In the latest salvo in his ongoing war against Megyn Kelly, Donald Trump has repeatedly used the word “crazy” to describe the Fox News anchor. For many women—particularly those who are already fed up with Trump’s sexist, demeaning rhetoric—his insistence on attacking Kelly with that particular term is enough to drive a person, well, crazy.
To my ear, calling a woman crazy is a convenient way to suggest that men are sane and logical, while women are emotional and even hysterical. It is also a great strategy for dismissing an argument or a speaker—in other words, why should Trump have to answer Kelly’s often very pointed questions when she is clearly unstable?
The use of sexist language in the public sphere is poised to become a very big—and long overdue—issue in coming months. Trump’s gendered attacks on Kelly have been a steady drumbeat since the first time the two locked horns in the August GOP debate. If he does manage to land the Republican nomination, he may very well end up pitted against current Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. One can only imagine what kind misogynist verbal bombs he’ll drop then.
As we gird ourselves for the next seven months, I asked readers of The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter on the world’s most powerful women, to weigh in. Were they bothered by Trump’s use of “crazy?” If so, why? Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:
“‘Crazy’ is an age-old way to undercut women. It’s classic Trump—I can’t rebut with data and facts so I will just lodge a character attack rooted in age-old biases. Some people (of either gender) may behave crazily, but from what I have seen, Megyn Kelly has been the epitome of equipoise throughout this saga.” —Mary Egan
“As a business woman, I have heard ‘crazy’ and other dismissive terms used by individuals to shut down ideas and conversation that threaten their position. It’s a tactic used by bullies to change focus and deflect attention from their own shortcomings; it also diminishes the opposition. Sadly, it can work. Onlookers fear that they’ll be next if they push back or don’t fall in line, and they’re right. Bullies count on weakness and compliance to pump up their power and dominance. It’s more than discouraging to see this on the political stage, it’s exhausting. Can we all just grow up and put the bullies in their place? We teach our kids about bullies, time to practice what we preach.” —Cheryl Lubin
“I would add this offense to a growing list of others, such as women comedians who ‘try too hard,’ women executives who are ‘too aggressive’, women—especially young women—in corporate environments who are ‘too nice,’ women professionals who spend ‘too much time on their career’ and not enough time on kids, finding a spouse, etc… you fill in the blank. —Lisa Magnuson
“‘Crazy’ doesn’t bother me much, especially coming from Donald Trump. But when a man says ‘let’s look at this logically’ or something similar, that can definitely rub me the wrong way. Suggesting women aren’t logical is just another way of saying women are too governed by feelings, and therefore don’t see facts.” —Kimberly Koch
“Crazy is a loaded word when describing women. Please add irrational, emotional, strident, and aggressive to the mix. They are all code words for ‘bitch.’ —Kendall Egan
“Considering that ‘histrionic personality disorder’ is still in the DSM-5, and that women in general are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and some other mental illnesses by clinicians, I’d say he’s stoking the flames of a much larger problem about how our society seems to view women—as having excessive emotional needs that need to nearly constantly be managed or controlled rather than taken seriously. To me, Trump’s danger isn’t that he says bigoted things. It’s that he makes bigoted ideologies appear, to his followers, more acceptable.” —Katie Toth
All responses have been edited for length and clarity.