I was at happy hour a few weeks ago when a guy (someone I barely know) looked around our group of friends and asked, “Isn’t there a difference between ‘good crazy’ and ‘bad crazy’ when it comes to girls?”
He looked at me and asked again. Since he asked, I offered, “Well, they’re both sexist as shit.” My sister groaned next to me. She was right — I should have been a little more socially acceptable.
Balance is a bitch, right?
If you had asked me at 18 if I was a feminist, I would have cringed. I still don’t have a firm grasp on the word — I don’t want to lay claim to a term that identifies women who have spent their whole lives working towards a singular cause — but I’ve grown so much in the past six years, sometimes I barely recognize myself.
I used to question girls who championed sexual abuse awareness. Isn’t that shitty? When I saw someone wearing a Take Back the Night T-shirt I would wonder, “Well, what happened to her?”
Flash forward a few years and I stand with advocates with a ferocity I didn’t know I had. I do what I can, such small things, like sharing Facebook posts and making sure certain events — volunteer opportunities for a rape hotline — get entered into the calendar of this paper.
I don’t have the answers for what is and isn’t sexist, what’s offensive, what’s “OK.” I can take a joke. I think. The lines often blur.
I smile and wave when someone honks at me, and I mean it. I genuinely consider it to be a friendly gesture.
I’ve stood, baffled and frozen, when a stranger groped me in a bar.
I’ve had plenty of slapping-the-shit-out-of-assholes dreams. Just dreams, though.
The happy-hour guy didn’t mean to be a jerk when he asked about girls being good and bad crazy. He flipped the question quickly and asked, “Well, what about guys being crazy?” My sister and I agreed that guy-crazy sounds like domestic abuse. “Exactly!” he proclaimed.
But it’s not “exactly.”
The solution is simple: use a different word. You know how it’s common knowledge not to flippantly throw around “gay” or “retarded”? “Crazy” falls under that category too.
It matters so much because it implies so much. I think of the men I’ve encountered in my life, the ones who flip a switch on a girl the minute she becomes something they don’t like. Too drunk? Crazy. Too clingy? Crazy. Too chatty? Crazy.
There are more women than men in Charleston, giving those men a strange kind of control over the dating scene, where the word crazy flies like, well, crazy. Trust me, I’ve been on the receiving end of a drunken night, crying on a sidewalk while no one offered to walk me home. One guy had deemed me a “crazy bitch,” and in that moment no one near him wanted to see me as more than that.
Eventually a stranger put me in a cab, seeing me not as a crazy, crying, drunk girl, but as someone who needed help.
For the most part the use of “crazy” is just annoying. I think most men don’t mean any harm when they talk negatively about the women in their lives. But it’s the ones that do. The ones that let crazy, and often, drunk, slip into something else. “She wanted it. She should have wanted it. She’s crazy, who cares?”
Riled up, I’ve had conversations about the use of crazy with my guy friends, and being the kind and sensible people that they are, they’ve raised their own counterpoints. “You can’t just erase a word,” they say, which I assume is a freedom of speech argument masked by bourbon gingers. Ultimately, they’re right. And there’s something else that’s implied in what they say and in what I know to be true: you can’t change people just because you want to. Happy-hour guy may have been harmless, but I don’t think he will ever not be sexist. It’s ingrained in him.
In thinking this, it’s ingrained in me too. Every time I judge another woman or put myself down as a way of flirting with a man, I’m maintaining the status quo. It’s almost impossible to change our world views in anything but incremental ways. So, we have this: we can change our words.
If you do anything today, think about how you use your words. If you’re dating a woman and she’s texting you more than you’d like, maybe say, “I think this gal and I should discuss our communication issues.”
Not, “What a crazy girl.”
As for me, well, I’ll take better care of myself. I won’t trust someone I barely know, I’ll listen to my gut if a guy talks down to me, I’ll walk away. And, at happy hour, I won’t call a near-stranger out for sexism if he isn’t hurting anyone with his words.
(The thing is, he always is).