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Lifestyle Wellbeing

Gaslighting: how it affects women

CW: assault, rape, emotional abuse

If you are a woman, I’m sure at some point in your life you have been told that you are being too dramatic, too emotional, or too sensitive. This kind of language is a part of a society-wide psychological manipulation that frequently targets women, otherwise known as gaslighting. 

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that twists the victim’s sense of reality. It can sound like “You’re overreacting”, “You’re remembering it wrong”, or “It was just a joke”. Although mostly talked about in terms of romantic relationships, this form of emotional abuse can exist anywhere and everywhere, both in relationships and friendships. Often, however, it is a result of a patriarchal society in which gaslighting can manifest in our everyday vocabulary. 

Most of the time it’s difficult to notice at all. Women are frequently criticised for being too emotional or overreacting. For example, women’s chants about how terrifying it is to walk through the dark are met with the louder voices of people saying women shouldn’t be feeling that way because, of course, it’s ‘not all men’. Women have every right to be afraid; I’m sure everyone has seen the depressing but unsurprising statistic floating around that 97% of women have been sexually harassed, or even more horrifyingly, 1 in 4 women are raped. And yet despite what statistics say, a narrative is being pushed that women have nothing to worry about. Women can’t help but worry at night, walking down the street, seeing a strange figure come towards them. A huge stature, much bigger than their own. Keep your keys between your fingers. Turn a corner and then run. Women are given a lot of advice, but rarely any productive solutions. 

The problem with gaslighting is it shifts the blame onto the victim. One example is that many men’s egos are hurt when women cross over the road to avoid them. But rather than the simple observation that men harass women too often that necessitates this behaviour, the problem many people seem to have is women are allegedly too afraid of men (even though statistics state the contrary). 

This narrative trickles down into the way we talk to one another. One of the major tropes of gaslighting is its ability to hide itself. It’s hard to spot by definition; how can you be expected to identify it when it makes you doubt your own perception of the world? That being said, if you’re finding yourself apologising when you’re not sure why, often wondering whether you’re too sensitive, or always thinking it’s your fault when things go wrong, you may be being gaslighted. 

If you’re finding yourself in this situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to people. Your emotions are valid, and no one can take those away from you. No one ever has the right to tell you how you should react. Let yourself feel your emotions, and most importantly, find a way out of that toxic environment!

Image: Anthony Tran via Unsplash