It's Time to Ditch the 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Stereotype

During the much-anticipated premiere of Australia's new season of reality tv show Married at First Sight, we met a woman named Emma who perfectly played the part of the 'crazy ex-girlfriend'.

"I'm Jonathan’s sisterI’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 elevator shuts, "I love you"

It made for simply incredible reality television.

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

Clare Stephens and Laura Brodnik discussed Emma's behavior on The Recap. Post continues below. 

Mamamia spoke to the producers at Channel Nine 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.

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

Scoopla unashamedly labelled her as such, and Kidspot, The Advertiser and all used the phrase in their headlines.


Emma on last night's episode of Married at First Sight. (Image via Channel 9)
Emma on the offending episode of Married at First Sight. (Image via Channel Nine)

As I saw the term circulate across my newsfeed, as though the words 'crazy' and 'ex-girlfriend' are inexplicably intertwined, I felt my eyes roll 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. She played it to a tee. Her behavior 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 94 percent of the victims of domestic violence murder suicides are female. That sounds like pretty 'psycho' behavior 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 unstableThey'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 herselfwell. But her behavior 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 behavior 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 behaviors, 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 behavior after heartbreak is universalit 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?

You can listen to the full episode of The Recap here.

This post originally appeared on Mamamia, Spring.St's Australian sister site. You can read it here