Dear LadyWomen Friends of the Moon Cycle,
It’s 2016, and I, like all women in the US, know that sexism and misogyny are over, thanks to the generations of women (AND MEN, DON’T FORGET THE MEN!) who sacrificed so much to ensure that we are treated equally at school, home, work, and da club. It’s just wonderful to live in such an enlightened age.
Sometimes, though, I wonder–what would it have been like to live in a time when women still suffered from actual discrimination? For instance, did you know that many women in the 19th century were often diagnosed with “female hysteria” in order to prevent them from fully participating in modern life outside the home? Just try to imagine what it would have been like for someone to, say, doubt your qualifications or competency for a job just because you’re a woman! I know it sounds like an impossibility, but it used to happen all the time.
If, like me, you’re interested in taking a walk in the shoes of our ancestors, I have good news for you: even today, certain sexist reactions can be elicited from others if we carefully and intentionally provoke them by engaging in certain outrageous, hysterical female behaviors, listed below. Try them out, and at the end of this experiment you’ll be able to say that you, like generations of women before you, have been called a “hysterical woman.”
Behavior #1: Ask for a raise at work. I know, I know, you would never do this, but it’s worth it for the result. Once your manager explains that you don’t yet deserve a raise despite working twelve hour shifts six days a week for three years, make sure to press the issue, explaining your commitment to the job and the fact that your colleague James makes 30% more than you do in the same position, and he’s only been here for eight months. This should definitely trigger the desired reaction! Your manager will begin by telling you “not to get so upset,” and will express disappointment that you’re not the “hard-working team player” he thought you were. You will then be fired, and that’s when your manager will exhort you to “not get hysterical” as you sob while packing your family photos in a cardboard box with security hovering nearby.
Behavior #2: Discuss your field of study, area of expertise, or job with a man. This one is tricky, because you have to engage with the man and push back to tease out the correct response. Here’s an example conversation–hopefully you’ll be able to figure out exactly when the woman’s behavior becomes hysterical enough to warrant reproach.
Joe: Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Joe, I’m an accountant!
Laura: I’m Laura, I’m a–
Joe: Accounting is really fascinating; I do tax accounting. Do you need your taxes done? I could show you how!
Joe: Oh, a doctor, huh? Let me guess, you’re one of those “ladyparts” doctors, right?
Laura: Actually, I specialize in nephrology, which is–
Joe: Oh, yeah, I know all about that. My uncle is a doctor. He told me I would have made a great doctor. So you check for skin cancer and stuff, right?
Laura: No, that’s a derm–
Joe: See, if I were going to be a doctor, I’d go for something really hardcore, like kidney transplants or something. Or–
Laura (annoyed): I do specialize in kidney transplants! A Nephrologist is a kidney specialist!
Joe (throws up hands, backs away, defensive): WOAH WOAH WOAH! NO NEED TO GET HYSTERICAL, HONEY!
Behavior #3: Express a genuine emotion. This one is great because it applies anywhere–at work, school, and even in relationships! For instance, when your partner stays out until 2 a.m. drinking without answering his phone or telling you where he is and you think he’s dead, tell him with tears in your eyes how worried you were, and you’ll be a “hysterical bitch” within minutes! If you’re walking down the street to yoga class, show genuine anger when a man tells you he’d like to lick whipped cream off your tits, and you’ll be “a hysterical crazy whore” instantly! And at work, if you intimate any irritation that James from marketing stole your new sales pitch, he’ll immediately tell your boss how “oversensitive” and “pushy” you are, which easily leads to being “hysterical.” Try expressing emotions all over the place and make note of the results in between your horrified sobs.
Behavior #4: Seek medical treatment, especially if you are poor, fat, disabled, or a woman of color. This one works best if your patience has already been pushed to its absolute limit by having your symptoms dismissed by multiple practitioners over a period of several months. If you’re already at your wits’ end, you’ll probably cry when the LATEST doctor dismisses your PMDD and chronic migraines while telling you that you’d probably feel better if you just lost ten pounds–and as you know by this point in the experiment, crying always brings on the “H” word.
Behavior #5: Say things on the internet. There are SO many ways to try this behavior–Facebook, Twitter, even WordPress blogs. Just set up your account, and then type a status message or post, and watch the accusations of hysteria crowd your mentions! If you’re short on time and want to accelerate the process, make sure to comment on one of these topics right off the bat: politics, video games, dating, rape, abortion, food, women’s rights, lgbt rights, discrimination, body positivity, black lives matter, racism, Obama, Jezebel.com, comic books, comic book adaptations, geek culture, trees, clouds, birds, bees, soup, band aids, transgender people peeing.
Behavior #6: Complain that someone called you hysterical. This behavior is best saved until the end of your experiment as a kind of “hysterical-squared” out-of-body rage-inducing experiment. Tell anyone–your mom, your best friend, your coworker, your dog–about being called “hysterical” in any of the situations above, and prepare for the cherry on top of the sexist flashback sundae: “Well, are you sure you weren’t acting just a little hysterical?”
I hope you enjoy the experiment! Just don’t try to write a paper on it, okay? This topic will most likely be denounced as a frivolous exercise and waste of resources, and you don’t want your peers to think you’re being hysterical.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, but please, don’t get hysterical.
7 thoughts on “The Hysterical Woman Experiment (A-Z Challenge)”
This is gold!
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Excellent! My boss IRL in 2016 1) Tells me to “calm down” when I quietly and professionally disagree with him. 2) Still refers to the time when, after promising a promotion beginning in one month, he then said it would be “another 8-12 months” and I again quietly and professional simply said “I will not be here in another year without a promotion” — he refers to that as the time I “went ballistic”. 3) Regularly tells his all-female staff during performance reviews how happy he is that we get along and “don’t cause drama”. 4) Discusses the “Oriental girl” who works there. UGH. It makes me hyst…MAD.
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Wow, you got to experience this outdated phenomenon of sexism without even trying my experiment!
Lol but seriously, I love how a woman is “going ballistic” when she states a simple fact. And OMG ORIENTAL GIRL ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What is this, 1878? I hope you can get out of there soon!
This is awesome! I grew up listening to my father tell me “You are getting hysterical” every time I disagreed with him or tried to tell him how I felt about any given situation that he really didn’t want to hear about. It always shut me up, which was the point.
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This is so fantastic. I’m feeling a lil pre menstrual though so I can’t be sure my reaction to this is a valid emotion, maybe it’s not so good after all? What do I know – I’m just a woman…
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True. You better check with a dude to make sure your feelings are valid! 😉