When a man acts somewhat out of character, we tend to use words like “stress” or “pressured” to describe him. We tend to provide reasons as to why the man could be acting the way he is. He’s been working such long hours or He’s a bit grumpy because he hasn’t eaten or That deal didn’t come through and he’s angry, that’s probably why he’s exploding. Explanations such as these seem to be such a norm. And it has created an innate empathy for the male experience.
But “she’s crazy”, right? It feels like women aren’t afforded the same explanations.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much of a pet peeve it is to me when I hear a man describe a woman as “crazy”. Why is it that when a woman loses her shit everyone seems shrouded in utter confusion? It was all of a sudden. You know what I think is confusing – why no one seems to ask what they did to contribute to her feeling out of control? Did you try to empathise with HER experience at all?
Michelle Williams’ Golden Globe speech on Monday was stellar and it got me thinking so deeply. She asked for women and girls to vote in their own self-interest; it’s what men have been doing for years – it’s why the world looks so much like them.
That speaks directly to the world’s empathy for the male experience. And it’s tired. And we’re tired. These generalisations seem to be used as easily as drinking a glass of water.
It also feels like these generalisations have taken a step even further – they have become colloquialisms used exclusively for women.
Are women expected to be composed creatures? Are we supposed to quietly take more than our fill, and still put on a smile?
Yeah, because we empathise with the male experience too much. I’ma keep saying it until you start hearing me. And history is backing me up on this one.
“The Hysterical Woman” is who women have been trained to not become from day one. Our elders tell us to bite our tongues. They say that we should be strong and “carry on”. They even say that men want a woman with deference. We are taught that our experience is not worth empathising with.
But it’s 2020, maybe people should ask why a woman becomes hysterical. That would be a great start.
The term “gaslighting” originated from a play, and then the film adaptation, called “Gas Light”. It’s a story of a husband who manipulates his wife, leading to her insanity.
Essentially, she keeps asking if he’s turning their gaslight down and he keeps saying he isn’t. But he is, and instead tells her that she is imagining it. She eventually loses her mind.
How many of us have been minimised in this way? I know I have.
It isn’t all in our minds. More often than not, there is a trigger or a question drawn from fact or intuition and we should have a right to express it. The problem is that our nurturing side gets taken advantage of. We start trusting the gaslighter instead of our intuition… and that toxic man knows it.
Let’s look at the concept of hunting and gathering, the latter classically being a “woman’s role”.
Imagine that a woman has been gathering “fruit” all day. She’s been in the sun and has filled up her whole basket. And when she gets home, she starts cleaning the fruit and preparing it for her family. But the children have become a lot to handle, and she’s worn dry. She needs to still clean the home, and help to upskill her children. Not to mention cooking the family meals, and putting the kids to bed at night. Cleaning and gathering are falling by the wayside slowly because she is exhausted, but it’s her duty, so she still wakes up early every morning with very little sleep.
In a turn of events, her basket starts falling apart and she needs help to mend it. She asks her partner to help with the mending of the basket or maybe grab some extra fruit on his way home. He has the tools, perhaps she could borrow them? But he shuts her down. “How can I help you with that job? Gathering fruit is the only thing you’re in charge of? I bring home everything else in this family, it’s the least you can do.”
Two things can happen: She feels minimised, and reverts into a shell. Or she rises up and states her case again.
In the case of the latter, I’ve seen the way it plays out. I’ve borne witness to men standing confused as fuck while a woman screams her lungs out. And it seems like her partner has forgotten everything that came before the scream.
The nice ask, the plea, the beg, all came first. And after ALL that, came the scream.
But then she is crazy.
That’s usually how it goes. Because more often than not, men are trained not to hear us. Not connecting our dots and words even though we use them openly.
The problem is if you tell someone something enough times, they’ll start to believe it. Many women have been told that “it’s all in your head”. It’s only a matter of time before these women start to believe it’s true. That there is no reason to “overreact”.We are not overreacting. We just want to be heard.
The vast majority of women still live this way. Just one look at bad reality TV and you’ll have your evidence. I watched an episode of Wife Swap the other day where a mother of EIGHT did EVERYTHING in her house according to the patriarchal rules of her husband. So no one can tell me that this stuff is not happening “as much” anymore.
EMPATHISE AND LISTEN
The whole point of me writing this is that I’ve seen too many women around me be called crazy when they aren’t. I’ve been called crazy too by emotionally unavailable and unenlightened men. And for what? Speaking my mind? Losing my temper? I don’t think that’s fair.
Instead of skipping straight to crazy, let’s start empathising with the female experience a lot more. Ask questions if you don’t get it. Ask again. Don’t tell her she’s overreacting because more often than not, something led her to feel that way. It didn’t come out of nothing.
And women, it’s our jobs to fix ourselves and our triggers. We need to communicate how we FEEL. And how it relates to our past experiences. If we don’t, no one will know. Not even you.