Women Aren’t Crazy

At the end of what has been a hell of a year for women, I’d like to lay something out there.

You’re not crazy.

That’s been the one weird, beautiful lesson of this year. For so long, when women were upset or angry or scared, it was brushed off. We were told we were crazy, or hysterical, or difficult, or otherwise didn’t have emotions worth taking seriously.

That, perhaps, was the baseline assumption from which everything else profoundly destructive to women was made possible.

The notion that women who are not compliant are insane is one that’s been used to silence women for generations. One of the most remarkable things about the Harvey Weinstein scandal is realizing how many women would have been so easy to dismiss as crazy if they’d ever come forward before now.

“The notion that women who are not compliant are insane is one that’s been used to silence women for generations.”

If Rose McGowan, for instance, had come forward in the past and said Harvey Weinstein had sent former Mossad agents to meet with her to try to extract information with the goal of suppressing forthcoming reporting, we would have said she was out of her mind. People would have laughed at how she was a crazy person.

But, seemingly, he did. (Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, denied these allegations, calling it “fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time.”)

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If Mira Sorvino had said that Harvey Weinstein had blackballed her from the film industry, we’d have said she was just being petty and looking to place blame on someone other than herself. She’d seem crazy.

But he did that, too.

We’d have said Ashley Judd was probably making it up, too. Ashley Judd, certainly, already gets called crazy plenty.

But, it seems, he blackballed her, too. (Through another spokesperson, Holly Baird, Weinstein has denied the allegations of a smear campaign against Sorvino and Judd.)

“For all of history, the man’s word has been gospel. A woman’s word has been gossip.”

This year has acted as proof that, often, if a woman feels like there is a system in place that does not allow her to succeed in the manner of her male peers, she is not crazy. She is angry.

You might be angry. You might be sad. You might be teary. You might be exhausted. You might, as endless reports of sexual harassment arise and some men simply don’t understand why you’re mad, feel like screaming. You might have, in fact, screamed at some point.

Those things do not make you crazy.

If you wake up in the morning and believe you’re Queen Victoria, we’ll talk about whether or not you’re crazy.

I have long found that men who say “my ex-girlfriend was crazy” mean “my ex-girlfriend had emotions, and I did not like that.” That doesn’t seem like it should be surprising if your ex-girlfriend was a human and not a blow-up doll. However, if you grew up in a culture where good women in movies responded to every stupid thing a man did by shaking her head and smiling, as if to say, “you goofball,” I can see how that would be quite surprising.

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No wonder so much of the male-female narrative is about how women are crazy if they display anything but pure pleasure.

The notion that women are crazy—that sometimes they say one thing and do another—is something that gets bandied about in every hacky comedian routine. What comedians do not mention is that sometimes women say they feel differently than they do, because they know if they express how they’re really feeling (if they say, aloud, for instance, “I am angry because I suspect this man is trying to destroy my career”) people will dismiss it as them being insane.

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For all of history, the man’s word has been gospel. A woman’s word has been gossip.

Being told you’re acting insane if you are feeling upset is an absolutely surefire way to make you say something pleasant, even if you may be feeling angry. Which only makes women seem crazier.

If we want to change the way we operate, that’s the baseline we need to change. That’s the root of #BelieveWomen. We need a world where women can actually talk about what’s happening to them and be believed to the same extent men would be believed or listened to.

If there is one thing we can ask men to do for women in 2018, it’s to change the vocabulary with which they talk about women having feelings. Is your girlfriend upset? Is she sad? Will she not talk to you? Those are all more nuanced than “she is crazy.”

If that seems like an uncomfortable transition, that is because those responses all entail dealing with the situations that created those feelings.

Which would make for a saner world for all of us in the New Year.

From: Harper’s BAZAAR US