“Relationships make me so crazy.”
“I go crazy when it’s my time of the month.”
“I’m probably just being crazy.”
Raise your hand if you have said or heard a female friend of yours say these things. If you haven’t raised your hand, I can only assume you can’t read English and are only on this website for the photos (I support that. I’ve had the odd private moment inspired by them myself). Girls love to call themselves, their friends, and other girls (their boyfriend’s evil exes being particular favourites) crazy. We say it all the time. It’s a shorthand for any number of other feelings, but it’s a poisonous shortcut. Crazy is a dangerous word to use if you want to be taken seriously.
Name any male celebrity that has ever been called crazy? Charlie Sheen perhaps, and not without good reason. But Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Miley Cyrus get way more airtime on that front. Taylor Swift is crazy for singing about her ex-boyfriends (Adele gets tarred with the same brush), Jennifer Aniston is still allegedly crazy about Brad and Angelina, and Solange Knowles is definitely crazy for that lift incident. The accusation that women are crazy has been doing the rounds for a while. It’s a bit like the awful female habit of saying ‘I might be being stupid, but I think it’s that way,’ whereas a fairer phrasing might be ‘you’re being stupid, it’s definitely that way.’ It’s a sign of social submissiveness, a deference to somebody else’s presumed superior knowledge or insight. ‘I’m being crazy’ stems from the same place; it encourages people to dismiss or ignore behaviour that may not deserve to be dismissed or ignored. Newspapers love to dismiss strong, female celebrities, by focussing on their clothes, weight and apparent emotional instability, and the same thing happens to all of us on a personal level. Girls don’t help by engendering that sentiment ourselves through using the word ‘crazy’. ‘I’m being crazy’ means ‘these feelings aren’t legitimate’ and girls say it because we so rarely believe our feelings are.
As Mean Girls so shrewdly points out, calling yourself a whore gives boys the license to do it too, and calling yourself crazy is no different. It leaves us with a generation of guys who think it’s fine to ask ‘do you always act this crazy on your period?’ The answer is always no. Crazy is behaviour without explanation or cause. A girl feeling stressed because she has spots, unhappy because she’s got cramps or sensitive because her hormones are changing isn’t an example of craziness. It’s no more crazy than a guy being snappy because he’s cold and hungry. It absolutely doesn’t mean a girl has no responsibility for controlling how those feelings influence her actions, we do, even at that time of the month, but equally it doesn’t make her crazy. Using the word ‘crazy’ to excuse bad behaviour is shortsighted because if you dismiss your feelings as crazy during your period, guys will dismiss your feelings as crazy at other times of the month too.
Crazy delegitimises us because crazy doesn’t get a voice; crazy is something to be dismissed, shut away in the attic like the wife in Jane Eyre. That’s not fair. Our voices deserve to be heard, along with our feelings and opinions. The next time you’re about to call yourself crazy, ask yourself whether a guy would use that word in the same situation. If the answer’s no, then try another word. Otherwise you’re helping to create a culture that ignores you. That’s just crazy.
Photos by Mitya Ku, Helga Weber and Guilherme Yagui.