How to take a woman down with one word

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 06:  Musician Taylor Swift performs during the 2013 CMA Music Festival on June 6, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 06: Musician Taylor Swift performs during the 2013 CMA Music Festival on June 6, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images) Photo: Christopher Polk

A thought experiment: Imagine how people might react if Taylor Swift released an album made up entirely of songs about wishing she could get back together with one of her exes.

We’d hear things like: “She can’t let go. She’s clingy. She’s irrational. She’s crazy.” Men would have a field day comparing her to their own “crazy” exes.

Yet when Robin Thicke released “Paula” –  a plea for reconciliation with his ex-wife Paula Patton disguised as an LP — he was called incoherent,obsessedheartfelt and, in particular, creepy.

Zooey Deschanel in 'New Girl'.

Zooey Deschanel in 'New Girl'.

But you didn’t hear men calling him “crazy” — even though he used it as the title of one of tracks.

No, “crazy” is typically held in reserve for women’s behavior. Men might be obsessed, driven, confused or upset. But we don’t get called “crazy” — at least not the way men reflexively label women as such.

“Crazy” is one of the five deadly words guys use to shame women into compliance. The others: Fat. Ugly. Slutty. Bitchy. They sum up the supposedly worst things a woman can be.

“Crazy” is such a convenient word for men, perpetuating our sense of superiority. Men are logical; women are emotional. Emotion is the antithesis of logic. When women are too emotional, we say they are being irrational. Crazy. Wrong.

Women hear it all the time from men. “You’re overreacting,” we tell them. “Don’t worry about it so much, you’re over-thinking it.” “Don’t be so sensitive.” “Don’t be crazy.” It’s a form of gaslighting — telling women that their feelings are just wrong, that they don’t have the right to feel the way that they do. Minimizing somebody else’s feelings is a way of controlling them. If they no longer trust their own feelings and instincts, they come to rely on someone else to tell them how they’re supposed to feel.

Small wonder that abusers love to use this c-word. It’s a way of delegitimizing a woman’s authority over her own life.

Most men (#notallmen, #irony) aren’t abusers, but far too many of us reflexively call women crazy without thinking about it. We talk about how “crazy girl sex” is the best sex while we also warn men “don’t stick it in the crazy.” How I Met Your Mother warned us to watch out for “the crazy eyes” and how to process women on the “Crazy/Hot” scale. When we talk about why we broke up with our exes, we say, “She got crazy,” and our guy friends nod sagely, as if that explains everything.

Except what we’re really saying is: “She was upset, and I didn’t want her to be.”

Many men are socialized to be disconnected from our emotions — the only manly feelings we’re supposed to show are stoic silence or anger. We’re taught that to be emotional is to be feminine. As a result, we barely have a handle on our own emotions — meaning that we’re especially ill-equipped at dealing with someone else’s.

That’s where “crazy” comes in. It’s the all-purpose argument ender. Your girlfriend is upset that you didn’t call when you were going to be late? She’s being irrational. She wants you to spend time with her instead of out with the guys again? She’s being clingy. Your wife doesn’t like the long hours you’re spending with your attractive co-worker? She’s being oversensitive.

As soon as the “crazy” card is in play, women are put on the defensive. It derails the discussion from what she’s saying to how she’s saying it. We insist that someone can’t be emotional and rational at the same time, so she has to prove that she’s not being irrational. Anything she says to the contrary can just be used as evidence against her.

More often than not, I suspect, most men don’t realize what we’re saying when we call a woman crazy. Not only does it stigmatize people who have legitimate mental health issues, but it tells women that they don’t understand their own emotions, that their very real concerns and issues are secondary to men’s comfort. And it absolves men from having to take responsibility for how we make others feel.

In the professional world, we’ve had debates over labels like “bossy” and “brusque,” so often used to describe women, not men. In our interpersonal relationships and conversations, “crazy” is the adjective that needs to go.

Washington Post

22 comments

  • Too true. In my late middle age I finally see how my reactions and legitimate feelings have been belittled over the years by my significant others. Now I'm rather cross.

    Commenter
    Julia2
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    July 14, 2014, 8:12AM
    • It's not a gender thing - I believe that everyone's reactions, feelings and life preferences should be respected. That's not to say that they have to be accepted at any cost - some adjustment is fine but if people, male or female, ultimately can't accept each other's values or emotional needs then they need to look elsewhere for a viable relationship.
      The premise of the article is valid: certain words brand individuals with negative connotations. But again that is not a gender issue, it's just that the words might differ by gender. Two instant take down words that come to mind for men are "loser" and, as the article mentioned, "creepy".

      Commenter
      Reality-Check
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 11:36AM
  • I think men who believe women are 'the irrational sex' have a bad case of projection going on. You only have to watch the nightly news for five minutes to see who's more irrational. It reminds me of that old saying 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'. Look what happens to so many women when they 'scorn' a man. Stalking, domestic violence, rape, murder, family slayings, mass shootings, 'honour' killings, acid attacks. I mean come on. Projection much.

    Commenter
    Leah
    Date and time
    July 14, 2014, 9:12AM
    • Brilliant article.

      I'd only add "hysterical" and "shrill" - two words that crop up in the media and comments sections with irritating regularity to deride women who have the nerve to get passionate or try to speak seriously about women's issues.

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 10:01AM
      • Two way street here.
        How to belittle a man, question his sexuality?

        Commenter
        Hell hath no fury
        Date and time
        July 14, 2014, 10:53AM
        • The one that makes me laugh is the use of "real man". Are you a "real man'? A "real man" wouldn't do that. Highly amusing that females decide what a "real man" is.

          Commenter
          jak
          Date and time
          July 14, 2014, 11:49AM
        • Stupid lists but...

          http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/so-you-want-to-be-beautiful-instead-of-hot-20140710-3bp64.html

          And us women are wrong for disagreeing, apparently.

          Commenter
          Ripley
          Location
          Hunting Aliens
          Date and time
          July 14, 2014, 1:35PM
        • Two way street?
          Belittling a man's sexuality is often about reducing his worth to that of a woman's. So, we lose either way.

          Commenter
          Alyssa KT
          Date and time
          July 14, 2014, 2:09PM
      • People might not have called Robin Thicke "crazy" for his Paula album but only 54 people in Australia has bought it, so that's maybe not the best example to lead with.

        Not trying to "not-all-men" this article, you make a fair point.

        Commenter
        couchy
        Date and time
        July 14, 2014, 10:59AM
        • If Robin Thicke had a sale for every article written about his latest single, it may have actually made the Billboard top 500.

          Commenter
          Markus
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          July 14, 2014, 12:13PM

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