“Gaslighting” Is The Best Word I Ever Learned

File this one under feminism, guys.  Here I go.
Jill the Riveter
Jill the Riveter.  We Can Do It!

You know when someone is being a jerk and you get upset, and then they say something like “god why are you being so emotional” or “you’re overreacting” or (the worst) “calm down,” and you feel totally helpless, because how do you defend yourself without sounding even more emotional and un-calm?

Emma Stone frustrated gif
Gif courtesy of Giphy.com

That is a real thing, and it has a real word.  It is called “gaslighting,” and it is shitty and manipulative.  It also applies to even more sinister things than making you think you’re overreacting.

Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

The term owes its origin to the play Gas Light and its film adaptations, after which it was coined popularly. The term has been used in clinical and research literature.

In the play Gas Light, a husband tries to convince his wife she is insane by constantly changing the lights and telling her she was imagining things when she said anything.

People do it all the time, but especially to women, playing on the stereotype that women cannot trust their own feelings and are overly emotional and hormonal.

emotions are for women and gays!
Try to ignore that it should be “women.”     Photo courtesy of quickmeme.com

Like with many things, knowing its name gives you a little more power over it.

Harry Potter image belongs to Warner Bros
Doctor Who image belongs to the BBC

I’ve shut up trolls this way, probably because they didn’t know what the term meant so they had no way to refute me when I called them out for doing it.  It also validates a person when they begin to feel helpless and like they might be completely crazy.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has a really good info page about it:

What is Gaslighting?

I highly recommend looking into it further, especially if you’re a woman and you, y’know, exist, but really if you’re anyone, because most of us will encounter this at some point in our lives.  I just did today, on Twitter.  It’s horribly common.

Twitter gaslighting
“Defending yourself calmly over a false accusation?  GOD you’re uptight.  You must not be the kind of person you profess to be, I say as someone who has never spoken to or even tweeted to you before.”

Hope this helps you out.

Live long and prosper.