A friend of mine recently forwarded me a very interesting article about the effects of female psychology in the workplace and home. Written by a man it talks to the idea of how we devalue the opinion of women around us and write them off as being a “bitch” or being “crazy” whenever we disagree with their opinion. As women, we perpetuate this concept surrounding our fragile emotions and concede that we are less stable than our male counterparts. I mean, think about it – how often have you heard the phrases, “You are so sensitive”, “Don’t be ridiculous”, “Stop overreacting”. Sure – in certain circumstances, and with certain individuals these phrases can be pretty spot on. But for the most part it seems that whenever we are on the receiving end of such phrases we aren’t over reacting at all. In fact it feels like our reactions are spot on.
This is “Gaslighting”. A psychological term coined from the 1944 film of the same name starring Ingrid Bergman where her husband convinces her she’s crazy by flickering the gas lights on and off in an attempt to have her locked away so he can take control of all her money.
By devaluing the concerns and expressions of those around us and shaking them off as “overly sensitive” or “an overreaction” what we are really saying is, “you are crazy and don’t have a normal perception of reality”. For women, we hear this constantly over the course of a lifetime and with a constant feed from peers and the like – how can you truly believe otherwise.
What is even more surprising is when women say this about themselves. They joke and make play of the fact that “yeah – women are crazy right?!”. Well, actually no. We are entitled to our opinions and our anger just like anyone else. It is unfortunate that what usually comes on the other end of that is not someone who is willing to admit their fault, but instead someone who knows they have the upper hand and centuries worth of justification when they say, “oh don’t be so silly”
What is even more interesting is how women try and maneuver this in the workplace. I know that sometimes when I have to demand a report or a reply by EOD or ASAP, I try and temper the sting of such a hard request with a smile face. Would a man ever do this? No. Probably not. Because men are expected to be authoritative. But for women, the moment we take on the role of authority we immediately become “bitches”.
In reading this article, I was forced to reevaluate my own opinions about gaslighting, gender roles and the things that I may or may not say to my peers. It is worth a read and hopefully some introspection.