A wise woman once said, "Boys only want love if it's torture."
Of course, she was being totally sarcastic. What this wise woman was actually doing was giving the biggest "f- you" ever to the sexist coverage her music got in the media.
See, when Bruno Mars writes love songs inspired by his exes, it's creative and romantic.
When Maroon 5 sings, "Baby, I'm preying on you tonight/Maybe you think that you can hide/I can smell your scent for miles," hardly anyone flinches at the creepy craziness of these lyrics. (Imagine if they were sung by a woman, though.)
But when Taylor Swift writes a song that may or may not have been inspired by Harry Styles
OMG I LOVE YOU HARRY!
the media accuses her of being spiteful, vengeful, and witch-like, retreating to her crazy woman-den to write mean songs about her ex-boyfriend.
That is why Blank Space is genius. If you haven't watched the video yet, please do so now.
Why is it that we are so eager to believe that women in relationships are crazy? Especially considering that some of the "craziest," "bitchiest," and "moodiest" people I've known... have been dudes?
Well... a lot of reasons. For example:
The Confirmation Bias.
People are really good at seeking out information and evidence that confirms their beliefs and biases. This is a serious problem -- in research, in politics, and in social psychology.
For example, someone once asked on Quora, "Why are Black people so loud?"
They are "loud" because of the confirmation bias. You can ride on a bus with ten black people who are quietly reading or texting, and one black person who is being loud -- and rather than see the ten readers/texters, you see the one loud person, and think, "See? That's how they are!"
Isn't that awful?
The same is true for women and "craziness." The vast majority of women may be totally "normal" in a relationship. But then you see one woman acting jealous or insecure, and you think, "See!? Women are crazy!"
Even the best thinkers in the world are prone to the confirmation bias. Scientists, for example, are much better at developing hypotheses that support their beliefs... than they are at developing hypotheses that would disprove them. That's why collaboration is important. That's why all ideas and discoveries should stand up to criticism (even Feminist Studies). That's why it's important to stay skeptical -- even of people whose previous work you admire.
When I was at Stanford, I had the most amazing advisor in the WHOLE WORLD. Dr. Lee Ross is the psychologist who coined the term fundamental attribution error, or the human tendency to attribute our actions to our situation, while we attribute other peoples' actions to their disposition.
In other words, if someone bumps into me and I totally overreact, I know it's only because I had a rough morning -- I had a fight with my boyfriend and missed my bus and stepped in dog poop on my way to work!
But if I bump into you and you overreact, I "know" it's because you're a jerk who always acts like that.
We make a very similar attribution error when it comes to gender. As I once wrote in Stop the Bullshit - Women Aren't More Likely to be Depressed than Men,
People attribute men’s negative emotions to EXTERNAL and UNSTABLE causes. "He is mad because he lost his job." "He is sad because his wife died." Or even just, "His team lost." However, people attribute women’s negative emotions to INTERNAL and STABLE factors. "She's a bitch." "She's having her period." "She always overreacts to things." "She's depressed." Read more >
Let's apply this "logic" to relationships. When a woman does something “crazy,” it’s because she is crazy. Because women are crazy. When a man does the exact same thing, he’s just feeling upset about something else -- but it will go away soon. Because men are stoic and strong.
From birth, we treat boys and girls very differently. Boys are encouraged to be tough! Be active! Explore! Be a man! Keep your feelings on the inside!
Girls are encouraged to talk about their feelings. To be sweet and polite and good. To express themselves.
Therefore, girls grow into women who tend to be more likely to talk about insecurities and emotions in their relationships. Boys grow into men who are more likely to stay silent, even if they’re feeling the exact same way.
This means we are much more likely to hear about a woman being neurotic or crazy than a man -- even if men are struggling with the exact same emotions as women.
The difference isn't as much that women feel more emotions than men -- it's that they're more likely to talk about it, so you're more likely to hear about it.
The representation bias is another heuristic that good thinkers have to be aware of when consuming media and reading studies. For example: say I sent out a survey asking people how they feel about premarital sex. People who are strongly for will respond. People who are strongly against will respond. But people who are just kind of like meh probably won't take time out of their day to share their thoughts. Why bother?
Therefore, my results will be skewed. I don't have a true, random sample. I have answers from people at either extreme, but not people in the middle.
Man Crazy Can Look Different From Woman Crazy.
Let's take a look at a hilarious (but actually really sad) meme from a standup comedy routine from Donald Glover:
I hate to overgeneralize. Women can definitely be violent towards men. Men can definitely scream and cry when they're upset. But the fact is, men are much more prone to violence than women.
Look at any crime statistics. Look at any psychology or medical textbook. Sure, there are social and scientific biases involved in sentencing criminals and diagnosing mental illness. Male and female brains are much more alike than they are different, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is either ignorant or trying to sell you something. But I would have to be a major science denier to claim that there are no differences between the male and female brain.
Men are 3-4 times more likely to struggle with autism, dyslexia, and early onset schizophrenia (which is literally what "crazy" means, fyi). They are also three times more likely to commit a violent crime. Meanwhile, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety and panic disorders.
Moreover, as I wrote in Guns Don't Kill Women - Male Entitlement Kills Women, research shows that the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from (or have not been diagnosed with) mental illnesses (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Man "crazy" is more likely to turn violent (or at least look different) than woman "crazy." We know from decades of research that when relationships get violent, many women try to protect their partner. They stay quiet. They don't want to press charges. And they tend to be awesome at convincing everyone on the outside that they are totally sweet, awesome guys.
Then, of course, there's the fact that
We are all a little sexist.
There is some super cool research about the psychology of humor. For example, did you know that laughing makes us healthier and happier in almost every way -- it can actually make us live longer! But generating laughter (i.e., being funny) actually shortens our life expectancy?
(Too bad I'm so hilarious.)
Here's another fun fact about humor:
It's tough to be a female comedian. First of all, funny females fill some dudes with rage. Second, women can't tell the same kinds of jokes as men, because sexism.
For example, when a man jokes about loneliness or lack of success in relationships, people see him as authentic, relatable, and funny.
Seriously. At almost every comedy show I've ever seen, male comedians make some kind of joke to the effect of, "I was on a date with this woman -- and by 'date,' I mean, I followed her to a restaurant and watched her through a window," or even, "I'm gross and ugly and disgusting and no one will ever love me." (I would have tried to make that funny, but I don't want to die young.)
But when a woman makes the same joke, she is seen as "crazy" and "desperate."
It's a weird double standard -- kind of like that Maroon 5 song I mentioned at the beginning of this post. When a woman says it, we just don't think it's cute or funny. We think it's crazy.
The same could be said about a romantic gesture! If a man says, "I asked her out ten times, each time with a dozen roses, and she didn't say yes until the tenth time," we write a movie about it. When a woman does the same thing... she's crazy.
There is a very popular show on television right now called Crazy Ex Girlfriend. I almost feel like I don't need to say anything more.
But I will. Here are some popular shows about women:
Obviously, not all shows about women depict them as conniving and crazy. But, let's admit it: a lot of them do. And we love it! It just makes for such great (and easy) drama.
And, sure, some of these shows make occasional attempts to bring male characters in on the drama -- and when they do, I love it! I'm all, Yes! I've seen men do exactly that in real life! But these male-o-dramas are usually short and mild, rarely lasting more than a single episode.
And, let's be honest. Can you think of a single male equivalent of this:
Why is this worth writing about?
Other than the fact that it's degrading, condescending and sexist to refer to all women as crazy... this stupid stereotype has some serious implications.
Like the fact that we ignore legitimate complaints by women, because we assume they're "crazy." It’s a potent silencing tool. It's a potent shaming tool. It leads to articles like the brilliant Men Just Don't Trust Women -- And That's a Problem:
"But you know what I don’t really trust? What I’ve never actually trusted with any women I’ve been with? Her feelings.
If she approaches me pissed about something, my first reaction is “What’s wrong?”
My typical second reaction? Before she even gets the opportunity to tell me what’s wrong? “She’s probably overreacting.”
My typical third reaction? After she expresses what’s wrong? “Ok. I hear what you’re saying, and I’ll help. But whatever you’re upset about probably really isn’t that serious.”
I’m both smart and sane, so I don’t actually say any of this aloud. But I am often thinking it. Until she convinces me otherwise, I assume that her emotional reaction to a situation is disproportionate to my opinion of what level of emotional reaction the situation calls for. Basically, if she’s on eight, I assume the situation is really a six."
Another problem with this stereotype? It leads to gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception and sanity. As much as I've had my criticisms about Everyday Feminism, this is a topic they've covered that I strongly agreed with. Abuse is ugly, and the "bitches be crazy" narrative contributes to demoralizing and discrediting victims.
So, no. It's not "just" a stereotype. Use the information in this post to make yourself a better, more informed thinker. You might surprise yourself.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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