The female characters in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest can be divided into two extreme categories: "ball-cutters" and whores. The former is represented by Nurse Ratched, Harding's wife, Billy Bibbit's mother, and Chief Bromden's mother.
Each of these women are intent on dominating men by emasculating them, whereas the whores Candy and Sandy are dedicated to pleasuring men and doing what they're told. Despite the obvious nature of this observation, Kesey aims higher than asserting male dominance over female acquiescence. His goal is to assert those qualities identified as feminine to undermine those qualities considered masculine.
In between the two female extremes of ball-cutter and whore is the Asian-American nurse in the Disturbed Ward who bandages McMurphy. She represents an ideal middle ground — a compassionate, intelligent, nurturing woman who is nevertheless powerless to save McMurphy. McMurphy flirts with her after she relates Ratched's history to him. She doesn't succumb to his advances, presumably to display that Kesey realizes that women are more than sexual playthings. Her presence in the novel is short-lived, however, and McMurphy is quickly returned to the machinations of Nurse Ratched.
"We are victims of a matriarchy here," Harding acknowledges to McMurphy after McMurphy characterizes his first group therapy meeting as "a pecking party." When Harding protests that Ratched is "not some kind of giant monster of the poultry clan, bent on sadistically pecking out our eyes," McMurphy responds, "No buddy, not that. She ain't pecking at your eyes. That's not what she's peckin' at."
However, McMurphy acknowledges that not all ball-cutters are women when he continues: "No, that nurse ain't some kinda monster chicken, buddy, what she is is a ball-cutter. I've seen a thousand of 'em, old and young, men and women. Seen 'em all over the country and in the homes — people who try to make you weak so they can get you to toe the line, to follow their rules, to...