I just saw on Sexual Violence Centre Cork‘s page that the term “gaslighting” is the word chosen by Merriam-Webster as the word of the year 2022 with searches on its website for the word spiking by 1,740% in 2022.
What a thing to witness! What a cultural shift! In awareness at least – the behaviour certainly hasn’t disappeared. If anything, its ‘territory’ has expanded. But it’s always good to have the language for a phenomenon. It literally makes it easier to talk about it.
I was sitting with my husband outside a coffee shop in my hometown of Youghal the day before the much anticipated Ironman 22 last week. It was a glorious hot sunny day and we were basking in the excitement and pre-event buzz that was taking over the town. I felt a gorgeous huge pride and affection bursting out through my chest and I was loving every moment of it… This really was the perfect day. Just perfect. And everyone was happy, smiling and being lovely.
And I gotta say it does help my mood to be surrounded by near ‘perfect’ specimens of the human form. I am in awe of our potential, our strength, our resilience. (How DO they have the discipline to do all that training? I mean, I do know I suppose, we all do, I get it, it’s just not for me.) But my goodness a healthy human being is a beautiful creature. If only that was our effortless, default, post-chocloate-and-taytos setting… but I digress as usual.
These perfect, almost alien like creatures were everywhere that day. Just parading past us as if they were normal people. The cheek. Yup – it was people-watching paradise!
And two of them were approaching our table. The woman in front, her partner behind. The perfect magazine couple. She had sculpted legs and steady stride – how did she get her hair to shine like that? Did she weave teenyweeny little nano light strings in there? As for him – well he was fresh out of a toothpaste/Nike/ Calvin Klein sorta hybrid ad – just wow. I sipped my coffee and thought gosh, these people are perfect – Insta-Perfect… The kind of perfect to which we’re taught to aspire and to emulate.
She veered to avoid another Adonis and his Goddess partner walking in the opposite direction and BANG!! She grazed her beautiful leg on the table next to us. Just a tad – no blood or anything. She wasn’t hurt. She kept going. The guy at the table barely registered it and went back to his paper. But her partner sure registered it.
“Jesus Christ woman! That’s what you get for not going in a straight line – idiot! – LOL” And he rolled his eyes laughing and looking at us all, wanting us to join in. “Guys, I apologise for her…jeez.” Shook his head and a dark rage clouded his perfect face. He was serious. Oh, no…
All that beauty, gone in an instant. Wow.
She kept walking, a slight tightening of the shoulders, didn’t miss a step. Kept ploughing forward as if nothing happened.
My husband gaped at me and I back at him. I gaped at the guy next to me and at a woman across. We all silently conversed, shaking our heads, our eyes communicating empathy and outrage and disbelief. Christ, that poor woman … what must she experience in private if he’s this bold in public?
How many near injuries, digs, insults, public criticisms, shamings? How many times has she ploughed on as if nothing had hurt her?
The atmosphere was changed now, polluted by his actions, our shock, our disbelief at what we had witnessed and in a sense also, what we allowed… Should we have said something? It was one of those situations where a million ideas come too late. Some of them perhaps not legal…
My coffee grew cold. There were surely at the other end of the street by now.
She grazed her beautiful strong leg on the table next to us. Just a tad – no blood or anything. She wasn’t hurt.
You’ll see a lot of posts today giving you the grim figures about the gender pay gap (it’s real), physical assault in intimate relationships (it’s real, and it happens more to women), judgement on image (yes, real, and still happening more to women, and yes, even by women, I know, but please look at the “why” before using it as an excuse for poor behaviour), sexualisation (just look at almost every ad, ever), normalisation of violence against women in porn (please don’t tell me women enjoy it),the low representation of women in positions of power, authority, management, STEM jobs and so on, and so on… ad nauseum.
But y’know the way we get used to smells eventually…
You’re there, in the pit, with your family let’s say. You’re all in there together, up to your necks. You’ve tilted your head up and back to make sure you can breathe. It means you can’t see straight ahead but at least you can breathe. It’s getting tiring though, and your neck hurts. You can’t fully relax – if you do you might get lots of shit thrown at you. Worst case scenario you might drown. At the very least it might just get in your face and up your nose – ya, no, messy, not worth it.
Yay us – what a year! A lot has happened this year. A lot of it really, really terrible. We’ve talked about Weinstein, #MeToo, Rape Culture, Porn, Women and the church, our own entertainment industry and its grim history of sexual misconduct. Our next challenges are to respectfully debate Repeal the 8th, to continue to #changetheconversation, to keep up the momentum of reform for ourselves, our partners, our children. It’s clear that terrible things have happened.
It’s been pretty harrowing listening to today’s coverage of the case of domestic violence that culminated in the murder of a young mother. The man, who strangled his wife and allegedly threatened to kill her on more than one occasion is pleading guilty to manslaughter, not to murder. That’s one issue I have with this case.
The real issue I have, closely related, is that nature of his reasoning – he says he was ‘provoked’.