If you answered new trend in home decor, you’re about a century out of date.

Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation. It is a way of telling people, especially women, that their opinions and perceptions are out of whack with “reality.” Out of whack with the reality that the manipulator wants to believe, that is.

For a clear and articulate recent article on this topic, read Yashar Ali’s piece in The New Agenda: http://www.thenewagenda.net/2011/09/17/a-message-to-women-from-a-man-you-are-not-%E2%80%9Ccrazy%E2%80%9D/comment-page-1/#comment-76411. Read the article to find out how “gaslighting” got its name.

Whenever anyone tells you that you are “over-reacting,” “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” or “I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor” (and there are infinitely more variations), they are minimizing and discounting your feelings and perceptions. This is substantially different from someone saying to you, “Wow, I have a totally different understanding of this!” Both may be ways of expressing disagreement, but the former is an aggressive way of denying that your perspective is valid.

Sometimes the person doing the gaslighting is feeling defensive because they don’t care to be “wrong.” Other times, if the person does it on a regular basis, it is plain abuse. Once seen for what it is, it’s simple. Until then, it’s crazy-making.

In today’s self-defense class, we talked about how body language can be used to try and intimidate and invalidate others in a work environment. How to clearly recognize it, and how to use your own body language to minimize its effect on you. How to tell someone, “hey, you’re discounting my opinion, quit it!” And your options, in case they don’t.

Today’s news from Turkey: soccer clubs whose fans have been engaging in unruly and violent behavior are being “sanctioned.” Their male fans are banned from certain home games, and only women and children under the age of 12 are allowed in. For free.

Read it: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=140639405&sc=emaf

Some of the highlights:

Before the game, Fenerbahce and Manisaspor (names of the teams) players tossed flowers at the fans. The visiting team was greeted with applause, instead of the usual jeering, the Anatolia news agency reported.

“This memory will stay with me forever,” Fenerbahce captain Alex de Sousa said. “It’s not always that you see so many women and children in one game.”

Manisaspor midfielder Omer Aysan added: “It was such a fun and pleasant atmosphere.”

How interesting! Seems the soccer players also enjoyed the change.

I believe that much “social violence” is a learned (and socially, if not legally, rewarded) behavior. It will be fascinating to see if this changes the behavior of Turkish male fans over time.

Monday morning I heard on my local NPR station that the Oregon Supreme Court ruled against a free speech claim. They declined to allow this constitutional protection to cover stalking behavior.

Check out the story here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=140404459&ft=3&f=140404459

I’m sure most, if not all, of you have heard from one parental figure or another that your freedom to swing your arms around ends where your little brother’s nose begins. Or some variation thereof. The point being that your freedoms cannot take away those of somebody else.

While the precise wording defining stalking varies from state to state, a basic definition is “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear” (http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org/awareness). Over the years I’ve had several stalking victims in my classes, and it ain’t pretty. It took a LONG time after any apparent sign of their stalker faded for them to feel kinda secure. Even then, if the perpetrator contacted them years later, maybe online or a chance meeting, all the original fear and insecurity came rushing back. Being stalked causes a person to change her or his activities and habits, sometimes even compels them to move to a different apartment, city, state, or coast. The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than the general population, especially if the stalking involves being followed or having one’s property destroyed. [Eric Blauuw et al., “The Toll of Stalking,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17, no. 1 (2002):50-63.] In short, stalking robs the victim of their “pursuit of happiness.”

Two more thing to note about stalkers, and these are traits they hold in common with many other abusers. First, they feel they are the offended party, and will loudly proclaim that they are the real victims here. It is their rights (to smack their little brother’s nose) that are being abridged. And, second, they will exploit the legal system to further perpetrate harm. Or try to.

Thank you, Oregon Supreme Court, for being the good mom and telling a big brat to stop swinging his arms around the playground.

Sue Bird has a favorite super power. As she told Jon Fisch in a recent interview:

Q. If you can have one super power, what would it be?
Bird: Probably be invisible. People always want to be a fly on the wall. I could just stay in my form and just be invisible.

You can read the whole interview here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/storm/2016197126_dishin14.html

What would be your super power, if you could be a super-shero?

Phoenix Jones himself.
Read the Weekly article for yourself.

A few months ago The Seattle Weekly published an article on “Phoenix Jones” and his group of Rain City Superheros. Jones, the group’s de facto spokesman, calls himself the “Guardian of Seattle.” His goal is to keep us all safe by fighting crime in a superhero costume. Just like in the comics.

So, according to this article, he and his cohorts roam around Pioneer Square and Belltown as the 2:00 closing hour approaches, helping the party-hardy stay out of fights.

Jones seems aware that his costumed approach, while garnering press today, will eventually wear thin. “The goal is for the people to be inspired by what I do. The goal is to inspire people to not put up with petty crimes.”

So there is some discussion about whether or not he actually does help solve crimes, or keep our streets safer, or is he a total wack job running around in a rubber suit. That’s not the discussion I’m interested in.

While Jones and his colleagues are roaming around downtown city streets, most assaults against women are committed in their homes, or in someone else’s home. Where Jones and his cadre of superheros are not. All the superheros on the streets will not protect you against the abusive boyfriend in the bedroom. So, at times, many of us will have to be our own superheros.

If you were to be a superhero, who would you be? What would be your super power? Who are you sworn to protect? I’ve been asking students in my self-defense classes that very question. Let me know. Evil-doers need not apply.