The term “gaslighting” originates from the 1938 Patrick Hamilton play Gas Light, later made into films in both Britain and the U.S. It is used as a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior toward a target, intended to make them question their own memory and ultimately, their sanity. Today it is also often used to describe emotionally manipulating others, by undermining their confidence and calling their credibility into question.
Women’s advocates often accuse individuals who do not automatically believe their narratives of gaslighting. They use terms like “lived experience,” “her truth” and “her reality” to demand automatic belief of personal anecdotes related in support of female victim narratives. Anyone who disagrees - even just with the narrative’s proposed conclusions about men - is accused of gaslighting those women whose anecdotes are being used, or the individual promoting the narrative.
This goes so far as to include pressure to believe that a woman’s take on her interaction with a man more credibly defines his outlook, motivation, and intent than his own experience of it. In fact, if his own experience contradicts her accusation, it constitutes an attack. It does not matter what he meant, only how she took what she heard. It does not matter what actions he took or why he took them; only how she felt in the moment… and how dare anyone question that, because women need… deserve, in fact, to be validated.
So you’d think there would be some sympathy when a man or boy describes having been victimized, right?
You’d think the standard would go both ways, that his “lived experience” would be acknowledged, and his responses to it would receive at least some level of accommodation. After all, a victim of abuse needs support in order to recover. A rough situation calls for compassion and mercy. There are times and places to argue the validity of any conclusions one might draw from the individual’s personal experiences, but when he is in crisis, or when he is describing his own predicament, or events that have occurred in his life, that is not the time… right?
Oh, wait… that kind of consideration is only given to women, and only those of a certain political outlook. When a man is the one with a complaint, there is a totally different response.
Is he in a situation that is confusing? Is he dealing with adversity, experiencing pain, anxiety, depression, fear, anger… is he suffering losses or hardship? Well, it had better not be because of a woman’s treatment of him, or of any restrictions or obligations placed on him on behalf of a woman, or women in general. Why, there must be something wrong with a guy who blames women for his suffering. Doesn’t he know women cannot be guilty of anything? He must be wrong about his experiences!
And certainly, if he has any feelings or forms any opinions from those experiences, they’d better be favorable to the women involved, or at least women in general. What kind of man blames his problems on women?
Why, he must be one of those grisly little basement-dwelling, neck-bearded, involuntarily celibate pick-up artist going their own way misogynistic cis-het white male oppressors, otherwise known as The MRA. You can’t trust those guys. Buncha male supremacist losers. C’mon, dude. Put down the tinfoil hat and back away slowly. Can you even prove those things you’ve described really happened? Can you prove you weren’t asking for it? Does your mother know you talk like this about wimmin?
And that’s not gaslighting at all, is it?