Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why I'm Sick of "Crazy"

I'm really, really, REALLY, tired of hearing that all women are crazy. "Bitches be crazy," people say. "Men fuck shit up, women are fucked up," says a famous comedian, and I've heard far too many (male) comedians say similar things, that all women are psycho. Stop it. Seriously, stop it.

How is saying that all women are crazy any less sexist than saying all women are stupid, or all women are weak and helpless, or that all men are jerks, or all men are obsessed with sex? All of those statements are sexist. Any generalization like that, where you say all members of a certain gender have an inherent personality trait, is sexist. Period.

I don't care if you've met women who were a little unhinged. Maybe you even knew of a man being abused by a woman. Maybe YOU were abused by a woman. Maybe you have lots of bad experiences with women, but that it's still completely unfair to say that all women are screwed in the head.

Sexist generalizations aside, it creates a prejudice people have regarding women. If we assume all, or even most, women are crazy, we expect crazy, and then when a woman gives any indication that she may be "crazy," we slap that label on her right away, and suddenly any psychological abnormality or personality quirk is attributed to her being crazy.

There's also a huge double standard in place. In order to call a man crazy, he has to be really unhinged. He has to pull a Charlie Sheen type stunt or have extreme religious views. It doesn't take much to call a woman crazy. All she has to do is get upset with her boyfriend for flirting with another girl right in front of her. She has to get mad at her roommates for not cleaning up after themselves. Just like women get called bitches for behavior that's considered normal or only mildly problematic coming from men.

Throughout history, women have been assumed to be psychologically inferior and unstable. From ancient Greece through the 19th Century, women were commonly diagnosed with "female hysteria." Women were diagnosed with hysteria for really any symptom that couldn't be explained. Doesn't sound too different from today, where women are assumed to be crazy due to any inexplicable abnormality.

Because it's easy to call a woman crazy. Trying to find out what's really bothering her means doing stuff. Asking her how she feels, listening to her talk about her feelings and her concerns. And even if you do that, it's very convenient to say "nope, you're just crazy" rather than take her seriously, especially if you don't agree with her.

Women acting crazy is a source of entertainment for Western society. I'm talking about reality TV that focuses on women's lives. Real Housewives, Toddlers and Tiaras, Dance Moms, and most other reality shows that are about women, are basically showcasing women behaving in ridiculous, outrageous ways - or being "crazy," and we love to watch it and go "haha wow, those women are crazy!" We love to watch them and pass judgment about how "crazy" they are. And of course, these shows reinforce the stereotype that all women are crazy. But while we like to watch women we perceive as crazy, we don't want to associate with them. We like to alienate "crazy" women, for fear that they will erupt and spew molten crazy all over us when we least expect it, ruining our parties and social gatherings, causing trouble in our groups of friends. This is why so many young women avoid other young women altogether, they think all women are crazy drama queens and it's just better to hang out with guys.

It's dismissive. Maybe a woman does have a real problem, maybe she needs help, but even if she is struggling with mental illness, calling her crazy not only reduces her problem, makes it seem as though it's an incurable part of her. "Crazy" has a very negative, judgmental implication to it, often tied to a woman's perceived morality, almost as though being "crazy" is pretty damn close to being evil.

And on a personal note, being called crazy can really hurt.

"Crazy" is usually used as an insult, and usually used against women. We use it to bait women into behaving in a way that we consider acceptable for women, threatening to label any women who takes one step out of line as "crazy." We use it as a scarlet letter to label women we'd rather not associate with, sewing it into a woman's reputation and public identity. We use it as a derogatory term against women, and men to an extent, who struggle with real psychological illnesses. Yes, men are sometimes called crazy too, but nowhere near as often as women are, and the concept of "crazy" is rarely used to control men and dismiss their experiences. This is why I'm really fed up with the word, and why I wish people would stop using it as an insult so frequently.

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