Insanity in popular culture to be discussed in upcoming BHSU Geek Speak

Dr. Colmenero-Chilberg will explore the history and perceptions of insanity of women in the next Geek Speak lecture Thursday, April 27 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall, room 110 at BHSU.

Dr. Laura Colmenero-Chilberg, Black Hills State University professor of sociology, will discuss the history of women being diagnosed, treated, and committed to institutions for society-identified symptoms of insanity in the next Geek Speak lecture.

Dr. Colmenero-Chilberg will present "Madness in Popular Culture: The 'Insanity' of Women" Thursday, April 27 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall room 110 on the BHSU campus.

According to Dr. Colmenero-Chilberg, women suffering from mental instability has been a favorite topic of popular culture and movie producers.

"It feeds into the stereotype. Men are powerful, courageous, and rational. They are the bread winners. Women are the nurturers, emotional they are at the mercy of their hormones. Being emotional translates into being hysterical and depressed. For many millennia we have had that representation of women being more fragile and breakable and it continues today," says Colmenero-Chilberg.

Colmenero-Chilberg says the social construct of women as "deviant" has a long history. It can be seen in the world's major religions and spiritual traditions, which often view women as "uncontrollable." In the last two centuries in particular, we have seen a very strong connection between the concept of femininity and the cultural construction of madness, added Colmenero-Chilberg.

"The traditional characteristics feed themselves into the characteristics of madness. Being able to identify women as mad means that you don't have to pay attention to her. If she is inconvenient in your life, you can lock her away. Inconvenient women are identified as insane. Jane Eyre is a good example of this," says Colmenero-Chilberg.

Dr. Colmenero-Chilberg says this lecture will focus on the historical and cultural factors and behaviors that have been associated with madness in women as it is reflected in popular culture. By examining the representations of insanity in popular culture, Colmenero-Chilberg says we can examine changing ideas about gender, social class and family structures, and the effect these factors have on what we consider to be "sane."

"Gender roles have changed. Part of my presentation ties gender roles in to how we view madness. Towards the beginning women had no control over what was going on until we get to present day where we see men exhibiting some of the same characteristics as women," says Colmenero-Chilberg.

The Geek Speak lecture series, sponsored by the BHSU University Honors program, features academic discussion and topics not normally discussed in the traditional classroom. The goal of the weekly lectures is to expose students to diversity within the disciplines.

The following on-campus Geek Speak presentations are scheduled for this semester:
  • May 2 & 4, BHSU Honors students capstone defenses held at the Joy Center from 2 to 5 p.m.
For more information, contact Dr. Courtney Huse Wika, director of the University Honors Program and assistant professor of English, at 605-642-6918 or email