On Labeling Women “Crazy”


Fashion runway bride, with bridal straightjacket.

Today’s insight comes from Dr. Nerdlove. Though not an official doctor or anything, good advice for every one involved.

Because finally, there is someone willing to call out the casually passive practice of calling a woman “crazy” for what it is,  abusive.

I’ve had to quit telling stories about crazy exes or women I’ve dated.

The problem was that I started realizing that when my friends and I would talk about our crazy exes or what-have-you, more often than not, we weren’t talking about ex girlfriends or random dates who exhibited signs of  genuine mental health issues. Now I did have a few where I would qualify my story with ‘No, I don’t mean ‘we broke up and I can’t be bothered to figure out where things went wrong, I mean that she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and was starting to show signs of genuine paranoia,’ but for the most part, crazy meant ‘acting in a way I didn’t like.’

There are certain words that are applied to women specifically in order to manipulate them into compliance: ‘Slut’, ‘Bitch’, ‘Ugly/Fat’ and of course, ‘Crazy’.

….

‘Crazy’ may well be the most insidious one of the four because it encompasses so much. At its base, calling women ‘crazy’ is a way of waving away any behavior that men might find undesirable while simultaneously absolving those same men from responsibility. Why did you break up with her? Well, she was crazy. Said something a woman might find offensive? Stop being so sensitive.

When someone talks about the woman who he broke up with because she called too often or seemed get emotionally involved faster than he was comfortable with, because she got angry with him over the way he acted, she was always arguing with him about stuff or even that she wanted different things from the relationship, it’s not uncommon to hear ‘That’s why you don’t stick it in the crazy.’ The man is absolved of any responsibility for the break up; it’s not because he was willing to pretend to be on the same page as her regarding the future of the relationship because it was convenient and meant that he could continue sleeping with her, it’s because she was crazy. It’s not because he was unwilling to discuss her concerns. She’s crazy, case closed, time to move on to the next woman without pausing to reflect.

…gaslighting is a term used by psychologists to describe abusive behavior where a person is made to feel as though their emotions and reactions are irrational, even (dare I say) crazy. By constantly minimizing and dismissing someone’s reactions, we make them feel uncomfortable with themselves and cause them to start to doubt their own feelings. If they’re being told over and over again that what they’re feeling is irrational or unreal, that what they’re feeling is somehow out of whack, then they start to accept that maybe it is.

Gaslighting – minimizing their feelings, reframing them as being unreasonable – is classic abusive behavior. It’s telling someone that they don’t have a right to the way they feel because what they’re feeling is wrong. Their feelings or their concerns or behavior isn’t “rational”. Once you take away their right to their feelings, it’s that much easier to manipulate a person into the way you want them to behave.

The trend of labeling women ‘crazy’ is part of the culture that socializes women to go along to get along. When women are told over and over again that they’re not allowed to feel the way they feel and that they’re being “unreasonable” or “oversensitive”, they’re conditioned to not trust their own emotions. Their behavior – being assertive, even demanding or standing up for how they feel –  becomes an “inconvenience” to men and they’re taught not to give offense and to consider the feelings of others before their own.

Read the entire article at http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2012/07/labeling-women-crazy/
And for those still curious about the “why” of this behavior, as in why do some men do it. The Dr. even offers a bit of insight.

I was notoriously self-absorbed. It wasn’t that I thought that I was the greatest thing ever, it was just that I didn’t really stop to spare too many thoughts for others. I was willing to make an effort for others, but only so far as it didn’t really inconvenience me past a “reasonable” point. I didn’t want to have long drawn out conversations about how my behavior made my girlfriend feel and I certainly didn’t want to get dragged into what I saw as unnecessary drama.

As a result… well, I wasn’t willing to consider how others were feeling. When the woman I was dating would try to explain to me how the way I treated her felt,  I would tell her that she was seeing things. She was overreacting to inconsequential stuff. She was being over-sensitive, reading things into what I was saying or doing that just weren’t there.

The subtext to everything I was saying was simple: “You are behaving in a way that I find inconvenient, and I want to you to stop.” I wasn’t willing to engage with her emotionally and address her very real concerns because I was too wrapped up in my own shit to think about other people.

In a nutshell, run run run the next time you run into a guy who constantly minimizes your position.

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