Example of Gaslighting of Women in the Wild

A public facebook post by Amadi Lovelace made the following points about the recent Trump baby gaffe (this link has the transcript, but also an autoplay video):

In talking about Trump and the baby, people seem to be focusing on the idea of “who yells at a baby?” And it is kind of in line with our questions about his temperament to frame this as Trump yelling at a baby.

But he didn’t yell at a baby. He yelled at a woman who had a baby.

And more importantly, he didn’t just yell at her, he gaslighted her, telling her at first that it was OK that her baby was fussing, and then acting like she was nuts for taking him at his word and should have somehow divined magically that he actually wanted her to leave.

This was an example of three horrible things all wrapped up in one. First, Trump’s tendency toward doublespeak, saying one thing, meaning the exact opposite and acting like everyone else is bizarre and ignorant for taking his words at face value. Second, the aforementioned gaslighting, which is an always an abuse tactic, full out.

Third, and this is a little more nuanced, it’s a prime example of the insidious way in which parenting forces women, especially, out of public life. When babies aren’t welcome somewhere, when babies start crying, it is mothers who are expected to stay home, mothers who are expected to take the baby out, mothers whose lives are interrupted.

It’s not “Trump yells at a baby.”

It’s “Trump uses abusive tactics and reinforces marginalization of women with children by yelling at mother of young baby.”

Sometimes brevity is the enemy of an accurate picture of just how bad something is.

5 thoughts on “Example of Gaslighting of Women in the Wild

  1. Someone just raised the point with me that, this might not have been gaslighting, if Trump legitimately changed his mind over the course of a minute, which, the more I think about it, seems possible.

    Or I wonder, is that true? Can sometime be gaslighting if the person in this example is simply whimsical and changed their mind?

  2. so on point. I just spent a week in a remote town with v. traditional values and was inspired my female solidarity and kinship but also struck but how private their life is and restricted in public.

  3. With respect to your comment just above: cool question. Regardless of the philosophical question at hand, I tend to think it is not helpful to try to pin things on intentions, understood as inner states opaque to outsiders. I find them both metaphysically and morally dubious. So I’d prefer a definition of gaslighting that focuses on the effects on the one gaslit. I think it can totally count as gaslighting if he ‘changed his mind’ in the middle – and in fact I doubt there is a stable truth of the matter about what he intended to do with his words at the beginning and at the end of the minute. What is relevant is that the mom’s own epistemic authority and her ability to tell what in the world was going on was ripped out from under her in a very public and surely disorienting and humiliating way. So, yeah, gaslighting.

    Also great post, Stacey!

  4. @anonymous: I’m a bit skeptical of “an unusually barbed endorsement” as an explanation, but I hear the point of, it may have been less of an ejection than it seems if you’re just reading the transcript.

    @Rebecca Kukla: Agree: as I was writing that comment, I was thinking, “hmm, this sounds a bit like defining it around intentions…

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