On Women and Words

Gaslighting. Ever heard of it? I hadn’t, before reading an article by Huffington Post opinion writer Yashar Ali: A Message to Women from a Man: You Are Not “Crazy”. I found this article to be so hugely important, that I think you should read it right now, before even going on. (Go ahead – click it.)

Ali cuts right to an issue facing women today – an issue that I didn’t even recognize to be one, until I read his article. This problem is called “gaslighting” – a clinical, psychological term for a type of manipulation which, at its core, tells people that their emotions and reactions are not valid. It is a type of manipulation which anyone, of any gender, can experience, but is one which I have observed most, and to the most negative effect, in women. For women, it is an epidemic; “an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions.”

How many times have we women been spoken to by men in borderline (or more than borderline) insulting ways, only to be told when we react to it, “I was kidding!” or “It’s a joke; you’re overreacting!” or “Stop being so sensitive!”  And, after it has happened with the same person or people several times, we stop objecting – we let the mildly chauvinistic, “joking” slights go, maybe laughing a bit, pretending not to mind, pretending that it is “all in good fun.” And, slowly, we start internalizing the message.

We start internalizing the chauvinist messages that are being given to us, only barely concealed under the cloak of a “joke”. We start believing that our responses when we are treated this way are invalid. We start doubting and down-playing our emotions, believing the lie that our emotions are crazy, hormone-driven, irrational responses that make us less able to function in this “man’s world” if we listen to them.

When we give in to this treatment – when we say, “Forget it” – we’re not dismissing the treatment. We are dismissing ourselves.

And that’s the problem with this epidemic – we all do it. Men do it to us; we do it to each other. Our culture as a whole projects this on us, male and female.

So, ladies: you are not crazy. And men: stand up for the women around you. Often, all that we need is validation, and with a problem like this you are our best support.

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