Why it’s a problem: It’s not clear if Billie Eilish is actually suggesting that she thinks Taylor Swift and Beyoncé are experiencing psychosis for doing long concerts, or if she thinks that doing a 3-hour concert is incompatible with her idea of “sanity,” but it should be clear that this usage of the word “psychotic” as a slur or insult to mean someone or something “beyond the pale” is not okay, and Eilish could have easily done better by choosing her words more carefully. It was especially disappointing given Eilish’s recent disclosures about experiencing depression.

Eilish’s use of the word “literally” is also interesting, because by saying “that’s literally psychotic,” she is implying that she understands the actual definition of “psychotic,” unless she is using “literally” for emphasis, in which case she doesn’t appear to understand the correct usage of the word “literally” either.

I was also disappointed that the author of this article in Teen Vogue, which has often taken progressive positions on disability issues, didn’t bother to critique the usage of “psychotic” here. Rather, Carter seems to take issue only with Eilish’s shade-throwing at other celebrities, while Eilish’s fans only seemed bothered by her refusal to indulge their yearnings to be entertained longer rather than the problematic usage of the word “psychotic” as an insult.

Teen Vogue has published numerous writings by prominent disability advocates such as Alice Wong, and I’m not criticizing those writers, but if their influence does not extend to the culture and practices within the organization that publishes them, then that leads me to conclude that Teen Vogue’s progressivism is only performative.

While the use of “psychotic” in quotes in this article meets the AP Stylebook’s standards for covering mental illness, I feel that even a passing mention of its problematic usage as a slur, let alone a proper critique, was notably and inexplicably absent from the article.


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