My Internet has been trash, so I finally sat down and read an article the dives into gaslighting as a particularly devastating moral wrong.
“Turning Up the Lights on Gaslighting” carefully defines the term, which has been distorted since it transitioned from a term only used in therapeutic practice to everyday life. Something I may write about later, if there’s interest.
Here’s how author Kate Abramson defines it—and I agree.
…a form of emotional manipulation in which the gaslighter tries (consciously or not) to induce in someone the sense that her reactions, perceptions, memories, and/or beliefs are not just mistaken, but utterly without grounds.
But what I really enjoyed about the article is the framing of gaslighting as a moral issue. It's a particular type of manipulation and attempt at control that is particularly egregious due to the violation of the target. I’ll admit I am not a huge philosophy/ethics nerd and I never considered gaslighting through this lens.
Gaslighting isn't just about getting rid of the target's independent thoughts, it's also about removing their moral standing that give their thoughts any weight. And the effects of gaslighting, where the target betrays their self, is particularly morally egregious.
Some reasons why:
Gaslighting dehumanizes (something abusers often to do their victims to cope with the fact they're harming another being).
...it would seem that insofar as I regard someone as 'crazy', I should regard her...as the object of treatment and management, rather than a member of the moral community of whom demands may be made."
Gaslighting takes advantage of what’s central to the human experience and shouldn't include trauma or betrayal and distorts it.
To use someone's love as a tool for gaslighting her is to take a capacity that's central in moral life and more generally and pervert it; it's to take a capacity that is of incalculable value and turn it into a tool for the destruction of the person who loves.
Gaslighting—even in a micro sense between individuals—upholds structural injustice that takes advantage of the normalization of sexism, racism, and other -isms AND perpetuates it.
"It is a distinctive moral wrong, one that has political and social dimensions, in that it unjustly, and by means of discriminatory norms, limits the psychologically real possibility for a woman going forward, and furthermore, in so doing, constitutes a moment of preserving and reinforcing larger structures of injustice."
I found the article compelling as a way to urge others to care about gaslighting as an interpersonal and societal ill. We need to intervene when we see it happening. We need to make sure we’re not doing it ourselves.