Why the term “crazy ex-girlfriend” is actually really harmful

Note: We know there are some truly worrying exes out there but this is for those women who get called this when they don’t do anything remotely “crazy” and are just labeled that way out of convenience!

Ever listened in on someone telling a story about a “crazy ex-girlfriend”? While we can’t deny that there are some truly concerning exes out there, more often than not the women referred to by “crazy ex-girlfriend” haven’t done anything crazy at all, just did something their ex-significant other didn’t like and things were blown out of proportion. So why label them “crazy”?

Because it’s convenient. It’s a convenient term that we’ve all heard before and is easy to stick on to someone. This term has evolved to become a name, a label that has grown to harm women who may have reacted just a little emotionally–and with how media has painted emotional women, society has followed suit in bringing them down.

This is not to say, of course, that there aren’t some exes out there who raise a lot of red flags. This doesn’t erase their existence nor the unacceptable things they’ve done in the name of “loving” their ex. But this term in particular and this hateful image of a crazy ex-girlfriend in particular (just ask yourself why the term “crazy ex-boyfriend” isn’t as rampant) has been part of our relationship culture ever since we can remember, which adds to that convenience factor. We hear it all the time and think it to be true so the next time someone encounters an ex-girlfriend who did something they didn’t like, it’s easy to just slap it on as their defining trait.

Societally, the “crazy ex-girlfriend” is completely unhinged and centers her life around her ex–something that isn’t true for a big chunk of the stories that involve the “crazy ex-girlfriend.” This image and label has been unfairly exaggerated over the years, giving women a harder time when it comes to relationships, reacting to their significant others, and interacting with people at all. It’s as if women now have to tiptoe constantly just to avoid that label altogether and fit themselves into molds so that they won’t get called it. It’s a cliché that is continuously perpetuated out of convenience.

It also perpetuates a culture that is wary or hateful of women who have emotional reactions to things. Because more often than not, they didn’t even do anything “crazy,” they just reacted in a way that their significant other didn’t like and are now conveniently labeled as “crazy.” It’s a form of sexism as women are more often labeled as “crazy” than men in a way to shame them or dismiss them for having emotions. While emotional reactions aren’t comfortable for everyone, being labeled as “crazy” makes it easier for the person on the receiving end of the emotion to release accountability for that reaction at all, making them seem like they had nothing to do with the outburst. Calling someone “crazy” makes it easier to put them in a box and not have to explain our own actions that could have contributed to their reaction.  It’s a washing of hands, almost.

Calling someone “crazy” is also offensive, as it is officially defined as “mentally deranged.” And in this context it’s a term that is used to shame, ridicule, and dismiss women, not just to define. So in a way, it moves into the sphere of mental illness and saying that this craziness is bad. This is offensive to those who are suffering from mental illness and are trying to break the stigma but are held back with the continued usage of this term, among other things. Especially women who are suffering from mental illness.

There are exes who do things their significant others don’t approve of and take things to the extremes, sure, but there are those women who just had an emotional reaction but are labeled anyway. Because it’s easier to put the blame on their reaction instead of what they’re reacting to. More often than not, when people talk about a “crazy ex-girlfriend,” they leave out whatever they were having an outburst about or what lead to it, just that they did.

It can even be a form of gaslighting, of having these women question themselves and their own sanity and actions and wondering if they are crazy. Which is harmful and unfair. They become wary of themselves for feeling things completely in the spectrum of acceptable feelings–their significant others just don’t want to deal with it, which only serves to further damage what they think of themselves.

This term is harmful to women, period. It’s a convenient way to other and dismiss them without need for further explanation (as if the phrase “oh ’cause she’s crazy” is a good enough explanation), stripping the woman of the rest of her identity and leaving her with one flimsy character trait. It’s got to go.

What do you think? Let us know!

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