Picture this: You are on a date with a seemingly nice guy who asks all the right questions, doesn’t interfere with your order, and splits the bill without an ego war (the bar is low, I get it). But just as you are about to put this one in the good date jar, he says, “It’s a relief to talk to a feminist who is not crazy. My ex definitely was.” Now, would you run or call for your witch’s broom? Either way, I would disappear before the red flag fully unfurled.
Last month, in a survey by dating app QuackQuack, involving 10,000 people, 39% of women between 22 and 32 years said that if men call their ex ‘crazy’, they consider it a red flag. Calling a woman crazy is one of the most obvious and oldest tricks in the book to dismiss women’s voices and unsurprisingly, it continues to be an everyday term for casual sexism. The 12% of the surveyed women made a valid point: Today it's the ex; tomorrow it'll be you.
From Hippocrates equating a wandering uterus to hysteria in the 5th century BC and insanity in women to today’s men trying to gain favour with their date by calling their ex ‘crazy’, the term highlights patriarchy’s preamble: if something is working in your favour, why question it?
If you are wondering what makes a woman ‘crazy’, it's everything and nothing. It could be as easy as merely existing or jarring as having an opinion in a relationship. From pop culture to politics, the term ‘crazy’ is often been used to insult a woman, gaslight her, or shame her for her choices. In February 2021, French National Assembly deputy Mathilde Panot was called ‘crazy’ by another MP Pierre Henriet during a debate. He later pretended to apologise on social media, of course, stating that his words were “in no way an insult, even less sexist”. Such performative apologies come as a reminder of one thing: misogyny truly is very fragile.
In the dating space, the ‘crazy’ label can appear when men badmouth their exes to win points with a date or paint an elaborate picture as a victim of craziness, like Edward Rochester in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre who went one step ahead and created the trope of ‘madwoman in the attic’. Over the years, films – one of the most accessible mediums for ingraining a message -- have cemented this trope such as My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015) or Fatal Attraction (1987). A quick search on IMBD reveals that 223 of the most popular films and TV shows are marked with the keyword “insane woman.” What better way to wash off blame than labelling a woman’s mind as unreliable? As singer Taylor Swift, whose life, especially her dating life, has been under scrutiny through the patriarchal lens, wrote in her 2020 song titled Mad Woman -- "And there’s nothin’ like a mad woman / What a shame she went mad / No one likes a mad woman / You made her like that.’' Is there a need to say more?
The survey showed that men who own up to their mistakes instead of putting up their defences are a breath of fresh air. Moreover, voicing your emotions, which are often labelled as “girly”, is seen as having the emotional capacity to put feelings into words. Also, kindness goes a long way in making a person feel comfortable and heard.
Moreover, have you noticed that somehow mocking has been falsely associated with wit, and snarky comments make some people feel superior? If the delusional blinds are lifted, one can see it’s a wildly annoying trait. The recent QuackQuack survey showed that 8% of people did not find it amusing to mock others' way of living.
Green flags often come with unlearning ideas and behaviours that almost feel reflexive. It comes with questioning what might feel comfortable for you, understanding why certain expectations are problematic, and the biases that follow privilege. So, maybe next time you feel like throwing around the word ‘crazy’, look in the mirror.