can’t understand why they wouldn’t treat their patients with respect. If they are, then I do see a bit more of the Westernized mindset of “take ’em for all they got and let ‘insurance’ get the rest”.

        It’s really pathetic, the state of healthcare in the US. The people who can afford healthcare insurance don’t need it, and the ones who can’t afford it or can’t get it are often dying from a lack of necessary treatment. Even with the new “open market” thing they have going on, I don’t think it will work as well as other countries that have straight-up socialized healthcare as a benefit of being a citizen of the country.

        What’s even worse is when I left my country to work in the Middle East, Saudi gave me private insurance that covered everything, and Oman gave me free public healthcare because that’s what the public gets. Private healthcare is available, but you must purchase it. I’m fine with the free kind, especially since I know how to find good doctors. But in the US, I’m left out in the cold. Yes, sure, I can buy healthcare now — but why did it take the President stepping in and forcing the insurance companies to accept me and countless others as human beings who need coverage? Why should I have to go into bankruptcy because of an accident? It wasn’t that I wouldn’t or couldn’t buy insurance……I was literally uninsurable according to private company standards.

        Of course, that’s the way it works over there. Insurance companies, pharmaceuticals and big business are having a menage-a-trois.


  5. Oman is on the Top Ten Best Health care System.
    I have heard of the atrocious health care system in the US. In fact, I could have been born in America, had my mother been rich instead of a mere student. Up to her second trimester, she head back for Malaysia to give birth to me, leaving my father behind to continue his studies. Upon inquiry, my mother informed me it would cost a fortune to simply squeeze me out in an American hospital.

    I gave birth to my daughter for almost free in Malaysia in a semi government hospital. I m looking forward to the Saudi health care treatment though, simply for its affordability.

    P.s, I ll be moving to Saudi after Eid inshallah. Doa for me please.


    1. Oman’s SYSTEM may be, but the actual care is terrible. Even the Omanis go to UAE and India for treatment. Nobody would pay to go to another country and pay for treatment there if the (FREE) care in their own country was adequate. Too many people die from infections gotten un hospitals due to health standards that go unfollowed, non-admission due to overcrowding and simply missed diagnoses (or even misdiagnosis)……

      Luckily, I’m pretty savvy when it comes to healthcare, and I have a great doctor back home who gives me pointers when I can’t get what I need. I love the system here….just wish it was better care. Frankly, it is the only thing negative (for me) living here.

      Saudi healthcare is amazing. And…..more than likely….you’ll have insurance. So, it will be practically free. Just don’t let them disregard you as a woman! 😉

      All my best prayers for you and your family as you move there, insha’Allah!


      1. That’s terrible, they really need to look into the actual implementation of the already adequate system. Yes, we have insurance of course from my husband’s employment. Inshallah, Allah will give me patience in dealing with the misogynistic situations, for I am very weak when it comes to biting my tongue. Thanks sis, for the support and kind words.

        P.s – My husband is from Jeddah.


      2. Will you be living in Jeddah? I’ve never been there, but I hear it is much more…….secular than other parts. Insurance will do you well, as will be married to a Saudi. He can take up the slack for dealing with the misogynists. I will think of you, and just remember…..all societies go through a toddler phase of development. I mean, Saudi is.only three-quarters of a century old. It’s come a long way in almost 100 years. Look at other first-world nations who claim to be forward-thinking…..it was less than 100 years ago women and black people got the right to vote in America. Progress takes time.


  6. So women are not hysterical, raving lunatics ? Of course not. But they are women and are prone to bouts of irrationality, like pi or square root of two.



    1. being prone to bouts of irrationality is not uniquely female, it is human (and mathematical). And the roots of irrationality lie in the unwillingness (or incapability) to dig deeper and understand the order in the chaos. The rib is bent to protect the most vital organs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m getting an inference that men are not prone to irrationality or emotion. How rational is it to believe you would crush your newborn baby because you’re so much larger, so you refuse to hold her for months? How rational is it to believe driving a car negatively affects a woman’s ability to conceive? How non-emotional is it to get so worked up over a football match you kill your family member? Exactly. Men are humans, too. Therefore, they are just as prone to emotion as any other animal (that’s right, even the lower orders have feelings).

        And unless the hashtag is tongue-in-cheek, it is in poor taste to reference a hadith in such a manner. The “bent rib” does not refer to woman’s imperfections. Instead, it is symbolic of special qualities that allow her to do her job completely – as Corbin said, like the rib is “bent to protect the most vital organs”.


      2. Wow, easy now, we ain’t no in alligator swamp! I just meant to say that women are prone more often, not necessarily more frequently. But your last statement is very holistic and honestly quite true.

        Liked by 1 person

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    1. Thank you for reading and becoming a subscriber! Islamwich does have a donate button…..it’s alllllll the way at the bottom of the page, under the other things. 🙂 We appreciate your support in sharing the site! Hope to hear from you soon!


  8. Hysterical women syndrome is globally a sickening phenomenon, errr.. women in Pakistan notice when men get a fever or flu, their hysteria is phenomenal but as always we are labelled the fairer/ weaker sex etc etc.
    I am so sorry this happened to you. You realize that by writing it through this post, you are already dismantling the walls of “patriarchy.”
    WAY TO GO!!!!!!


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