By Morgan Fisher
“She was just crazy.”
The number of times I heard these words come out of my ex boyfriend’s mouth was absolutely ludicrous. This was how he would justify everything that had gone wrong when mentioning previous exes—this was why his relationships had ended, why he hadn’t kept in touch with any exes, why it was so easy to move on from them. Because they were “just crazy”. I have no doubt in my mind that he uses the same term to describe me now.
As it turns out, this is a common thing. Articles have been popping up everywhere about it, on BuzzFeed, in online news articles, and all over social media. It’s how some men rationalize big emotions. If a woman is “too” sensitive, “too” emotional, “too” clingy, she’s crazy, and that’s all there is to it. So why do men tend to demean women’s feelings like this?
The Washington Post’s Harris O’Malley argues that it’s a convenient way for men to continue feeling like the more rational, superior gender. Because women are pegged as being more emotional than men, men decide that women are just being crazy when they express their emotions. Instead of trying to understand women’s feelings, men will often try to minimize their emotions by making them feel like they’re not being rational. These relationships, unsurprisingly, tend to not work out.
Expressing emotions is not a bad thing, and anyone who disagrees probably doesn’t have a truly fulfilling relationship. Emotion is where the intensity comes from. You have to feel strongly about someone for a relationship to work, and if you don’t—truthfully, you’re missing out. Women are usually better at articulating their emotions. Men often try to remain rational in emotional situations as a part of a misguided stereotype that insists the “macho man” doesn’t cry or show emotion if he can help it. So he bottles up his feelings, unknowingly makes his significant other feel like an insane, needy brat every time she gets a little “too emotional” for his liking, and when the relationship ends, he shrugs off his curious male friends with the typical and simple, “she was crazy.”
This is an infuriating cycle. And it’s terrible for countless reasons. It gives men a way to shake off any emotional confrontation by female partners, but it also causes women to start doubting themselves. Unfortunately, as frustrated and annoyed as we will be if you call us “crazy” or tell us we are “overreacting,” if you do it enough, we will actually start to believe it. We’ll be constantly second-guessing ourselves, to the point where we even begin to demean our own feelings. “Am I being irrational? Is he right? Am I being too needy? I need to calm down.” So we’ll start shaking more things off, hiding our feelings in hopes of not appearing the way we are constantly being told we are. It may seem harmless at first, but this is actually a form of mental abuse called gaslighting, a concept that involves making abuse victims feel like their emotions are irrational.
So how do we stop this? Our society seems to accept that it’s okay to demean the way a woman feels, to play it off as “emotional” or “overreacting” or, yes, “crazy.” How can we promote successful, healthy relationships if we’re downplaying emotions as a way of avoiding them?
I’m the first to admit that I’ve downplayed my emotions to avoid appearing “crazy” in the past. I would spend hours going back and forth, trying to decide whether the feelings I was having were worth noting, if I was being rational or if I was just being “too” needy. I also hear my friends talk about it far too often. Something happens, they get upset, but they shrug it off because their boyfriends told them they were being irrational or clingy.
Here’s the thing: Relationships have to be equal. If someone has a problem, they need to voice it, not sweep it under the rug. If a woman is upset by something, they need to learn to tell their significant other. But more importantly, we all need to learn to stand our ground. We can’t be afraid of our emotions. Whether they’re rational or not, they are how we are feeling, and they are not going to go away.
I haven’t been in a relationship in a while, and I’m honestly scared of reverting back to downplaying my emotions the next time I enter into one. I think, on some level, it’s something that we all do. But I encourage women, particularly those in heterosexual relationships, to try and take a step back and think about what we are doing when we do this. We are actively shoving our emotions to the side and accepting that if our boyfriend or partner says we’re being crazy, then he must be right. We are giving away our feelings, stripping ourselves of the very human emotions that we have. Having emotions should not be a bad thing. We should be able to voice our opinions and our feelings whenever we see fit. We need to learn to stand up and let everyone know that we are not, in fact, crazy. As it turns out, we’re just human.