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The C-Word: ‘Crazy' Is What Men Say When They Want You To Shut Up

Every woman knows a guy who has called her “crazy.”

Or, if she doesn't, she knows a man who has called another woman “crazy,” and she either took the cool girl route and validated his thoughts, or she, like I've done, stood up for that woman — and for all women — when that man uttered that terrible, terrible word.

The word “crazy” triggers a protective female side of me I never knew existed. Whenever I hear a woman become a victim of the word, I can't help but pry into the situation and know why she was called crazy.

To my (un)surprise, the reasons are always, to put it simply, because she wouldn't shut up.

Because she had a feeling, so she expressed it. Because she had an emotion, so she felt it. Because she had an opinion, so she communicated it. Because she got hurt, so she reacted to it.

All of this, apparently, deemed her crazy.

A close cousin of the word crazy is the word “hysteria.” Hysteria, which comes from the Greek word for uterus — would you look at that? — was the first mental disorder attributed to women.

Before it had been eradicated from the DSM-III manual in 1980, hysteria had been used for centuries to describe people, a vast majority of whom were women, who experienced “symptoms” like nervousness, sexual desire, erotic fantasy, excessive vaginal lubrication, faintness, insomnia, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex and “a tendency to cause trouble.”

Basically, whenever a woman reacted to anything, she was dismissed as irrational. As “hysterical.”

Take “Mad Men's” Betty Draper, the wife of protagonist Don Draper.

Whenever Betty acted along the lines of the aforementioned “symptoms” — which happened frequently, considering her unfulfilling, lonely life in the suburbs during which her only tastes of “fun” were attending Don's work events as his plus one — Don told her she needed to see a psychologist.

In her transition toward becoming a victim of the role that 1960s America shoved her in, Betty agreed. She saw a psychologist and sat on his couch, lamenting about her anxiety and dull existence, convincing herself she was indeed hysterical.

All of this culminated during an iconic scene in season seven in which Betty sat at her kitchen table and read “Dora: An Analysis of a Case Study of Hysteria” by Freud, the first person to believe “hysteria” was a disease exclusively for woman.

“Hysteria” might be all but removed from our everyday speech, but “crazy” is still around. And whenever it's used, it, like “hysteria,” conjures up specific sexist connotations that have existed for a whopping 4,000 years.

It's time to remove “crazy” from our vocabulary.

Calling us crazy invalidates our feelings and shames us for having an opinion.

When you call us crazy, you discredit the fact that we're experiencing a feeling and possessing an opinion, and it's absolutely ridiculous.

I can't even count the number of times I've heard men call a woman crazy for being upset about a breakup, or for getting angry when her boyfriend does something to upset her or for offering her perspective about something someone said.

I can't even count the number of times being called “crazy” was synonymous with “having a thought as a result of something a man did and displaying said thought to said man.”

Your attempt to shame us for simply responding to things is contributing to a culture in which women are already shamed for the most asinine things on a daily basis, like how we dress, what we do on the Internet, our sexual endeavors, our body types, when we're victims of rape, our goddamn decision to drink Starbucks and more.

If you don't think all of this is true, congratulations on your white penis (as John Oliver would say) because you live in a completely different world than we do.

There's no need to add to our anxieties, so don't be an assh*le. Stop calling us crazy.


Calling us crazy keeps us guarded from ever showing a feeling or opinion ever again.

Every woman knows once she gets the “crazy” label, it's really hard to reverse it.

Once a bro and his band of bros joke about how that “bitch is crazy,” that's it. That bitch is crazy, and there's nothing “that bitch” can do to reverse it, no matter how hard she tries to un-crazy herself.

And even if she did try, the modern day definition of crazy says the process of un-crazy-ing oneself involves never having an opinion about anything, never having an emotion about anything and never responding to anything, ever.

It's the process of completely and utterly silencing oneself.

This must stop. This kind of manipulation lets you get away with doing something sh*tty to us without giving us permission to tell you how we really feel about it. You've made us so afraid of being honest with you because we fear the stigmatizing “crazy” label.

I constantly have to wonder if what I'm going to do or say is going to be misinterpreted as crazy, forcing me into a box in which I only have two options: to shut up or be deemed unstable.

It's f*cking exhausting.


Calling us crazy pits us against each other.

Before I truly understood the definition of the word crazy, I used it as a benchmark for male approval.

Whenever a guy called another woman crazy in front of me, I often found myself breathing a sigh of relief because it wasn't me he was referring to.

Sometimes, I'd even respond with an affirmative, “Wow, that sounds crazy” — anything to pit her as the irrational one and me as the rational one.

Then, in my head, I went over everything that woman had done to deserve her label and compared it to anything I'd ever done. I rationalized my version of crazy with her version of crazy.

And, obviously, her version was way, way, way worse. Obviously.

Well, I thought to myself, I might have texted my boyfriend five times in a row because he wasn't answering me, but she CALLED him 10 times. She's definitely the crazier one.

I might have reached out to my ex when I was upset about our breakup, but SHE went to his dorm room and talked to ALL of his friends about it. She's definitely the crazier one.

But, wait, haven't I done stuff that could be interpreted as crazier than what this girl has done? What's he saying about me, then? Does he think I'm crazy, too? Am I crazy?

All women are familiar with this panicky thought process. It spirals from thinking about all the ways we are rational and cool and collected while the other woman is not, to thinking about all things we've ever done that could also be seen as crazy.

And it, like that box, is also f*cking exhausting.

By attempting to elevate my version of crazy above another woman's version of crazy, I not only perpetuated the use of the word, but I contributed to the damaging connotation of the word, and in the process, I cultivated an unnecessary girl-on-girl crime that shouldn't have existed in the first place.

It's completely unfair for women to shame other women for the way they handle their opinions or their emotions.

Every single woman has had moments that any man could have interpreted as crazy, and the whole point of dismantling the word is to challenge the idea that it has any meaning — because it doesn't. Nobody is crazier than anybody else because none of us are crazy.

If we women want to remove the word, we have to stick together. And if we don't, well, that's when we're really being crazy.

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Alexia LaFata

Digital Editor

Alexia LaFata is a Senior Editor. She's a proud New Jersey native and Boston College graduate. When she's not writing, she's watching documentaries, practicing her Cher impression, or eating pasta. Stalk her at alexialafata.com.
Alexia LaFata is a Senior Editor. She's a proud New Jersey native and Boston College graduate. When she's not writing, she's watching documentaries, practicing her Cher impression, or eating pasta. Stalk her at alexialafata.com.

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