3 Words to Stop Using When Describing Women
In our culture, it’s super easy to make women feel horrible about themselves. It’s almost become a sport in our media to see just how low we can make women feel. While it’s super common to critique a woman’s physical appearance, it’s become even more popular to frame women as “crazy” or “insane” simply because they have opinions.
Because women with opinions are viewed as mythological monsters in our media culture, everyday women oftentimes have to try to act like they’re NOT “crazy” which is pretty hard to do, especially in a culture that assumes any reaction you have that isn’t a smile is pathological. It’s kind of like being a brown person in an airport and trying to act like you’re *not* a terrorist because every white person thinks that you are. You get what I’m saying? [I do this when I’m at the airport by the way…it’s exhausting].
Below are words that are commonly thrown at women in a sexist way to make us feel even worse about ourselves, and I’m attempting to make a case as to why we need to stop using them to frame women:
I am so incredibly tired of hearing the word “crazy” used to describe a woman’s emotional state. It’s boring and annoying. The word is usually employed in a way to discipline a woman from having real emotions. When used in relationships, it becomes short-hand for saying “Your emotions are too inconvenient for me at this moment, so please shut up.”
You can pretty much see “woman-as-crazy” as the basic framework for the film Why Did I Get Married? [Yes, I did enjoy the film but the whole “woman are so crazy, I just can’t figure them out” trope is hella annoying]. Here’s a trailer:
In an article for the Washington Post, Harris O’Malley writes:
“As soon as the ‘crazy’ card is in play, women are put on the defensive. It derails the discussion from what she’s saying to how she’s saying it. We insist that someone can’t be emotional and rational at the same time, so she has to prove that she’s not being irrational. Anything she says to the contrary can just be used as evidence against her.”
Having to defend your mental state in a moment that has absolutely nothing to do with your mental state is a general marker that you’re part of a minoritized group. Members of the dominant group don’t have to “defend” any part of their existence during a regular conversation.
[Also, “crazy” is ableist and refers to cognitively disabled people in a derogatory way!]
Dramatic is the new “bitchy” in our culture.
Women are called “catty” and “emotional” which basically boils down to being “dramatic.” “Dramatic” functions to silence women who have legitimate issues or complaints and it also infantilizes women as though we are all babies who just need a binky to calm ourselves down.
“Dramatic” is also used to describe women’s interactions with one another, as though we can’t meaningful carry on a conversation that isn’t “catty.” This is why some women [i know we’ve all met at least one] always says: “I don’t like hanging out with girls. They’re dramatic. I prefer to hang around men because they’re more chill.”
UGH. Ironically, mainstream men are the ones in our culture who are allowed to bash each other’s faces in because they don’t know how to properly deal with their emotions…but we’re the dramatic ones…
There might be a perfectly good reason why two women can’t get along…because they’re people…and sometimes people don’t get along, but to ignore the reasons as to why they’re not getting along, and to only reduce their interactions to a dramatic emotional abyss of nothingness is good ol’ sexism.
The “dramatic” trope is employed in almost every media product about women’s friendships and interactions. Franchises like The Real Housewives, Braxton Family Values, Bad Girls Club, etc. wouldn’t be functioning if it weren’t for this trope.
Yes, people are jealous and women are people, so they will probably get jealous. That’s fine; however, women’s jealousy is usually framed as a pathological event in our society. Being called “jealous” is the social kiss of death for women. No one wants to be that person.
In our culture, jealously is admirable if men do it. Cue Christian Grey, Edward Cullen, Mark Wahlberg’s character in Fear, etc. You don’t have to tell Nick Jonas, who was actually allowed to come out with a song called “Jealous” and wasn’t called a pathological loser; however, women have to pretend to be okay with everything, even if the situation is unfair, in order to escape the jealous label.
Nick Jonas sings:
I mean no disrespect
it’s my right to be hellish
I still get jealous
‘cause you’re too sexy, beautiful
And everybody wants a taste
I still get jealous
Okay, so he’s allowed to be hellish because he’s jealous, but women…who live in a world where Hooters exists, and strip clubs are on every corner, and boobs are in every movie, should just silently sit there because if we get jealous, then we’re insane bitches.
If Magic Mike XXL was the standard film that men had to sit through at home, they might get a little jealous too…
Jealously is employed to undermine the way a woman feels, especially when she recognizes a power imbalance. It’s absolutely rational and logical to feel “less than” if your media culture acts like you don’t even exist as an audience member. However, acknowledging women as people would upset the status quo of our patriarchy, so it’s best to just tell a woman that she’s being a jealous bitch, than it is to change society to accommodate women.
Additionally, the Jealous-trope is a way to trivialize women’s relationships with one another as well, as though we can’t meaningfully be friends or carry on conversations without being rude or evil to one another. This is another mythology created by patriarchy about women. It demonstrates that the only thing women could possibly strive for is beauty, or men’s attention, which is heterosexist and untrue. Threfore, women can only ever be competition for one another, not meaningful friends or partners.
It also implies that if two women don’t like each other, it couldn’t possibly be because of an intellectual disgareement, or a political difference, but only one steeped in jealousy.
So, to recap: the only thing a woman is allowed to do is smile because if she speaks up about anything, all she’s saying will be reduced to her being jealous, crazy, or dramatic, and she will then have to defend her mental state…which is exhausting.
The issue with each of the words above is that they’re all individualized to a certain extent, steeped in myths about women’s emotionality and irrationality. Each word conveniently bypasses a culture that privileges men and places all of the blame on women’s “frail” mindsets which is unfair and sexist.