Why we need to stop calling women 'crazy'.


Think about the last time you called someone crazy (to their face or behind their back).

What message were you trying to send? I’m sure it wasn’t a positive one.

Was the “crazy” person a woman? I wouldn’t be shocked.

It would be hypocritical of me to shame you for it because we’ve all done it. That’s why it’s important that we discuss it.

The Connotations of ‘Crazy’

There’s a disconnect between the usage of the word “crazy” and its actual meaning. When calling someone “crazy” in conversation, it usually serves one of three purposes

1. To “Other” them.

When you call someone crazy, the implication is that they are separate and somehow entirely different from you.

They’re a deviation from the norm — they’re other.

Othering a group of people is the first step to inequality. And separate isn’t equal.

2. To Dismiss

I find that “crazy” has become a go-to word to describe less-than-perfect family members and ex-partners. When someone in our personal lives is deemed “crazy,” it’s code for “I don’t like them. Don’t take them seriously.”

We use “crazy” to write people off.

3. To Shame

It hurts.

In everyday life, we brand people with a scarlet letter “C” when we do not approve of their behavior.

This implies that so-called crazy people have complete control of their actions and should feel ashamed for stepping outside of the norm.

But here’s the thing: I actually am crazy.

I am one of millions of people living with real mental illness, undergoing real medical treatment, and experiencing the real societal stigma of being “crazy.”

Calling people crazy others them, dismisses them, and shames them.

It also others, dismisses, and shames people like me.

Invisible Ailments

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “a mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning.” This definition is broad for a reason: It encompasses a wide range of diverse and serious conditions.

Because there are so many different types of mental illness, I am positive you know someone living with one. One out of every four adults and one out of every five teenagers will experience mental illness in a given year.

You can’t tell someone lives with mental illness just by looking at them. Even mental health professionals have difficulty making precise diagnoses since mental illnesses are invisible and manifest themselves with varying symptoms.

Not to mention, people living with mental illness may not want to talk about their struggles.

Because mental illness is not outwardly physical, many people living with mental illness have their experience questioned, dismissed, or mocked by others. For me, disclosing my mental illness can feel more nerve-wracking than coming out as a lesbian.

You may not see mental illness, but it definitely exists. You may not hear about mental illness, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.


Breaking the Taboo

Mental illness is common — tens of millions of people are affected –– and yet only about 58% of them seek treatment.

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, and yet our society continues to discriminate against people who have mental illnesses.

There are multiple methods to treat this disease that has killed many, and yet many people don’t even speak up about their symptoms.

To call that a problem would be an understatement.

Clearly, we need to talk about mental illness a whole lot more.

Are these conversations nerve-wracking? Sure. Are they necessary? Absolutely. We have too much to lose if we continue to ignore such an important issue.

Taboo topics get swept under the rug, preventing education and diagnosis.

We can combat the taboo by staying mindful and informed. Talking about this stuff is difficult, but it can save lives.

What’s with all the ‘crazy’ women?

Be honest here: Who gets called “crazy” the most?


When anyone is called crazy, the implication is that “crazy” is a bad thing to be. If crazy is bad, and women are crazy… Well, that’s sexism in action, my friends.

The idea that Women are Crazy has existed throughout the history of civilisation, from “hysteria” diagnoses to the Salem Witch Trials and beyond. There are plenty of resources on the feminist blogosphere about the past though.

“When you call women crazy, you are saying that their words, thoughts, and feelings cannot be trusted or taken seriously.”

Let’s talk about how misogyny intersects with mental illness stigma today.

Our culture has accepted this idea that all women are crazy. This discredits women in general and silences the lived experiences of mental illness in both women and men.

And when mental illness is treated with shame, especially in conjunction with gender, it keeps both women and men from seeking proper medical treatment.

In the cacophony of negative messages about “crazy” people, so many wonderful people who happen to live with mental illnesses believe they are not worthy of love, success, or life itself.

Don’t think women get enough negative messages about their worth? Try being a “crazy” woman.

Mentally ill people are capable of living long, fulfilling lives. Mentally ill people deserve quality care and treatment, personally and medically. Mentally ill people absolutely deserve love.

I would love to tie up this article with a pretty and hopeful little bow, but the discussion is far from over. This isn’t the end of the conversation about mental illness. There is so much more to be said.

Please continue to talk about mental illness, even when it isn’t a hot topic on your social media newsfeed. These conversations can change lives.

A version of this post was originally published on Everyday Feminism. This is an edited extract, republished with full permission. 

Maddie McClouskey is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She’s a twenty-something lesbian in New York City and currently writes weekly dating advice pieces for the LGBTQ event app and website SheSeekOnline and was a regular contributor to the sexuality and feminism site ToughxCookies. When she’s not writing articles about gayness, she’s performing stand-up comedy, singing show tunes to her girlfriend and dog against their will, or making up jokes for Twitter @SoundofMaddieRead her articles here.

If this post brings up issues for you, you can visit Beyondblue or call them on 1300 22 4636. You can also contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. You should also talk to your local GP. For more information about Mental Health Week, go here.