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A man writing about Gaslighting.

(14 Posts)
WoTmania Tue 20-Sep-11 13:30:23 I found this a very interesting read. My family do this 'you're being too sensitive. They were just joking' etc. I also think it interesting if read with the 'psycho ex' thread in mind.

KRITIQ Tue 20-Sep-11 13:46:43

Interesting blog, although some of the comments below are a bit suss, trying to argue that it's not a feminist issue because women can do it to men as well. I agree that people can use emotional blackmail, projection, silencing and try to make the other person feel responsible for their actions. But, it is a tactic that does seem to be used most commonly against women, primarily by men or those acting to support men (e.g. MIL colluding with H.)

Catitainahatita Wed 21-Sep-11 03:11:35

I read that blog post sometime in the last couple of weeks. I remember the comments too. They made me wish I was on MN to respond with a hmm I'd never heard of "gaslighting" prior to reading the piece. But it struck a lot of chords with me.
I think -with KRITIQ that the term is very useful to feminism; despite the fact that it is not a practise confined to men. It seems to be a very common tactic amongst abusive partners.
I thought about the post the other day when I read an article by a Mexican feminist and journalist (Lydia Cacho, if you're interested) about how certain psychiatrists in hospitals in Quintana Roo (a southeastern state on the Caribbean sea, most famous place= Cancún) have a track record of treating dv victims with sedatives -alleging their mental state is altered- and then allowing the partner to visit on the grounds that "while they are married he has rights over her".

Obviously I'm going off topic, but I'm still fuming and wanted to share.

Beachcomber Wed 21-Sep-11 07:26:43

Gaslighting is interesting. People do it on here all the time - for example telling feminists that they are emotionally damaged and hate men (ie a bit unhinged).

Um, nope, I'm a feminist because I am politicly against misogyny and female oppression.

singforsupper Wed 21-Sep-11 09:32:36

I think what happens on here sometimes is just bullying - it's fairly straightforward playground stuff. Gaslighting is a whole other ballgame. Gaslighting is a one to one thing, it's about persistently and deliberately making the other person think they are wrong with the intent that they eventually normalise that belief and stop questioning their abuser. During that process the abuser will gain strength from seeing their victim in emotional pain and distress. That's my interpretation. It's not a one off, it's done persistently. It is the symptom of a relationship where there is a power struggle and physical force cannot be used, so psychological pressure tactics are used instead.

singforsupper Wed 21-Sep-11 09:36:35

What really concerns me as well is when institutions use their power to gaslight individuals that oppose them. Schools do it a lot as a way of dismissing parents concerns to maintain the status quo - it's a defence mechanism. Happens to special needs parents all the time.

I'm sure there are many other institutions that do it. It's a subtle form of oppression.

Beachcomber Wed 21-Sep-11 10:10:46

Bullying happens too but I think the feminist section has some gaslighters on it.

In fact I have had it done to me here.

I guess I define gaslighting in a slightly different way to you - I see it as something that can be part of a one to one relationship or something that can be done on a group level or indeed a societal one.

The idea that women are overly 'emotional' and therefore not good at rationalizing is a good way of dismissing women, as a group's, righteous anger - making it out to be just on an individual level because women are hysterical and unreasonable. When in fact we are angry about oppression and that anger is coming from a place of analysis and observation.

singforsupper Wed 21-Sep-11 10:27:47

Really? How sad - but do you mean gaslighters or trolls? Trolling is a form of gaslighting - the 'I will draw you into my terrible story and make you feel my pain' followed by 'only joking, really got you there'.

Deliberately playing on someone's self-doubt is gaslighting and I could see how that happens on an intellectual level, quoting facts and figures to disprove someone, but unless that is a personal attack it's not really gaslighting.

Saying that 'women are overly emotional' is prejudice or discrimination - it's not gaslighting because it's not personal. Do you see what I'm getting at here? As I said, it can happen on a societal level if it is against one person, (witch-hunting kind of situation, whole school vs one parent, GP practice against individual patient), but one society against another... hmm not sure about that.

LRDTheFeministDragon Wed 21-Sep-11 10:53:54

sing - like the trolling where someone gets drawn into the terrible story, I think it'd depend on how emotionally involved you got. IMO that's the most fundamental thing about gaslighting - when it starts, you are a perfectly normal person with the ability to see what's right and what's wrong, but it starts off subtle. After it's been going on a while, other people can often see that something isn't right, but you can't see it any more. I suppose if you got emotionally involved in anything, there'd be potential for someone to take advantage.

Btw, slightly off-topic but relevant to the 'it happens to men too' (it does, I agree): I have heard the whole concept of men gaslighting women ridiculed because 'men don't have that sort of emotional awareness'. Sad, but true.

Beachcomber Wed 21-Sep-11 12:18:30

Trolling can sometimes be gaslighting, but I think there are posters who would not be considered trolls under MN definitions, but who gaslight on the forum. I don't think one has to be in a personal relationship with a person for them to gaslight us.

The idea that women are over emotional is a prejudice, but it is a characterization that women internalize - and it can therefore be used as a tool with which to gaslight them.

I think constantly saying to a feminist or a group of feminists that the reason they think what they do, is because they are damaged goods, victims, man hating, etc. is a form of gaslighting.

It is trying to make people doubt their rationality and their views, not by engaging with the views and deconstructing them, but by suggesting that the holder of the views is not quite the full shilling, is not to be taken seriously or, listened to. Indeed rational, healthy balanced people might want to distance themselves from such people and their views.....

It is a manipulative mechanism that is used against feminism all the time - most of us can spot it a mile off.

Sometimes it is done by saying that feminists are taking things too seriously, that they can't take a joke, that they take offence at everything. The point is to gaslight the feminist but in order to influence a third party not necessarily the feminist herself (although she may being to doubt herself too). Hence why I call it 'group gaslighting'. The less stupid MRAs sometimes do it.

When the feminist objects to this behaviour she is then told that she is insane/humourless/overreacting/aggressive/a meany/rude/abrasive/shrill/rabid/extreme/etc. In other words, she has just confirmed what the gaslighter said in the first place - she is emotional and unreasonable. The underlying sentiment being that her views and ideas are hooey and that the gaslighter can disregard them.

It is a classic gaslighting pattern. It happens all the time here.

Beachcomber Wed 21-Sep-11 12:20:27

overly emotional

youmustbeyolking Wed 21-Sep-11 12:29:13

Beachcomber that's a really interesting thought. I hadn't considered that it could occur like this but you are correct. ANY cause of self doubt could be deemed abuse and feminists are pushed to doubt themselves time and again. Both in real-life and in virtual spaces.

Beachcomber Wed 21-Sep-11 13:10:44

Youmustbeyolking this is kind of what I mean by at a societal level. I don't mean one society gaslighting another but rather sections of society gaslighting other sections, thereby making the gaslighted sections easier to gaslight on an individual level.

garlicnutty Wed 21-Sep-11 21:33:49

While I'm acutely aware of unhealthy relationship dynamics, and of gender politics, I hadn't thought to put the two together in the way Yashar has. It's encapsulated in his exchange with the stewardess, who puts both herself and all women down with a "joke" that also manages to insult the author - one sentence expressing a lifetime of men telling women they're "crazy".

He's gone a bit broad in his definition of gaslighting, imo, but that doesn't matter. He's talking about the drip effects of standard abusive behaviours - discounting, belittling, blaming, derailing and gaslighting - that leave women unable to trust their own thoughts; afraid to voice their own words. And that is the aim of gaslighting. How horrible that it's become such a habit.

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