I got to catch a NPR interview with Christy Pichichero, who is an author and professor of history at George Mason University, talking about the new term she coined – discriminatory gaslighting.
In the segment, Christy explains that:
“…discriminatory gaslighting happens when dominant social groups use these psychological tricks to maintain their power and privilege by sowing self-doubt and dependence in minoritized groups.”
She went on to share that she had been mistaking gaslighting for imposter syndrome – the internalized feeling that we are not good enough and will be exposed as a fraud. Christy was told by a white classmate that she was only accepted into Princeton because she was a black woman. (ugghhh) She internalized that assumption and it went on to plague her for years. Until…she had a revelation! 💥
“I didn’t have imposter syndrome. I had been a victim of an insidious psychological manipulation driven by prejudice and pursued for the purposes of discrimination. And this type of manipulation needed a name.”
I can’t tell you the number of times a week I hear:
“I KNOW it’s imposter syndrome, Lindsey. It makes no sense.”
After the talks I give, during coaching calls, on catch-up chats with colleagues.
Well, friend, is it imposter syndrome?
Or could it be that we live and work in a patriarchal system that sustains itself by suppressing the power of women by making us believe we don’t know what we’re talking about? That tells us we need to fix ourselves? A system that benefits from us working against one other than with each other?
In her 1993 speech “Scholars, Witches and Other Freedom Fighters” at Salem State College, Gloria Steinem reads this excerpt of “The Low Road” by Marge Piercy:
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you
But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army
Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.
It goes on one at a time,
It starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.
WE are in this together. All of us. Not just women. Every single one of us has a role in standing up for ourselves and the people around us. It’s not “all in our heads.”