“The women feed him, bathe his feet / with tears, bring spices, find the empty tomb, / burst out to tell the men, are not believed. …“ (Kenyon, 42)
These three lines belong to Jane Kenyon’s poem “Depression”. The lines describe the biblical story of the discovery of Christ’s resurrection. The first part “The women feed him, bathe his feet […]” refers to two stories in which Christ was still alive. The women welcomed him into their home and cared for him and washed his feet with perfume. The second part “[…] with tears, bring spices […]” refers to the biblical story in which the women come to visit Christ’s tomb, to care for him, even in his death. However, they find the tomb empty and when they report to the men waiting outside, they are not believed until one of the men goes into the tomb to see for himself. The verbs ‘feed’, ‘bathe’, ‘bring’, ‘find’ and ‘burst’ are all active on the women’s side, they do this on their own account. Still, the last verb ‘believed’ is put in a passive voice, indicating that the women’s sincerity is only validated by someone else, or rather by a man. Their voice is only heard and acknowledged through someone else – they do not have this advocacy on their own.
In these few lines, a lot of history can be found. Women have a long history of not being believed in all areas of life, but health is a very important one. Often, women talking about issues of health are not taken seriously because people believe them to be weak or whiny. Consequently, a huge number of women has been suffering from medical conditions, often mental health issues, which are not being treated or they have to diagnose themselves. Additionally, relating this to the title of the poem, “Depressions”, people with depression are often not believed concerning their condition and some doctors still refuse to treat it as a serious mental illness. Women and people with depression alike are an important part of society, but as soon as they don’t align completely with the monolithic expectations of society anymore their opinions are dismissed. Furthermore, both are, to a certain extent, subject to the patriarchy, as women, like in the story, need a man’s validation to be heard and similarly the health industry is, like so many others, still strongly influenced by the patriarchy.
What I am trying to say is, that society still lacks a lot in terms of equality and understanding. The women in the biblical story should have been believed and their words should have been accepted to be the truth. Exactly like people who suffer from depression should be believed when they talk about their illness and their opinion should not be questioned by people who don’t believe in it just because they have never experienced it themselves.