gaslighting


i have been thinking about this one for a while-- and all the different ways it has affected my life.

'gaslighting' is a term that comes from the 1944 film, 'gaslight', in which the husband of ingrid bergman wants to get his hands on her jewelry, so he convinces her that she is crazy by flickering the gas lights off and on, and then telling her that she is seeing things-- the goal is to make her appear so insane that she will be institutionalized.

recently it is a term that has been used by mental health officials "to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they're crazy".

a few weeks ago "a message to women from a man: you are not 'crazy'" by yashar ali went around the internet.  it describes 'gaslighting' as a cultural epidemic-- designed to keep (primarily) women from being comfortable with their true emotional selves, and from holding (primarily) men accountable for their actions.  men, according to ali, tell women that they are over-reacting, that they are crazy, that they are being too sensitive, that they are being too emotional--


'When your spouse shows up half an hour late to dinner without calling -- that's inconsiderate behavior. A remark intended to shut you down like, "Calm down, you're overreacting," after you just addressed someone else's bad behavior, is emotional manipulation, pure and simple.'


and worse, ali suggests that this picture of women is a national public epidemic as well-- women are portrayed, interpersonally AND publicly, as irrational, overly emotional, incapable of constancy and reason.

"the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions."


if we spin this out a little bit-- which ali does-- in the world of 'gaslighting' that is about discrediting and controlling women-- women leaders are no more to be taken seriously than 'crazy ex-girlfriends'-- a stereotype so well known that we can all picture her-- because they might, at any moment, 'fly-off the handle' into an emotional tirade.

"from the way women are portrayed on reality shows, to how we condition boys and girls to see women, we have come to accept the idea that women are unbalanced, irrational individuals, especially in times of anger and frustration."

i get 'gaslighted', on one level or another, all the time-- as i think we all do-- and not just by men i have been in romantic relationships with.  i have been gaslighted by men i have worked for, men i have rented space from, men in my family-- and by women as well-- all by people trying to control my behavior in one way or another--  people trying to discredit my assertions, people trying to put the focus on my behavior (as crazy) and take it off of theirs.

how about you?

-mary-moore. 

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