“Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: It renders some women emotionally mute.”
I have never heard of the term “gaslighting,” before reading this article. Ali uses a term used by mental health professionals, “gaslighting,” to explain how manipulative behavior can be used to confuse people into thinking that their reactions “are so far off base, that they are crazy.”
“You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You’re crazy! I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor? You’re so dramatic. Just get over it already!”
Does any of this sound familiar? It sounds like a conversation I have heard all too often. This article hit very close to home for me, but not for the reasons you may think. I have been involved in a beautiful, loving, committed relationship for over a year now, and what I have found most interesting about this “epidemic,” as Ali dubs it, is my tendency to gaslight myself. If I get emotional about something, I define myself as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, etc. Ali might attribute my inclination (to emotionally manipulate myself) to a hegemonic culture that fuels society to buy into the idea that women only need little provocation to unleash their “crazy” emotions. While this idea needs attention, I believe that the conversation Ali sparks also brings attention to the power of self-awareness and reflexivity—or at least that’s what it did for me.
Ali’s writing is refreshing. It is remarkably insightful to hear this issue from a male perspective: when a man writes about an issue that might be perceived as a “female” issue, it widens its applicability. He makes the conversation inclusive. Ali does not just focus on men gaslighting women, or vice-versa. He also does not limit the idea to romantic relationships: He broadens the playing field of emotional manipulation from a “spouse or partner” to a “boss, friend, colleague, or relative.” Ali reminds us that the act of gaslighting does not simply affect women who are not quite sure of themselves. “Even vocal, confident, assertive women are susceptible to gaslighting.” Even though Ali has an argument (and a strong one, at that) it is a blameless one. He does not point a finger at any group of people for gaslighting. He simply chooses to raise awareness about the concept. Ladies, gentleman, being emotional does NOT mean you are crazy…so TURN OFF THAT GASLIGHT!