To research this story, I decided to try an experiment.
I decided to type into Google the word "crazy" followed by several strongly spoken women all across the board -- from Hillary Clinton to Amy Sedaris to Oprah to see how many would come up on Google auto-complete. The results were pretty mind-blowing.
Now keep in mind, Google auto-complete only works when a common search term is done with the word or phrase. While I'm sure "crazy" will now be one of my auto-completes after writing this, right now, it currently isn't. But you know who it is an autocomplete for? That's right. The First Lady herself.
All of this inspired me to actually look up the technical definition of the word "crazy" in Merriam-Webster online. Are you ready for it?
"Mentally deranged, esp. as manifested in a wild or aggressive way: 'Stella went crazy and assaulted a visitor.'"
Synonyms: "Mad," "insane," "demented," "daft," "lunatic," "nutty."
So. That was enlightening.
All of this Google research was prompted by Emily sending me a link to a recent Bust interview with Courtney Love where the Hole singer talked about the "crazy" description so often lobbed at her:
“Oh, the crazy thing is really easy. If anybody could have proven me to be crazy, they certainly would have. And it’s never happened. Technically, in the sense of being bipolar, manic-depressive, or any of that stuff, it’s just not true. I mean, have I gone online and ranted and raved about my finances. Abso-fucking-lutely. Without any filter on. I mean, there’s a part of me that just doesn’t fucking care. And if that’s defined as crazy, then I need to find a psychiatrist who will diagnose that. I mean, maybe I’m more antisocial. I even asked my shrink, ‘Am I bipolar-ish?’ And he’s like, ‘No, you’re not.’ And I said, ‘Not even ish?’ And he said no. It’s just not there. So ‘crazy’ is a word that doesn’t affect me.”
Of course, Courtney Love is not the only outspoken much feared public figure who is alone in being given the "crazy" label as a female.
Hell, I've definitely been called "crazy" verbally before. Not so much on the Web, though. At least, not yet.
Before writing this, I decided to Google "Mandy Stadtmiller is crazy" to see if anyone had in fact written that exact sentence. Nothing popped up (now's your chance guys, get the domain while it's hot!), and in fact what results did come up (without the words in quotes) was an experience I had with Andy Dick in 2006 where he concluded an interview I did with him by groping and biting me. Amazingly, based on the frequent gender bias of the term, he was the one described as crazy in the experience.
What's that? "Gender bias of the term"? Absolutely.
Enjoy if you will, this pre-9/11 2001 New York Times piece titled hilariously, "Men Are Crazy For Women Who Are, Too." If you are a student of Manhattan-media-moment Ouroboros, you will recognize the author Rick Marin who wrote "Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor." I'm guessing this piece was his book deal fishing expedition disguised as New York Times Style piece. If you really want to go down the rabbit hole, you can read about his book party in Baby Gawker, written in 2003, with a style and attitude unrecognizable from the current slick media behemoth it is today. Here's the part of the Times piece I particularly savored:
Dr. Herb Goldberg, a psychologist in Los Angeles, has written several books on male psychology: ''The Hazards of Being Male,'' ''The Inner Male'' and ''What Men Really Want.'' What they really want, in his view, is a ''magic lady'' who challenges their limited attention spans. ''Achievement-oriented, aggressive, dominant, success-driven males have a very low tolerance for boredom and passivity,'' Dr. Goldberg said. ''The crazy woman keeps them on their toes.''
Even a simple dinner becomes a game of conversational chess, without all the pieces. Normal women tell you about their day. Crazy women spin fantastical tales or blurt out cryptic non sequiturs. ''They're like a puzzle,'' said Howie Blaustein, a 36-year-old New York lawyer. ''You're always trying to figure them out.''
Some of their moves can leave even the smoothest talkers at a loss for words. A. J. Jacobs, an editor at Esquire, recalled a woman who said to him, over hummus at the Bell Cafe on Spring Street, ''I miss you.'' It was their first date, but not their last.
OK, first off, A.J. Jacobs' date sounds fucking hilarious and like a great hang. Second off, I would love to simply retitle this article: "The Madonna/Whore Venn Diagram, and How to Hit That Sweet Intersecting Spot, Bros! (As Told To: A Guy Angling For a Book Deal During a Freelance Piece Reported Over Unlimited Mimosas at Brunch Because Don't Worry, Guys, I Can Expense It)."
Which leads me to a realization I had in researching this story and the frequency of the word "crazy" with women who have strong points of view in the public eye. Or just go on a date with dudes writing a book or getting quoted by a dude writing a book.
"Crazy" is in a way a rite of passage.
I mean, look at these completely badass -- and completely terrifying to many men -- women who all auto-complete with "crazy" because that's how frequently people search for and associate these women with the description.
So you know what? Let's look at it as a badge of honor.
Or look at this new definition of "crazy" this way.
In a way, as a woman, you would have to be crazy to put yourself out there in a public eye so often hateful to women who dare put themselves out there -- be it for political or artistic or literary or comedic or financial or leadership endeavors.
It reminds me of one of my favorite stories, in this case about a woman calling another woman "crazy."
A little-known writer once complained to me about a "friend" of hers who was so much more successful than her and who was working as a screenwriter, but, you know, this friend of hers was "CRAZY."
I looked at her, having heard this song a million times before, and said with no feeling in my voice: "And by crazy you mean daring, creative, challenging, ambitious, fearless, bold..."
She cut me off, seeing the game I was playing and snapped: "Yeah, pretty much."
"Uh-huh," I said. "That's what I thought. She does sound crazy."
Finally, there is my favorite definition of "crazy" ever, which is Tina Fey's assessment of what it means in defining women in the entertainment industry. As she once wrote in The New Yorker:
"I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they’re all 'crazy.' I have a suspicion — and hear me out, because this is a rough one — that the definition of “crazy” in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore."
I've always enjoyed taking back words (think of "crazy" like the Scarlet Letter C) that are supposed to make women think twice before they dare put themselves out there with ideas that may challenge the desired female narrative, lest the woman involved be branded with the "crazy" label for being even a smidge threatening.
Be careful before you write or say or think that, ladies! What would people think? What would they think?
I think we can all agree where this internal dialogue of fear and concern and hesitation comes from.
Because you might be labeled fucking crazy.
So you know what? I'll take it. I'll take your "crazy" and raise you an "unstable."
Because anyone who labels a woman so reductively and simplistically has just spoken volumes about themselves in a way they would never have the finesse or sophistication to be able to articulate about the woman they are branding so.
Isn't it crazy how that works?
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.