Every month, Women’s Republic will write a letter to its female readers, aiming to empower women by having honest conversations about how we subconsciously put men on a pedestal. The series will help women to de-centre themselves from the men in their lives, unlock their ‘shakti’ (power) and re-focus their energies on enhancing their own mental and physical wellbeing. Please reach out to us if you want something covered or have a question you’d like us to answer.

Dear Ladies,

Today we’re talking about the shared experience of being gaslighted, how to spot it, and how to not let it break you mentally.

According to Psychology Today, ‘gas-lighting is a form of manipulation control that causes the victim to doubt themselves and/or their identity and self-worth.’

Whilst gas-lighting is a technique often used by abusers to control their victims, it is more common than you think. I want to be very clear when I say this. You don’t have to be in an abusive relationship to experience gas-lighting, and neither does your partner have to be abusive. You don’t even have to be in a relationship to be gaslighted, as many women have experienced this at home and in the workplace.

Women’s Republic conducted a poll asking its readers to identify the different ways in which they’ve experienced being gaslighted. Over 300 of you answered the poll! One of you even asked why ‘all the above’ wasn’t an option! If it was possible, believe me, it would have been an option. Here are just some of the experiences our readers shared:

‘He would constantly belittle me…hurt me emotionally and physically…I started to alter reality and my life according to him.’

‘I was vulnerable to him…now he tells me I disrupted his mental peace.’

‘Ghosted, then expected to behave the same way after receiving a perfunctory sorry.’

‘Men never back down.’

Of the four options that were listed, being trivialised and emotionally blackmailed were the most popular choices. Let me further clarify what it means to experience the two in our interactions with men;

  1. emotionally blackmailed- being emotionally manipulated by men into doing things for them
  2. trivialised – made to feel less significant or have your thoughts dismissed

Both of these forms of gas-lighting are used to create power dynamics in relationships. As we know how hard it is for women to establish themselves in patriarchal structures, experiences of being emotionally blackmailed and/or trivialized by men are common.

So, how do we stop ourselves from falling for this again?

We can’t. Of course, now that we’ve discussed how common and subtle gas-lighting can be, your awareness of this is one way in which you may prevent yourself from interacting with men who use these methods of control. But the truth is, there is no way to guarantee that you won’t experience gaslighting ever again. The only thing we can do? Work on ourselves – this will be our defence.

In situations where we’re being trivialised, it’s important to maintain confidence in what you’re saying.

  • Be unapologetic when expressing your thoughts, feelings and views! Learn to separate your affection/love for the men in your lives, from your right to be taken seriously.
  • Do not take it as a sign that you are wrong if you are made to feel significant – misogyny is just hard to permeate through!

In situations where you’re being emotionally blackmailed, develop a strong core.

  • By this, I do not mean that you should continue to be manipulated. Guilt is key to emotional blackmail – try limiting the number of times you allow yourself to feel this emotion. No person is worth upsetting our mental health over.

There is a thin line between abuse and the obnoxious behaviour that men are prone to. You should be aware of this. Practising detachment from male relationships/interactions will allow you to prioritize your physical and mental well being, without wearing yourself out by ‘loving in excess.

I’m going to leave a quote here by feminist Marilyn Frye, for you to ponder over.

‘In their relations with women, what passes for respect is kindness, generosity or paternalism; what passes for honour is removal to the pedestal. From women, they want devotion, service and sex. Heterosexual male culture is homoerotic; it is man-loving.’

The Politics of Reality

Recognise your Shakti (power) ladies. We have so much of it – and we’re just giving it away for free.

Until next time,