Edit Desk: Stop calling women the c-word

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“She is crazy.”

Annie Henry

Whether a guy is explaining a breakup or describing a girl who is too needy or thinks or feels too much, we’ve all heard these words used.

It’s been about two years since I decided Lehigh would be my new home.

Lehigh was rigorous, offered my newly declared major and accepted my transfer credits.

Right size, right location.

Most importantly, it felt familiar. It felt comfortable. It felt safe.

I shouldn’t have to rationalize why I chose Lehigh. It is my thought process and my decision. 

But that didn’t seem to matter to others. People made immediate false assumptions about why they thought I chose Lehigh, but nobody bothered to ask me.

The thing about the word “crazy” is that it stops the conversation. Those vague five letters serve as the first word of explanation.

How do you respond to that type of assertion?

Saying, “I’m not crazy” puts you on defense, making you appear, well, “crazy.”

I get it. It’s an easy response. “Crazy” is no new word to me or society.

The way men and women are conditioned to handle their feelings leads to the established concept that women cannot be both emotional and rational.

Women in society are dismissed and discredited on a daily basis, walking an impossible line. We are expected to be emotional, but when we show emotion, it is criticized.

To be emotional is to be feminine. To be logical is to be masculine. The two ideologies are accepted as opposites. To be emotional is baseless, irrational, “crazy.”

Men punch walls, start fights and fling objects across the room. Whether the cause is alcohol, watching a sporting event or losing in a video game, men’s emotional responses aren’t automatically deemed as “emotional” and their eccentric actions don’t call their sanity into question.

Men are passionate, women are clingy. Men are assertive, women are bitchy. Men are powerful, women are over-dramatic.

Men’s feelings are valid. Women’s are not.

The double standard can be seen in politics.

In the 2016 election, the public criticized Hillary Clinton’s tone, mannerisms and expressions more than her politics while allowing Donald Trump to make short-tempered comments and emotionally charged tweets. Imagine if the roles were reversed. 

The inequality can be seen in the Larry Nassar USA Gymnastics scandal.

A world-renowned male doctor got away with sexually abusing his female patients for years. On eight separate occasions, women spoke up, but it wasn’t until 2018 and 156 testimonials later that his actions were stopped for good. Each of these opportunities for justice were ignored because of those in power delegitimizing the feelings of the young female athletes.

The rhetoric can be seen in pop culture, from the representation of Taylor Swift as a clingy, serial-dater — even though she openly makes fun of herself — to Barney Stinson’s “Crazy/Hot” scale in “How I Met Your Mother.”

If you are a woman, you know exactly what I am talking about.

The multitude of ways in which society assigns a negative connotation with any female emotion can be heard every day.

“Don’t be so dramatic.” “You are over-exaggerating.” “Are you on your period?”

Each phrase exemplifies that when a female feels a specific way, it is unscientific, unsound and unstable.

This is no new concept.

Dating back to Ancient Egyptian and Roman times, the association between emotional unpredictability and women can be seen in sexist medical practices. In fact, the medical condition hysteria is derived from the Greek “hystera” meaning “uterus” — the age-old explanation that women are biologically emotionally unstable.

The way women’s emotions are mishandled is so deeply ingrained in society we become complacent to hearing it and even begin to doubt ourselves.

If feelings are continually invalidated, the female objective shifts to avoid adherence to the stereotype.

Anger is suppressed, excitement is muted, sadness is glazed over with a fabricated smile. 

It’s a form of mental abuse called gaslighting — a way to discredit women into questioning the legitimacy of their feelings, actions and sanity.

It creates the idea that our reactions are the problem rather, than the event or person who caused them.

“Maybe they are right? Maybe I am being hormonal? Maybe I am exaggerating?”

Why can’t we abandon the belief that showing affection is obsessive and a little jealousy is psychotic?

“She is being crazy” is what men say to shame women out of having feelings or out of acting in ways they don’t like.

Referring to women as “crazy” isn’t just offensive. Using the term so casually further trivializes and stigmatizes those legitimately struggling with specific mental health issues.

Emotional reactions to life-altering situations are natural. However, being “crazy” is correctly and respectfully referred to as the mental illness insanity — someone unable to tell fantasy from reality.

I am not writing this because my specific situation was notable — rather, it’s far too common. The greater gendered issues cannot begin repair until we shift our everyday vocabulary.

Instead of reflexively reverting to the explanation “crazy,” think: Is she upset? Is she reacting? Did something happen?

I was not unreasonable for my desire to feel happy, comfortable and safe and acting upon it.

I am emotional, but I am also rational.

And I am not crazy, even though that is exactly what I will be called for writing this.

Annie Henry, ’18, is a community engagement manager and columnist for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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3 Comments

  1. Annie,
    Well written! It makes one stop and think! It stated it was your last post, are you graduating? If you are, congratulations! Where ever life takes you, keep writing! I read your first piece on Gotcha Day when you were 20! I remember when your parents “Gotcha”, they were so proud! They are amazing people and you are an amazing young lady! Keep writing and sharing your thoughts words with the world!

  2. Please don’t use the “w” word! Not every female is a woman! Please get informed on the many genders!!!!

    I would recommend using a gender neutral pronoun instead of the very offensive word “woman.”

    • Robert Davenport on

      I would say that Annie is writing about females, who are women, in a standard dictionary sense. I am unfamiliar with your argot and consider it rude/unfair that you are offended by Annie’s use of the word “woman”.

      Seems to me some gender neutral pronouns have been deemed offensive in The Brown and White (B&W) and related comments.

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