So when men—because it’s pretty much always men—lecture you about what red-state legislatures—which are pretty much always controlled by men—are not going to do when Dobbs comes down, it’s most likely because they believe you to be either stupid or fundamentally powerless or possibly both.
This is all called gaslighting, and it’s a tactic of bullies, thugs, and authoritarians everywhere. The same Wall Street Journal opinion page that promised on July 2, 2018, that the court wouldn’t overturn Roe is now actively trying to cudgel the court into overturning Roe. Spectacularly stupid men gloat about the end of women’s freedom and then turn around and deride women as hysterical for worrying publicly about their freedom. Gaslighting is very much the point. When people in power tell you the precise thing you are witnessing isn’t happening before your eyes, it is done with a purpose. They are confident that if you let yourself be mollified by all the soothing talk about how, sure, you may feel (incorrectly, they will add) like they misled you at their confirmation hearings, but they are emphatically not misleading you now, then they can amass more power and more credibility to do more freedom-restrictive things with impunity in the future.
Whenever you’re being told by powerful people who don’t know anything—and don’t much care—about health, poverty, inequality, or how reproduction happens, that the thing that is currently happening isn’t actually happening, the important thing to do is not to argue with them. You are irrelevant to them, and traveling back to the Middle Ages with them in order to debate them on whether you are in fact a witch serves no useful purpose. Nor should you allow yourself to be distracted by fatuous comparisons between a Supreme Court leak and the events of Jan. 6, 2021. The latter was a coup attempt. The former was a systems failure of an institution that largely operates without systems. When actual Supreme Court justices tell you that they cannot plausibly discern the economic implications of an abortion ban because it’s never been empirically studied, that is also gaslighting. It’s been studied.
These sorts of distractions are another weapon of bullies who want to keep you from doing your work. Don’t be distracted. If the constituencies that have organized to end legal abortion for largely religious reasons for 50 years are telling you this has nothing to do with religion or abortion, you are being gaslit. When you are being told that women aren’t going to be harmed and that no other liberty interests are implicated and that fetal personhood is not connected to any of this, and that all these claims are somehow a certainty because polling, or because voting power, well, gaslit. But please understand that if you are being drawn into unknowable speculation about who the leaker is, or what precedents still survive post-Dobbs, or whether the Republican Party would in fact push for a federal ban, you are being distracted from Dobbs and its immediate and certain harms, which is not a luxury for which you have time.
Gaslighters thrive on calling you hysterical and emotional. They’ve been calling women hysterical and emotional for centuries. Sometimes with lethal consequences. (See witches, above.) Don’t bother performing sober fact-based disputation with a gaslighter. He thought you were hysterical when you told him in 2018 that Brett Kavanaugh would do what Brett Kavanaugh actually is now planning to do in 2022. He told you that you were hysterical when the Supreme Court allowed S.B. 8 to go into effect in September and he said so again when Dobbs was argued in December. He says you are hysterical now, and when morning-after pills, IUDs, and IVF are regulated and monitored and imperiled, he will tell you again that you’re still hysterical. That—and the reaction he hopes it will generate—is all he has. It’s your choice about whether or not to give it to him.
— Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, The People Who Promised Roe Was Safe Are Already Selling Their Next Bridge, May 16, 2022
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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