Women have for centuries had their pesky emotions dismissed as signs of madness. “She’s being hysterical.” “Irrational.” “Dramatic.” Craziness in women was such a widely-believed disorder that doctors in the 19thcentury diagnosed Hysteria as an illness and treated it by masturbating patients to orgasm.
While passion is lauded amongst men, for women, powerful expressions of emotion have historically been warped into a thing of shame, and reasonable grounds for disregard. Today “She’s crazy” is still a popular and powerful strategy used to dismiss and degrade women’s opinions, achievements, needs and desires. So, there is probably no better spokesperson and no better brand than Serena Williams and Nike to reclaim the word “crazy”.
The latest instalment of Nike’s Dream Crazy campaign is a strategic masterstroke, simultaneously championing female sportspeople whilst dismantling a centuries-old method of degrading their achievements. (The spot also quietly champions athletes on the gender spectrum, featuring “controversial” sprinter Caster Semenya as one of the women to be celebrated.)
‘Dream Crazier’ of course passes the Campaign Bechdel test – women’s narrative arcs hero the spot, and their personal agency is celebrated and reframed as aspirational, instead of hysterical. Brava.