Can We Please Ditch The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Stereotype?

 Can we finally put this "crazy ex girlfriend" bullshit to bed?

This article originally appeared on Mamamia and has been republished with permission. 


Last night, during the much-anticipated premiere of Australia’s new season of Married at First Sight, we met a woman named Emma who perfectly played the part of the “crazy ex girlfriend”.

“I’m Jonathan’s sister … I’m his little sister,” a blonde woman told bride Cheryl. Except, of course, she wasn’t Jonathan’s sister.

“How are you? Do you want a hug?” she asks Jonathan.

“No, later. Later, Emmy, later. Later. Later,” he replies.

She confides to the camera that Cheryl and Jonathan are absolutely not compatible, and adds "I don't think she's the perfect person for Jon, because the perfect person for Jon is already out there..."

And because Emma didn't manage to make her feelings clear enough throughout the course of the night, she says just before the lift shuts, "I love you..."

It made for simply incredible reality television.

Questioning a woman's sanity after a breakup is rooted in the historical practice of using "hysteria" as a weapon against them. We've literally been doing it since Ancient Greece.

Before long it's established that Emma is (obviously) the, and I quote, "crazy ex girlfriend". Ah, that old thing.

Mamamia spoke to the producers at Channel 9 who confirmed Emma was not paid for her 'performance' and was in no way a 'plant'. She just legitimately behaved like that, and they very much kept their cameras rolling.

The news emerged last night that, in reality, Emma is not an ex of Jonathan's, but rather the twin sister of one of his exes and remains a very good friend. Well, that's what Jonathan says anyway.

Either way, it's not the relationship between Emma and Jonathan that bothered me so much last night.

It was this tired, pathetic trope of the "crazy ex girlfriend" that was sprouted during the reception, and by just about every media organisation that covered it.

As I saw the term circulate across my news feed, as though the words 'crazy' and 'ex girlfriend' are inexplicably intertwined, I felt my eyes rolls into the back of my head.

Can we please ditch this "crazy ex girlfriend" bullshit?

In fairness, Emma did very little to disrupt the narrative last night. She played it to a tee. Her behaviour was disrespectful and completely unacceptable when it comes to basic fake, televised wedding etiquette.

However, that doesn't mean we can resurrect an ultimately sexist term which is never applied to men. There simply is no such thing as the "crazy ex boyfriend".

And you know what the "crazy" ex boyfriend actually does? Sometimes, he murders his ex partner. He stalks her.

You know what's "crazy"? That 71 women were killed by their partners in Australia last year. That sounds like pretty "psycho" behaviour to me.

Except, of course, that the words crazy and psycho are completely misplaced. The terms further stigmatize mental illness, and overlook the basic fact that sufferers are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of it.

Questioning a woman's sanity after a breakup is rooted in the historical practice of using "hysteria" as a weapon against them. We've literally been doing it since Ancient Greece.

Ah, silly women. They can't control their emotions. They're mentally unstable. They're always causing trouble. Their sexual appetite is out of control.

It would appear Emma isn't in a particularly good place at the moment. She certainly didn't carry herself... well. But her behaviour didn't constitute "crazy"; she simply didn't come across as a very nice person. Certainly not the kind of person you'd want at your wedding.

Many have argued Emma's behaviour was familiar, and it exists as a trope because there's some truth to it.

"I used to do the drive-by, to see if there was another car at his house," one of my colleagues told me. Another confessed that she called a restaurant to inquire if her ex had made a reservation with a new woman. Anyone who claims they haven't stalked an former boyfriend on social media is straight up lying.

But all of these behaviours, as bizarre as they are, can be extended to men too.

I've had exes send me awful, incoherent essays late at night. I've had exes drunk call me and show up at my doorstep. I've been gifted oversized bears and had bad songs written about me. There is definitely an ex I could invite to my fake televised wedding who would behave in a very similar vein to Emma.

Inappropriate behaviour after heartbreak is universal - it knows no bounds. Men do it. Women do it. I'm pretty sure gorillas get a bit weird when faced with rejection.

But by calling someone "crazy" we invalidate their experience. We dismiss them. We degrade them.

And by using it in a gendered context, we're perpetuating damaging stereotypes about what it means to be a woman.

So please, can we finally put this "crazy ex girlfriend" bullshit to bed?


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