Gaslighting: A Male Allyship Perspective

Women are more prone to experience gaslighting than men. This is amplified for women from minority and marginalised groups. As male allies to women in the workplace, family and society we can become aware of this phenomenon and how to consciously deal with its manifestations.

In most cases, gaslighting is used as a form of emotional abuse against women. Gaslighters are fuelled by sexism and it works, in part, because gaslighting feeds off sexist stereotypes of women as crazy, jealous, emotional, weak, or incapable.(shethepeopletv)

I first came across ‘gaslighting’ a few years ago in relation to equity and inclusion literature. The term is based on a 1944 movie of the same title which describes a manipulative husband and a wife who begins to believe she is crazy.

In my definition, gaslighting happens when a more powerful person uses language in a way that creates a different narrative of a shared situation; where over time the more vulnerable person/group doubts and questions the validity of their lived experience.

Gaslighting draws attention to power and narrative, inviting us to reconsider how we can engage one another more consciously in ways that are respectful and inclusive.  Awareness of gaslighting gives us language to address racism, sexism and abusive power in the workplace towards building inclusive cultures.

In my poem, I capture experiences of gaslighting I often hear in my counselling and coaching especially with women.

By Stanley Arumugam

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