GRAB ME MY SMELLING SALTS.
an extraordinary day has come.
couple of pedantic things first…
just to bring in a little historical context, the daily mail has discovered the phenomenon called gaslighting before. back in august 2013.
and unmentioned in this 2018 article is the fact that the concept arises from the play gas light (1938) and was further popularized through the 1940 and 1944 film adaptations.
this year it’s celebrating its 80th anniversary as a term denoting systematic psychological manipulation. so a “modern dating trend” it is not.
this bullshit is old school.
what is happening is that gaslighting is a concept which, thanks to things like the book/film the girl on the train and lauren duca’s teen vogue article of 2016, has recentishly received significant cultural attention and of which people are newly aware. and so people are also increasingly aware of how gaslighting plays out in the everyday, in their own power dynamics at home, work, etc.
so do you know how gaslighting works? gaslighting can work in many different ways. for example, it could manifest as withholding information from someone and acting like something which is a long-standing concept is totally brand spanking new and a “modern dating trend” resulting from online dating and, therefore, something that people should be concerned about as modern daters rather than as human beings living in the world.
the mail‘s take on gaslighting is- as we have all come to expect of a publication whose feature coverage is approximately 83% stories on WOMAN WITH A BODY APPEARS IN PUBLIC- not great.
recognizing that there may be mail readers who have never heard of this concept before, i can see how having it defined here could be helpful and will give the mail a quiet clap for trying.
i do not want to take away from the mail‘s try but i do want to point to the ways in which the mail‘s language, as is its wont, perpetuates a hotbed of problematic assumptions.
“women are often the most susceptible victims of this,” for example. what does that mean? that women are more susceptible to believing what they are told? or that they are crazy?
also, to whom does “gaslighting” sound benign?!
it sounds more like something you’d be taught not to do in driver’s ed.
this article is basically a PSA on gaslighting and an advert for this book (WHICH WAS PUBLISHED IN 2007!!!! which begs the question of why the mail is hyping it here [oh, because it was reprinted in january of this year, which i suppose is further testament to the au currance of gaslighting]) :
(note how everything said here could also be said of the editorial agenda of the daily mail.)
but it also frames gaslighting as a somewhat normal aspect of so-called “modern dating,” normalizing it without offering any statistics on the pervasiveness.
so that gaslighting is framed as something we’re all sort of doing now, along with ghosting and all these other things i- someone involved in “modern dating”- had never heard of:
even though gaslighting isn’t included in this round-up, it is explicitly positioned in this article as a part of “modern dating” of which modern daters need to be aware.
in the grand tradition of students who are writing about a book they haven’t read, the mail then turns to psychology today and summarizes an article for us.
a pertinent section the mail seems to have missed is this:
hence lauren duca’s amazing teen vogue article on donald j. trump. what the mail portrays here exclusively as a “modern dating trend” is a psychological strategy of abuse with far broader applications and implications. but then, demanding nuance from the daily mail is like demanding syntactical clarity from donald j. trump, so that just ain’t going to be.
here is my frustration with this article: the fundamental assumption it makes is that this is all about women.
this appears to be the tack of dr. sterns’ book as well so that could, in part, account for this (though, really, i think that gives the mail far too much credit… see above, re: editorial agenda of WOMAN WITH BODY APPEARS IN PUBLIC) and perhaps it is true that women are disproportionately the victims of gaslighting behaviors.
BUT. the mail exclusively looks at gaslighting as a “modern dating trend” that affects women without once asking who the fuck is doing all this gaslighting of women.
this is a short article. i’ll give it that (i am trés generous today). maybe there wasn’t time to mention anything about men. and maybe there wasn’t room to put it in the news section and that’s why it’s in Femail. and maybe that’s why the word women appears five times and the word men doesn’t appear once. (there is a lone male pronoun in the “modern dating trends to know” box, indicating that the mail is at least aware that men have relationships too.)
THIS IS A TREND THAT CAN SURFACE IN ANY RELATIONSHIPS!!! the article tells us, immediately shifting to suggest that THIS IS A “MODERN DATING” TREND PERPETUATED BY NO ONE AND WHICH AFFECTS ONLY WOMEN. which is a pretty good way to get men off the hook here and to immediately limit the impact of the discussion at hand.
i’m not arguing that gaslighting doesn’t affect women. i’m arguing that portraying gaslighting as a “women’s issue” and focusing exclusively on the victims and effects of gaslighting while suggesting it is a part of “modern dating” and saying absolutely fuck-all about the perpetrators of it is pernicious.
men and women can gaslight. men and women can be the victims of gaslighting behavior. this isn’t a “women’s issue.” it’s a human issue.
that’s the harder question. how do we help men and women, boys and girls, develop healthier relationships? hmmmm, daily mail? where do you stand on that?