“I Never Said That!” - Misogyny and Gaslighting

Is Gaslighting Real?

Some people seem to believe that the term “gaslighting” is a reference to a 1938 stage play called “Gas Light” but, unfortunately, as with so many things on the internet, this simply isn’t true. There was never a play called “Gas Light” and I really can’t believe you thought there was. You clearly must get your facts from TikTok…how typical of you…

See what I did there? 

“Gaslighting” does, in fact, derive from said stage play (and subsequent wonderful movie starring the incomparable Ingrid Bergman) and refers to a form of psychological manipulation wherein the perpetrator seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a person or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or even sanity. While gaslighting can affect anyone, regardless of gender, its efficacy is markedly pronounced in environments steeped in misogyny, where societal biases and negative stereotypes about women's emotional stability and cognitive capabilities are leveraged to undermine their reality.

"I Never Said That!” - Misogyny and Gaslighting

Relationship dynamics are an intricate dance; a tango where love and healthy communication often sadly intertwine with power plays and overt psychological manipulation. But there is one particularly sinister dance partner which leaves its victims awash in a unique maze of doubt, confusion, and self-questioning, and that is  gaslighting. While a welcome cultural shift has brought this particularly malicious act into the common vernacular, one aspect that is less often discussed, yet lies at the heart of this manipulation is misogyny. This pervasive force of ingrained hatred towards women amplifies the impact of gaslighting, particularly, but not exclusively, against women, by exploiting outdated, yet frustratingly obstinate societal norms and gender stereotypes. By examining how misogyny’s deeply ingrained beliefs and attitudes towards women bolster the effectiveness of this psychological tactic, thereby perpetuating a cycle of disempowerment and silence, we’re better armed in our quest to fully unravel the oppressive fabric of this uniquely damaging tool of psychological abuse thread by thread.

Pernicious Patriarchy and Sinister Stereotypes

Misogyny, or the ingrained prejudice against women, is a catalyst for the gaslighting process. In a society that has historically painted women as inherently less rational, more emotional, and therefore less credible than men, any disagreement as to the “facts” of a situation becomes heavily tilted in the favor of the man, providing fertile soil in which to sow seeds of doubt and confusion. When a person who identifies as a woman asserts her perspective or challenges discrepancies in accounts or behaviors, the gaslighter, armed with these societal biases, can dismiss her concerns as overreactions, misinterpretations, or even hysteria, thus leveraging misogyny to erode her confidence in her own perceptions and experiences. (In fact, the term hysteria, is derived from the Greek “hystera,” meaning “uterus” and was once a diagnosable condition attributed exclusively to women and often used as a cudgel to subjugate them and erode their autonomy and sense of self.)   

However, gaslighting can just as easily utilize the malignant ropes of patriarchy on its would-be beneficiaries by denying those who identify as men their inherent right to feelings and emotions, allowing for a gaslighter of any gender identity to create doubt not just in a man’s emotional content, but in a man’s overall right to have emotions at all. The horrifying results of this form of individual and societal gaslighting can be seen most readily in our unconscionable statistics regarding men and suicide.

These destructive societal norms and gender stereotypes such as the “emotional woman” and the “rational man” play a crucial role in the efficacy of gaslighting, acting as the backdrop against which these manipulations unfold. By casting doubt on women's accounts and framing them as emotionally driven rather than fact-based, or by challenging a man’s right to have varied emotions or deep internal experiences, or to deny a person their autonomy in choosing their gender identity or expression or, worse, equating any deviation from the societal norms as somehow psychologically unsound, gaslighters weaponize these stereotypes to delegitimize their targets’ experiences and shared humanity, and to entrench their own positions of power.

Bringing Truth into the Light

So, what do we do? If we’re to oppose and fully dismantle the societal structure of misogyny that gives gaslighting its distinctive power, we must adopt a multifaceted approach that includes raising awareness, challenging societal norms, and empowering those who identify as women (and as patriarchy-smashing men) to trust their perceptions and raise their voices. It necessitates a collective effort to recognize and call out gaslighting behaviors, particularly by those who share a gender identity with the perpetrator of the abuse. Education and advocacy are vital in shifting the narrative, promoting an understanding of the ways in which misogyny undergirds gaslighting as a psychologically abusive technique, and fostering environments where women's voices are heard and validated.

This form of empowerment plays a pivotal role in combating gaslighting, promoting individual safety and moving our society forward. By encouraging women to trust their intuition, seek supportive communities, and affirm the validity of their experiences helps to rebuild the very confidence that gaslighting seeks to erode. Solidarity among women, and allies, in identifying and standing against gaslighting, creates a collective strength that can challenge and eventually shift the dynamics of power and manipulation simmering under so many individual relationships and our societal discourse.

Reclaiming our Voice

Misogyny supports and amplifies the psychological manipulation known as gaslighting in particularly subtle and insidious ways. It’s our responsibility to recognize the mechanisms through which gender biases and stereotypes contribute to this form of abuse and, by doing so, we can begin to dismantle the structures that allow it to thrive. But understanding and exposing these dynamics isn’t enough. We must also be diligent in fostering resilience, empowerment, and a collective refusal to allow the manipulation of reality to silence our voices. In reclaiming our power and trust in our perceptions, we not only identify the myriad ways misogyny and patriarchy are emblematic of a societal structure perpetuating harm for all those who struggle under its weight, but actively fight against it. In this way, we’re paving the way for a future not just free of gaslighting, but where purposeful and malevolent manipulation of any kind is met with unwavering confidence and solidarity on the side of truth and safety for all people.

Read our related blogs about Women of Color in the Workplace and changing your own attitudes and perceptions in Becoming A Better You, then check out our resources on trauma, abuse, and recovery at or learn more about how to empower your mental health by managing stress and anxiety

Lifeologie Counseling has the resources and expertise to help you support your mental health! Click here to connect with one of our amazing therapists who are ready to help you on your journey. Or book an appointment with me in North Carolina, where I specialize in working with clients struggling with developmental and complex trauma and in helping people craft the life they deserve and desire. If you feel like you’re experiencing gaslighting in your life, or are looking for a partner in combating the destructive forces of misogyny, Lifeologie Counseling is here for you. Meet our many specialists and find out which therapist in our practice is right for you.

About Richard Aab

Richard Aab, LCMHCA, has a BFA in Theatre from NYU and received his Clinical Mental Health Counselor, M.Ed. (Master’s in Education) from North Carolina State University. He is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate (LCMHC-A) and Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC). Richard has a deep commitment to working with individuals overcoming developmental and childhood trauma, and he combines cutting-edge, neuroscientific research with traditional existential and behavioral therapeutic modalities. He is supervised by Elizabeth Grady, LCMHCS, and sees adult clients by telehealth.

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