Published in Catalogue, 2017
You’ve heard it a thousand times before and you’ll hear it a thousand times again: women are crazy. We’re an unhinged gender, brimming with contradictions: either too emotionally intense or disconcertingly aloof, painfully shrill and outspoken or pitifully lacking strength, our moods swing too wildly or perhaps not enough but above all else – we are entirely incomprehensible to men. We are crazy, they are the stable ones.
I remember at seventeen my first long-term boyfriend once sagely informing me that “Men make decisions with facts, women make decisions with emotions”, to which I replied, “Of course you never seem to have made a decision under the influence of anger”, directing towards the hole that he had punched in his cupboard door two days earlier. And yet, we seem so frequently to internalise this narrative between the heterosexual male and us, their female counterparts, we acknowledge this insanity that we all allegedly carry as though it’s a tangible burden. When one of my friends tells us about a new partner she has, it’s not unusual for us to ask if and when he’ll be exposed to the “crazy”, “Have you kept it under wraps so far?”, “Does he know it yet?”, “Will you give it to him for Christmas?” Of course we’re joking but these jokes still represent an indiscriminate acceptance of the myth as truth: women are fucking crazy.
This thoroughly “relatable” characteristic has saturated popular cultures depictions of women, particularly in comedy, and one really needn’t look any further than literally every episode of How I Met Your Mother to get a sense for this. How I Met Your Mother’s “Hot-Crazy” scale or the girlfriend with “crazy eyes” are jokes that try to tap into this stereotype for cheap laughs at the expense of women.
This narrative has also been wholly embraced by meme culture in recent years; 50s illustrations of women are captioned “Being bitchy and unstable is part of my mystique!” and written over the face of the widely disseminated Overly Attached Girlfriend, Laina Morris with white Impact font are captions such as, “It’s been over ten minutes since you last said you love me, are you breaking up with me?” These are all concepts that play with the idea of feminine instability and betray the sentiment of that old line, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” (by the by, that saying should absolutely be modernised to “Hell hath no fury like a man scorned by a woman in direct messaging on Instagram”). These demeaning and condescending jokes try to instil a sense of playful male-deprecation by suggesting that women have an intrinsic emotional power over men – but only because we’re so darn volatile. Hey, it’s probably what makes us such bad drivers!
We have also become overly apologetic for these emotional elements of ourselves because they are so unfailingly construed as inconveniences to the men who surround us. Our periods and the moods we happen to experience whilst we’re bleeding make us a laughing stock, our frustrations (no matter how intellectual) are dismissed as hyper-emotionality, and our angers are infantilised as juvenile tantrums. And later, after our intimate relationships with these men come to an end, we are denigrated amongst friends as irrational and deranged (a la Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation).
And yet, there’s something far more complex at play here than the mere mood fluctuations of an entire gender, our menstrual cycles, or even those common and totally inexplicable tit aches; belittling women as crazy is a tendency with a deeply-entrenched history in medicine and culture that stretches back for thousands of years. When we come to see how this narrative was first drafted, perhaps we’ll learn to reject it more readily.