He made his wife think she was crazy.
That was the plot of the 1940’s movie, Gaslight.
In order to hide that he was a wanted murderer, the villain married an innocent woman for cover and then framed her for being insane, every time she grew suspicious.
Thus, making someone believe they are crazy has come to be called “gaslighting.”
Oxford dictionary says it’s “manipulating (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.”
It’s a very, very popular term in feminist circles.
That’s why I think it’s time to ask ourselves whether accusing someone of “gaslighting” is, itself, the most common example of psychological manipulation…
Are feminists intentionally causing their ideological opponents to doubt their own sanity, by suggesting (over and over and over) that those opponents are predators with internalized hatred of women?
Feminist: We demand equality!
Non-feminist: How are things currently unequal?
Feminist: See? Doubting that we need Feminism is EXACTLY why we need feminism.
Non-Feminist: So, disagreeing with you is proof that you were right all along?
Feminist: You’re trying to make me sound crazy! I’m not going to take this gas-lighting!
Non-feminist: So…now you’re suggesting I’m psychologically abusing you?
Feminist: Gas-lighting! Gas-lighting! Gas-lighting! YOU are the one who hates women! I’m NOOOOOOT crazy!
Non-feminist: Um… Okay…
First of all, doubting our own sanity isn’t a bad thing.
Another word for that might be “introspection” or “conducting an honest evaluation of ourselves.”
Do you start feeling a little crazy when people question your ideas/opinions?
Well, maybe those ideas/opinions of yours really are bad ones. And maybe hanging onto bad ideas will make people a little nuts after awhile.
(Maybe women really aren’t paid less than men for doing the EXACT same work?… Maybe being unable to get free birth control is NOT the human rights violation of the century?…)
Stopping to ask ourselves “Am I crazy” is healthy. It’s a good thing!
If someone inspires us to ask those tough questions, we shouldn’t automatically accuse them of gaslighting.
We should thank them.
That said, psychological manipulation by someone who knows what they’re doing is no joke.
It’s also called “brainwashing,” and it’s malicious…intentional…
Gaslighting and brainwashing take careful planning and patience by a vulture who makes every move deliberately, as a form of control.
In other words: not everything your Republican cousin says is “gaslighting.”
Therefore, if you accuse him/her of “gaslighting” with every breath, maybe you’re the one trying to cover up something by manipulating people into not trusting their own minds…