“Did you try to hook up with anyone while we were on a break?” I asked casually, hoping not to give away I knew what was up.
“No baby, you’re crazy,” he said with a smirk.
I wanted to rip that smirk off his face. He had left open his Facebook page, where the message he sent to his ex was there for me to see while he was working late one evening.
But in the interest of behaving like an “adult” and not one of the Real Housewives, I remained calm.
“Are you sure about you didn’t e-mail or text or call anyone?” I pressed, giving him one last chance to redeem himself.
“Nope,” he responded nonchalantly.
And that’s when I went “crazy.”
“I’m going to take that fucking laptop of yours and throw it out the window,” I said. “I know you emailed your ex.” It was less the hookup that bothered me and more his inability to tell the truth.
“You’re fucking crazy!” he shouted back, igniting a screaming match that ended with him grabbing his laptop and storming out of the apartment.
In my experience, the “crazy” talk often goes like this: Woman asks man a question. Man lies. Woman confronts him with the truth. Man doesn’t like that he was found out. Woman gets angry, sad, frustrated (otherwise known as expressing natural human emotion). Man calls woman crazy, psycho, emotional, hysterical or melodramatic.
This handy equation of sorts can be used in many situations in which a guy doesn’t like the truth he’s been confronted with. I took a brief informal survey of my friends to find out when women got called “crazy” or “psycho” or “emotional.” Here are some of the responses:
He was threatening to kill himself and I told him he needed help.
I found out he hooked up with men and I confronted him.
I told him constantly being late was lame he stood me up.
I told him he was really closed off and we weren’t really communicating well.
I was dating someone else yet this guy told our entire class I was in love with him so I confronted him.
I found another girl’s t-shirt in his apartment so I went to the bathroom and peed on it.
He went completely MIA, missing a trip we had planned so I told his brother I was worried something happened. Turns out his phone just died and he went on the trip without me.
I wanted to have sex.
Okay, that T-shirt incident sounds a little unhinged. But the other instances are merely about women expressing their feelings or concern for their partners, or inquiring about their relationship histories.
Of course, not all men respond to emotion by lobbing the C-word. But it’s a common enough trope that it can make it hard for women to express emotion without getting shut out for being irrational.
Dr. Julie Holland, psychiatrist and author of the book “Moody Bitches”, says there is a biological component behind women’s emotional expressiveness. “Women by virtue of their estrogen levels are more sensitive to things around them. It makes sense in terms of evolution. For a woman to take care of a baby, it helps if she has emotional sensitivity and empathy.”
Unfortunately the message from big pharma as well as society at large is that being emotional (or perceived as being emotional) is a sign of weakness. It’s irrational, pathological, embarrassing, and crazy. One in four women are prescribed a psychiatric medication as opposed to only one in seven men.
“Calling a woman crazy is a way to take away her power,” Dr. Holland says. “It’s invalidating her. It’s considered irrational to be emotionally expressive. As though you can’t be rational and emotional.”
It’s not as though men aren’t called crazy; they are. But it’s almost always for the sort of overly-bombastic unconventional behavior you expect from a megalomaniac. For example crazy has been used to describe Donald Trump when he speaks about building a wall along the border and Kanye West when he bum rushes an award show speech. The word crazy generally isn’t lobbied at men when they express an opinion, take charge at work, or when they are angry.
The word “crazy” isn’t going anywhere — and that’s fine with me. If having emotions, thoughts, opinions, or calling someone out for lying makes me crazy, so be it. But more important, let’s stop engaging with people who think any emotion equals instability.
I realized somewhere along the way that the only guys who were calling me crazy were also the ones with “psycho” exes. If a guy is rude to a waitress, he’ll probably be rude to you, too. And if he thinks his ex was crazy, it’s only a matter of time that he thinks you are, too. In continuing to look the other way when it came to this admission, I was equally as culpable. Because a real man — one who is emotionally stable and secure — would never call a woman crazy.
Originally appeared in The Washington Post.
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