Crazy. Feisty. Bolshy. Bossy. Hysterical. Sassy. Shrill. Spinster. Cat woman. Hag. Cougar. Frigid. Slut. Bitch. The English language has no end of words to describe women who don’t behave the way they are supposed to. They are all derogatory and almost none of them have a male equivalent. The most complimentary thing you can hope to be called if you are a woman who doesn’t conform to societal expectations is the E-word: eccentric.

While the idea of eccentricity is nebulous, it is an important barometer of society and women’s place within it. “The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour and moral courage it contained,” wrote John Stuart Mill in 1859. If that is the case, then I think we should be incredibly excited by the loud and proud display of feminist vigour running through popular culture. From Janelle Monáe rocking very unsubtle vagina trousers in the music video for her song Pynk to Marina Abramović’s provocative performance art, and TV shows such as Killing Eve and Sally4Ever that revel in weird women, female eccentricity is having a moment.

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Vijay Nanda

The author Vijay Nanda

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