She’s hysterical, irrational and quite out of control. We decode the go-to villain of an internet age
These variously “hysterical” or “tyrannical” women are the guilty pleasure equivalent of binge-watching reality TV.
We can’t resist the sketchily drawn-out dramas of an unnamed bride on Reddit – even if we know that, deep down, it feels slightly unreal and wrong.
Beneath the gleeful pantomime, though, lurks a surreptitiously damaging set of beliefs:
Women hate other women
Never mind that most weddings are made on the foundation of deep-seated female friendship (who else is going to stay up til 1am the night before with you, overseeing whiskey-fuelled production of favour bags?).
The tired old trope of the hysterical bride continually tells us that women are primed to sacrifice two or three decades of friendship on the altar of an overpriced hen do.
99% of “bridal spats” are sourced from the bride lashing out at some other close female being: the bridesmaid is the ideal scenario, bringing with it a whiff of betrayal and abandoned duty. But mother-of-the-groom/sister/niece/random wedding guest will also do.
These stories tell us that women are continually looking to undermine and compete with other. And teeth-grinding blockbuster hits starring Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway don’t help the cause.
The mundane reality, however, is that female friendship offers the kind of secure, deep-rooted bond that a million nuptial fall-outs couldn’t come close to denting.
Getting married is THE ultimate life goal
In Charles Dickens’ age, Miss Havisham was an object of ridicule and pity. She just couldn’t get over being jilted at the altar.
Nearly 160 years of progression and third-wave feminism later, and we apparently haven’t moved on.
The hysterical bride is Miss Havisham’s modern-age cousin, quite happy to lose all sense of equilibrium and dignity over her man (it’s nearly always a man; bridezilla is deeply heteronormative).
The hysterical bride never takes a step back and says, “hey, it’s one day of my life – it doesn’t define me”.
She’s too busy throwing a hissy fit over the jealous cousin who insists on wearing ivory, or ordering guests to shell out £56,000 on a wedding gift.
Career, rationale, a grounding sense of self: all fall to the wayside in the quest to get hitched.
Women can’t handle stress
Weddings are stressful events, in a first-world sense. It’s a universal truth.
And yet, never – not once – do you hear about hysterical grooms.
“Groom furious friends won’t pay to attend his destination wedding” is a headline you just won’t read.
Nor is “angry grooms share their tux horror stories”, or “tearful groom slams mother-in-law for ‘disrespectful’ outfit”.
Studies show that women actually have a better stress response than men, and tend to be more mentally resilient. Researchers speculate that this is because men experience a more rapid spike in the stress hormone cortisol under pressure.
But hey, who cares about physiology when you can feast on the entertaining thrill of age-old stereotypes?
Women are more invested in marriage than men
When it comes down to it, the hysterical bride myth is fuelled by an unwritten belief that marriage matters more to women than men.
Hysterical brides behave the way they do – crazy, irrational, out-of-control – because they’re somehow driven by a NEED to get wed, or so the assumption goes.
Men, we imagine, just don’t care as much. So they’re able to keep their cool, like normal people do.
But the hysterical bride motif casts women straight back to a Mad Men era, where we were all wishing and hoping to tie the knot, and sayin’ a little prayer to snag a guy.
It castigates women to a time where our values were tied to a twin-set and a brand new washing machine.
The hysterical bride is a villain but there’s nothing bad-ass about her. Her fixations are petty and small-minded. And by buying into her false existence, we become the same.