It is not intentional, and I have not sought them out particularly, but I have read four books in what I call the “gaslighting” genre in the last several months, including a book I just finished called The Wife by Alafair Burke (recommended by a reader here). I never know that these books will be from the gaslighting genre until I pick them up, but I have now become very good at detecting early on where these books are heading. They all seem to involve guys that are too good to be true, guys who completely sweep women off their feet, promise them perfect lives, etc., and by all outward appearances, they are perfect husbands and boyfriends.
But at home, these perfect men are completely different: They’re controlling, obsessive, and abusive. They take away their partner’s freedom. No matter how strong they are, or how powerful they are in their positions, the men find their weaknesses and break them down until the women are no longer working; they’ve lost their friends and support groups; and they’re completely miserable bordering on suicidal. They’re chained to these relationships — both metaphorically and sometimes literally — and the men have cultivated such perfect reputations that the women fear that no one will believe them if they try and explain what’s going on. I’ve read enough of these books and recognized in them a pattern so similar that I can’t help but to believe they are rooted in the reality of a certain kind of man.
I don’t know if these books have always been popular, either, or if I have just now started to stumble upon them en masse, but when I read Chloe Dykstra’s Medium piece yesterday, I recognized the exact same pattern in the actions of Chris Hardwick. It was uncanny, really, and Chris Hardwick’s response to those allegations fit, almost to a tee, how these gaslighting men would react in the books. They don’t get mad; they don’t get defensive; they reframe the narrative; they make themselves look like the good guy; they make the woman look — and probably feel — out of her damn mind.
That’s exactly what Chris Hardwick did in his response to Chloe Dykstra.
“These are very serious allegations and not to be taken lightly which is why I’ve taken the day to consider how to respond. I was heartbroken to read Chloe’s post. Our three year relationship was not perfect — we were ultimately not a good match and argued — even shouted at each other — but I loved her, and did my best to uplift and support her as a partner and companion in any way and at no time did I sexually assault her.”
“When we were living together, I found out that Chloe cheated on me, and I ended the relationship. For several weeks after we broke up, she asked me to get back together with me and even told me she wanted to have kids with me, ‘build a life’ with me and told me that I was ‘the one,’ but I did not want to be with someone who was unfaithful.”
“I’m devastated to read that she is now accusing me of conduct that did not occur. I was blindsided by her post and always wanted the best for her. As a husband, a son, and future father, I do not condone any kind of mistreatment of women.”
It’s so transparent. I hope that social media is not so easily persuaded by what is so clearly a case of gaslighting. I don’t know what else to add except that we believe Chloe. The nice thing about these books, too, is that in the end, the men always get what’s coming to them.