It’s time we dropped the ‘cute but psycho’ girlfriend joke
It’s not adorable or funny. It’s abusive
by Lucy Harbron
It’s 2017 and though you would have expected it would have died out by now, it’s time to talk about how painfully not-cute that enduring stereotype of the ‘cute but psycho’, ‘protective princess’ girlfriend is.
it's 2017 and people still put "cute but psycho" in their bios
— tommy (@heterostraight) February 28, 2017
It started with the overly obsessed girlfriend memes way back when, and has continued to grow into an even more venomous meme-monster. When one of its heads are cut off it grows another, uglier and more desperate to be funny and relatable. But it’s not endearing, it’s not aspirational, let’s stop.
It’s rare now to scroll through facebook without seeing a girl you used to go to school with sharing with pride that her name is on ‘the list of girls who are sweet, but scary when they lose their temper’, or commenting an upside down smile emoji on the multitude of tweets or pictures about social media stalking your man, ready to kick off if he liked a girl’s picture.
can this whole "cute but psycho" shit die off
— toucan han (@blazedd0nut) February 28, 2017
Why girls suddenly repping being "cute but psycho"? That ain't gonna get you a man dumbass. That's like me saying I'm "handsome but abusive"
— SkankHunt42 (@One_Derektion_) March 5, 2017
That girl is everywhere; the one that is not ‘protective, but territorial’. But I wonder how quickly they would leave their partner if they came home one day to find their privacy invaded? If they were subject to constant, ‘cute’ arguments routinely testing their loyalty? If they always had to yield to their partner’s every want and need?
You could argue that it’s good that ‘cute but psycho’ has replaced the equally ridiculous ‘cool, chill girl’ stereotype before her, that it makes it OK to show your emotions, that it’s good for us to laugh at ourselves for freaking out in a relationship, but that argument is paper thin. Not only does ‘cute but psycho’ romanticise mental health struggles, it completely normalises the traits and behaviours organisations are battling to show as abusive.
DisrespectNoBody defines relationship abuse as a relationship that leaves you feeling scared, intimidated or controlled. Things such as being angry when your partner spends time with friends, monitoring their calls and texts, controlling things like who they see and what they wear, and even saying things like ‘if you loved me you would…’ are recognised as warning signs of an emotionally abusive relationship.
And maybe the girl from your school acts nothing like that, but the continued joking about these traits undoes all the work of these organisations. It affirms the behaviours, it trivialises the issue.
Mostly the joke just baffles me. Each time I see that meme of Nicki Minaj waiting to cuss out her man, I wonder what could be so aspirational in being argumentative. I’m searching desperately to find the humour in, or the longing for, a relationship rooted in insecurity, mistrust and inequality.
Coming from someone that has been in that position, there is nothing endearing about a partner that doesn’t trust you. Walking into a room to find your partner reading your private conversations ‘just in case’ doesn’t show they care. It doesn’t make you feel loved or appreciated or respected. And I just can’t grasp how being possessive has any connection at all to being cute.
One of those most problematic aspects of it all is the daunting double standard. These aren’t traits we would ever long for in a male partner – because they would appear (rightfully) terrifying. I doubt the girl sharing the meme saying ‘when he says you don’t need to worry about her & you know because you already killed her’, would find it quite as humorous or endearing if her boyfriend told her to cut all male friends out of her life or he’d leave her, or if they saw every other male on the planet as a constant threat, as the enemy.
Why is the princess girlfriend such a desirable persona, while a boyfriend with the same traits would be needy, demanding, possessive? Why is it okay that social media allows one and condemns the other? Abuse is abuse, being possessive isn’t cute, in a male nor a female, it never was.
I want a relationship rooted in freedom, mutual respect and lack of demand or expectation, surely everyone does? So it’s time we ended the trend of sharing round this image of abuse through meme lenses. There is nothing cute about being possessive, there is nothing cute about being controlling.