October 9, 2019

SEX ON THURSDAY | Your Ex-Girlfriend Isn’t Crazy — You’re Just Insensitive

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Taylor Swift thinks she’s so cool because she’s crazy, a hookup said to me after we watched the Blank Space video together. (Maybe the problem in this situation lies more in the fact that I was watching this specific video specifically with a hookup, but bear with me here.) And it certainly looks like it at first glance — I mean, how crazy do you have to be to destroy your boyfriend’s sports car, his expensive suits, stab a cake and a portrait of him, solely because he was texting during a picnic? Isn’t this whole video just her delighting in the beauty of her destructive, chaotic power?

He missed the point of the song and the video — it’s not that Taylor Swift is the crazy ex-girlfriend, it’s that she’s playing the archetype of it to show how utterly ridiculous it is. It’s absurd and campy: cuz darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream, the Elie Saab dress standing over the horses, the damaged car … This is how mainstream media and, more generally, society imagine her to be, ruthless in her unfounded rage, truly the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend come to life. This fairytale-turned-horror story does not happen in real life, women like that do not exist, a fact which seems to have been lost on my poor hookup, who was then subjected to my hot takes on the subject (bear with me…).

Amy Dunne from Gone Girl is similarly subjected to the same narrative, though this one is born not out of derision, but something that seems closer to fear. The boys that have offered their opinions on Gone Girl to me have also called her crazy. Sure, framing your husband for your own murder and then impregnating yourself with his child after you come home covered in the blood of a man who had a crush on you in high school is a bit of an extreme reaction to getting cheated on. (Hot take: Nick Dunne totally deserved it.) But once again, they miss the point that Amy Dunne in no way resembles or represents an actual woman. She is a caricature of one; she is the caricature of the woman every man is afraid of, false rape allegation and all. Amy Dunne does not exist in real life, yet boys are so afraid of her that even though her rage at Nick is justifiable, she is branded as crazy.

I’ve never heard of someone having a crazy ex-boyfriend. Every man I’ve ever dated has a crazy ex-girlfriend. This phenomenon isn’t limited to them, nearly every woman I know has told me that a significant other of theirs has called them crazy. We are crazy for wanting replies to a text within a reasonable timeframe. We are crazy for saying that we were assaulted. We are crazy for not wanting sex. (How often has a man, after being denied sex, then flippantly calls the woman crazy? It’s less overtly sexist than calling her a slut or a whore, but is it really less harmful?) This perception of crazy girlfriends, ex or otherwise, goes back to the stereotype of hysterical women — with hysteria being seen historically as solely a female condition, the word “hysteria” itself derived from the Greek word for uterus.

I have lost any perception of when I’m genuinely behaving irrationally because of a boy or if it’s because I’ve been so socialized to believe that most emotions qualify me as crazy. If a boy constantly leaves me on read even after I message him about something important (even though I have known for years that that’s just how he rolls) and it bothers me, am I crazy then? Why is there something about genuinely caring about someone’s presence in your life and being afraid that soon the other shoe will drop that makes me feel as though there is something fundamentally wrong with my ability to process emotions?

I hesitate to tie this back to the stereotype of the hysterical woman, instinctively thinking that it’s narcissistic for me to blame my personal problems on politics. However, seeing how these patterns play out in the relationships of my friends as well has convinced me that there is something bigger going on here. The lack of empathy towards female pain, whether it is physical or emotional, leads to the characterization of any emotion as inherently irrational, and this is reinforced over and over in the media. When Taylor Swift or Amy Dunne attempt to deconstruct this notion, it is instead seen as proof.

So, to all the women whose boyfriends have called their ex crazy: She wasn’t crazy, he’s insensitive. To all the women out there who have been called crazy by their ex-boyfriends: You’re not crazy. If your current boyfriend calls you crazy, I’m not saying you should look to Taylor or Amy for inspiration — but I’m also not not saying that.

The Hoeletariat is a student at Cornell University. Afterthots runs monthly this semester. Sex on Thursday appears every other Thursday.