On The Stereotype Of The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Last week I was invited onto BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to discuss the stereotype of the “crazy ex-girlfriend.” Having grown up with a father who deemed the majority of women “crazy” (despite the fact he emailed me about the ‘slip in my journalistic standards’ for citing him as having said that post airing of the segment), I’ve spent the majority of my life thus far in an effort to distance myself from this trope. The subject is one that I feel pretty passionate about, so I thought I’d speak a little more on it, as well as share a link to my appearance on BBC Radio 4, if you fancied a listen!

Indeed, the stereotype of women as “crazy” is a well-catalogued one, apparent everywhere from literature and films to the memes infiltrating our Instagram feeds and popular culture. New film ‘Unforgettable,’ which stars Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson sees ex-wife Heigl go a *bit* cray in a modern ‘Fatal Attraction’ type way, utilising technologies like social media to drive her ex’s new girlfriend – played by Dawson – away. This film was the hook for our chat on BBC Radio 4, which saw us question whether there is a male equivalent to the “crazy” ex-girlfriend stereotype, whether we’re self-perpetuating the trope and to what extent we are forced to police ourselves to shy away from this notion.

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Ever since “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” first became a thing, this idea is a persistent one, and one that shows no sign of abating. On the segment, I argued that the notion of the “crazy” woman slash ex-girlfriend is a notion thought up by men, and in fact “crazy” often translates to being “hormonal” or caring “too much.” What is an acceptable level of caring and what is “too much” is, of course, dictated by the male party. This means that even doing something like calling someone one “too many” times would render you into “crazy” territory. Not to mention that “crazy” behaviour usually stems from insecurity; something your partner can either facilitate or make extremely difficult to feel.

Indeed, there is no male equivalent, really. A “crazy” ex-boyfriend or “crazy” male is one who would be at the extreme spectrum of behaviour, often aggressive, violent and perhaps bordering on the real definition of what “crazy’ actually means. One of the key reasons for this, I think, is the prescribed gender dynamic that men should be the pursuers and wooers, and women the passive recipients. But in a world where we *never* pick up the phone and just endlessly ‘like’ and creep into each others DMs, are these notions actually doing more harm than good?

In the segment I cited an example of women policing their behaviour in an effort to prevent being considered ‘crazy’: someone I had been speaking to in the run up to the show told me how despite having recently become *official* with her boyfriend (yes, they had had #thechat and everything), she was concerned about buying him a birthday card for his impending birthday. She was particularly concerned, she explained, with buying one that suggested he was, in fact, her boyfriend, for fear of coming across as ‘crazy’.

When I repeated this story to a female friend of mine, her first reaction was: “I hope she didn’t buy one that said ‘boyfriend’! That is kinda crazy.” And so the self-policing and the stereotypes self-perpetuate. This generation have seemingly imposed a whole new bunch of rules to dating: be chill. Don’t come on too strong. Don’t date, just “hang out.” Don’t be clingy. Don’t label anything. Don’t rush it.

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And yes, I agree; but the games are no fun either. In fact, I fucking hate games. Surely it’s more pleasant to actually just behave in a way that is natural to you. Surely having to second-guess our every action, in particular in case one reveals that we actually give some fucks, is ridiculously tiring, as well as a bit redundant. And that’s not even to mention all the problems involved with using the C(razy) word.

I’m all one for acting / actually being super chill. And I definitely agree – to a certain extent – with the millenial notion of not giving too many fucks. But not giving any fucks at all, not even for the people and things it’s worth giving a fuck for, is actually doing us a disservice.

So much importance is placed on women in finding the perfect “partner” or “second half” as for some reason the ‘civilised’ world keeps insisting on calling it. This pressure makes women feel like they’re the lucky party, the one who needs to find – and keep a frantic hold of – a mate. But surely in 2017 this is a bit ridic.

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” Maybe if we were told we deserve all the love in the world – as opposed to just any love, any time, anything we can find – we wouldn’t be willing to accept anything less than that. Maybe the knowledge that we are whole, we are full, we are enough all by ourselves will fill all the crevices being told the opposite opens up. Maybe that knowledge is enough to keep us secure enough to not go “crazy”. Ever.

Listen back to my appearance on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour here.

What are your thoughts on the stereotypes of the “crazy” ex-girlfriend? Let me know in the comments below! 

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