Waking up to my ‘delusions’ : B*tch I might be
I have always know that women are crazy.
Growing up in a white, rural, midwestern state with a single mother, I listened as my every-other-weekend father narrated my mom as crazy. As a young child being shuffled around, I watched my social worker mom work 2–3 jobs at a time, commuting 2 hours each way to finish a graduate degree.
As a young child, I deduced the definition of “crazy,” surveying my environment to conclude that a crazy woman must be a well-oiled machine, capable of sustaining structure and supporting a family on mere peanuts.
As my father dissipated out of my life ever-so-slowly, I began seeing the intricacies of the crazy woman; I began seeing her in cultures’ fabric — not vibrant and flowing but constrictive and suffocating. It seemed that the world didn’t see crazy quite like me. And, as I learned the fabric of the American dream, I ran from crazy; I ran like hell.
Feminist and disability activists have rightfully been critical of “crazy” as a descriptor of women, noting the simultaneous denigration of persons with mental illness and negatively veiled categorization of women as unstable.
Put simply: not all women are crazy, and let’s stop using crazy like that.
As I approach 30, the unfortunately reality is that the suturing of ableism and sexism continues. In fact, I was called dumb yesterday and delusional this morning for voicing my intersectional feminist agenda.
As I approach 30, I’ve become keenly aware of my routine, my habits and my attempts to run from “delusional.” Because that’s the truth of patriarchal systems: ever-so-slowly encouraging every body, regardless of its materiality, into the box of rationality, into becoming more appropriate citizen in masculinity’s economy, all while diminishing the non-normative.
And oh, I was good at it.
In third grade, I beamed after teachers told my mom that “I played well with the boys.” What a treat! What an accomplishment! I spent recess waiting to play football, yearning to be picked as I practiced writing myself into a new narrative, a narrative of strength and success — a narrative that would only ring true if I played with the boys.
In college, I continued my career in competitive debate. As I entered my first tournament, I excitedly sat in anticipation of the judge’s decision. I beamed after they announced that we had won, listening intently to their future recommendations and insight. “Meggie,” one judge began, “it’s just the pitch of your voice. It’s not great to listen to.” My voice, you see, wasn’t the normal pitch for the heavily men-dominated activity. My voice was out of place. Embarrassed, I did not reply and, instead, began a regimented sequence of speaking drills.
A successful student, I continued, receiving my M.A. and Ph.D. in communication studies, teaching argumentation and debate and business and professional communication. I beamed as my ability to articulate thoughts was praised by friends, students and colleagues. “Please call me Dr. Mapes,” I’d beg, holding tightly to a title with low social capital, only to be called dumb online by anonymous men.
In these moments, I diligently fight to hold my tears. Oftentimes, I bite my lower lip, gnawing on the inside so the small blood droplets aren’t visible. I’m too afraid to cry, too afraid for tears to break the barrier.
Every day that I awake, I relentlessly try to contain my materiality, trying to convince myself that I fit. That’s the truth of patriarchal systems: slowly manipulating your materiality, encouraging conformity while reminding you to work just a little bit harder, just be a little smarter, a little less emotional. Patriarchy created the myth of normatively for sustainment, because despite my composure, I will never be contained enough. I will never be enough. Perhaps I am delusional.