an open letter to catherine deveny

Dear Catherine,

I realise you don’t know me but I feel compelled to write. I’m a close friend of Chrys Stevenson and, because I follow Chrys’ writing, I’ve been aware of some of the furore that has erupted since your appearance on Q&A on Monday night (10 September, 2012).

In a previous incarnation, I was a fundamentalist Christian and pastor’s wife. That’s not the relatively bland statement it may appear. I, and my children, were profoundly damaged by Christianity and, some years after leaving, we are still recovering. In any case, I thought you might like to know how that particular Q&A program looked to someone like me.

I understand, I think, what you mean when you describe Archbishop Peter Jensen as pure evil. His conduct on Q&A reminded me very much of how my ex-husband used to drive me to the point of blind rage, and then try to get me to believe I was the one at fault for losing my rag. It’s part of a clever technique I now know is called gaslighting.

Ingrid Bergman in ‘Gaslight’ (MGM, 1944)

Gaslighting is a term coined (from the movie ‘Gaslight‘) to describe a particular form of psychological or emotional abuse. The object is to cause the target to question themselves and their perception of reality. At its most extreme, the aim is to make a sane person appear demented (sometimes even to the point where they believe themselves to be going mad). The technique often works by contrasting the calm, reasonableness of the abuser against the increasingly emotional demeanour of the target. Gaslighting is often, but by no means exclusively, perpetrated by men against women; societal prejudices that position women as nervous, hysterical and less prone to logical reasoning work in the abuser’s favour. The abuser adopts the role of ‘smiling assassin’ and exploits the victim’s emotional response in order to discredit them. That abuse has, in fact, occurred is routinely denied.

Gaslighting is generally a very slow process, but while there was nothing gradual about what Jensen did, and, although I can’t imagine a whole cathedral of Archbishops being sufficient to convince you that you were the one at fault, Catherine, Jensen’s behaviour had all the hallmarks of a contrived strategy to make you look unattractive at best, and crazy at worst.

And both of those desired outcomes are tied to your being a woman. Making you seem ugly and mad is achieved through Jensen appearing the precise personification of elegant rationality and educated white maleness, all the while making vile and even outrageous statements, the import of which slide past the audience because of the persona and relational dynamic Jensen has crafted. It’s clever, and Jensen appears to be an expert. I imagine he’s been doing it for most of his professional life – and has been lauded for it. Without ever launching a personal attack, Jensen was able to make those watching join him in criticising you for being passionate, articulate, intelligent and a woman. Confronted with a communication style that should have raised little comment, viewers became embarrassed that you even existed, and most of them probably weren’t even aware of the sleight of hand being practiced.

Having spent many years in the church (where I found life as an intelligent woman who has trouble with submission fraught with difficulty) I noticed while I was watching Q&A, that two conversations were taking place in my living room. One was audible: like many viewers, I surprised myself by frequently shouting at the television in response to Jensen’s comments and demeanor; I was enraged on your behalf. The other conversation was internal, the vestigial voice of the church as I knew it – of male pastors, of God: “You are woman. Sit still! Be prettier! Take up less space! Be less powerful! Make less noise! Be nicer! We like you better when you are nicer.”

Women in the church are, in fact, largely controlled through what I call ‘the Cult of Nice’. That you – a woman – were passionate and disagreeably vocal on national television broke more seldom-spoken Christian rules than I can count. But the worst of your crimes was that you were proud and unafraid. A less practiced player may have shown himself to be overtly angry about that. But Jensen’s strategy, I think, was not to oppose you, but to destroy you – by making the rest of us ashamed of your strengths.

You, Catherine, violated the biblical doctrine of women’s ‘shamefacedness’, which, while almost invisible in contemporary Australia retains, I believe, the power to influence even many of the secular and liberal among us.

1 Timothy 2:8-10 (KJV)

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.


1 Corinthians 14:34 (KJV)

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

and again

1 Timothy 5:14 (KJV)

I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

As, no doubt, you know, there are more where those came from.

On Monday night, Catherine, you embodied everything that certain forms of Christianity despise about women. I know how disgusted many of the Christians I once knew would have been to see you in action. Still, I have found it astonishing that with scarcely a word, Jensen was able to make even his enemies and many of your supporters believe that you were guilty of some great transgression. Such is the power of the practiced gaslighter.

There will be Christian women – and perhaps secular women too – all over Australia this week who, whether traditionally feminine women or not, will be doing their darndest to show that they are Not Like Catherine Deveny. They will want others to know that they are good women. I imagine there once were black Americans provoked to similar attitudes in response to public criticisms of that most troublesome black American, Martin Luther King Jr, and for very similar reasons.

I am not proud to admit it but I also felt the power of Jensen’s pull on my own mind. I felt it first, in fact, when I watched you engage with former Howard government minister Peter Reith on Go Back to Where You Came From: a desire to side with Nice, a sense that I ought to feel embarrassed and repelled at your bold talk, your making yourself unpleasant to those who remained ‘better controlled’. I felt instructed to be silent, smaller, more pleasant to see and hear, more submissive, less trouble. Nicer. So this is me saying, “Fuck that!”

I am deeply sorry that you have found yourself the target of so many ludicrous and vicious attacks this week. I am not suggesting that others have no right to take issue with your views, or your delivery of them. I’m not suggesting that you conducted yourself perfectly, nor am I suggesting you should aspire to do so. I’m not suggesting that you should care whether you please me, or anyone else, or that you need, or even want, my support or appreciation. But I am suggesting that the deeply personal vitriol you have encountered may be explained by the strategies I have described.

And I want to put my hand up as one woman who values your contribution, and who, because of my own experience as a Christian woman, can see Jensen’s game plan for what it was. Perhaps, in some small way, that matters.

Very sincerely,



138 thoughts on “an open letter to catherine deveny

  1. Team Oyeniyi says:

    Now much of my battle makes sense. I was loud, outspoken and wouldn’t sit down and “be nice”.

    Thank you, from me, for me, not just Catherine.

  2. dcarm85 says:

    Hear hear! Fantastic letter Lady Jane! 😉

    • Not Noice, No More says:

      Jane, I have an oh so very similar past, was well versed in nice, trained to be a ‘lady’, to submit to always that which was male, to never display anger publicly and I have been gas lighted by the very best of them, by both men and women.

      Liberation came very much from learning that it was perfectly ok to swear and say words such as fuck, to let it rip if necessary. It turned out to be one of the cheapest and most effective forms of therapy.

      FUCK NICE 😉

      dcarm85 I’m with you, great letter.

  3. Well said, Jane. Thank you for explaining and illustrating what happens when strong women refuse to sit down, shut up, and look pretty while teh menz handle all the big decisions.

  4. Jane, your insight is remarkable and your compassion deep. The characteristics you describe here are reminiscent of a psychopath. Thank you for this analysis.

  5. I agree with you. Catherine did a fantastic job of not accepting the rot that was coming out of Jensen’s mouth. Good for her, and thanks Jane for your letter

  6. […] so, last night Jane published “An Open Letter to Catherine Deveny”  on her blog Putting her Oar […]

  7. Digby says:

    Hi Jane,

    What a brave, insightful bit of writing.

    While having had some understanding of the phenomonen you’ve spoke about, I had never heard described with such precision this powerful psyco-social baseline, pervasive but beneath our level of awareness. It is evil. It is entrenched. And it confounds because it’s an inherently slippery thing, its practioners hard to pin down. It lets the most ‘abhorrent’ substance slip by because the genial style with which it is conveyed makes the medicine go down. We forget sometimes that outrage is the appropriate response to bigotry and that just because the purveyors of this stuff have a measured, calm demeanor don’t make the bile any less palatable.

    And it needs to be called.

    As you suggest, we feel uncomfortable when a woman has the temerity call a spade a fuckin shovel. This discomfort stems from some unwritten compact in parts of the community that women must be nice, nurturing, reasonable, long-suffering and inexpressive vassals. Beings that subordinate their own rich needs and wants, desires and passion – their own will – to that of a thin, cardboard template of womanhood. I’ve seen this gas lighting effect you describe happen before (it sounds like it happened to Catherine Deveny the other night) but I’ve never heard it described with such precision.

    The double standard that it is only men who can be forthright, aggressively expressive or just plain old passionate is a shitty furphy and one we all need to think a lot more about.

    I’ll certainly be more attentive too having read your piece.

    Great writing. Great insights. Thanks Jane.

    Regards, from a strong bloke with lots of strong – very much three dimensional – women in his life. And loving every bit of it!

  8. Although I was not raised in any religion, I have encountered a milder form of this (as, I’m sure, have all women) in society’s general instruction that I should “behave like a lady”. Early on I realised this was code for “sit down, be quiet, and keep your legs together”. (The latter, of course, to ensure that you weren’t taken for a slut, one of the most horrible of denunciations.)

    I admire you for speaking out. We all should stand up and speak out.

  9. Adamm says:

    Great letter Jane. Jensen is a smug git.

  10. The joy of social media for me is finding strong, intelligent female voices, as I live in a small community where my voice was ignored for years because I was an odd sock wearing, feminist greenie and henceforth never to be trusted or listened to. Your letter to Catherine resonates with me on SO MANY LEVELS.
    Thank you. and to Catherine, if you read this article and read these comments. You keep on talking because there are an awful lot of us out here listening to you and yelling at the Jensens in our televisions.

  11. stevethompson49 says:

    I understand and accept the comments about Archbishop Peter Jensen. I’m no fan of his or his views.

    I agree with most of Catherine’s views but her “delivery” is a problem for me. Her loud mouth might win an argument but her regular use of pseudo-facts, exaggeration, hyperbole and insults will never win the debate.

    • susan says:

      It doesn’t matter if Catherine never wins a debate. Pinpointing her ‘delivery’ above her views and the fact that she actually is a person so passionate about speaking out against the views of influential people in society, in a public forum, is one of the points in Jane’s blog.
      Those who are against Jensen’s views, as you mentioned you are, but can be psychological swayed into turning the main outcome of the debate into Catherine’s ‘delivery’ or behaviour is what Jane is trying to point out – gaslighting method of abuse.

      • stevethompson49 says:

        “It doesn’t matter if Catherine never wins a debate. ”

        It certainly does matter. If we are going to change the way that Australians treat refugees then we need people with ideas and passion and the ability to put those ideas in the public debate. Those people can, and we need them to, “win the debate”. But if people with the ideas fail in the way in which they deliver those ideas then we lose the debate.

        I agree with most of what Catherine has put however her delivery means that she wins arguments but she loses the debate. I want people like Catherine to win the debate. I’m encouraging her and others to put their arguments in a more constructive manner.

        And for you to use the cheap “gaslighting” insult against me is absurd. You have absolutely no idea who I am.

      • Well said I am getting so much strength knowing there are so many rational clear thinking people out there putting into words what I find hard to voice

    • Team Oyeniyi says:

      Steve, you know I love you (Twitter friends, for other readers here), but I can’t help thinking the backlash would have been less had Catherine been a man yet spoken the same way.

      I agree Catherine was “strident” in her approach, but I’ve heard male politicians be worse.

      I can be pretty outspoken. In fact I once got told, in a different forum, I couldn’t be a woman because I write like a man.

      When #SBSGoBack was trending, praise was heaped on Catherine. Then #QandA and suddenly she is a witch.

      I think Catherine was angered. Have you read her blog about the show? It explains a lot about her reaction.

      • stevethompson49 says:

        “but I can’t help thinking the backlash would have been less had Catherine been a man”.

        For some maybe, but not for me. During #SBSGoBack I was critical of Peter Reith and the others while agreeing with Catherine Deveny for the things they were saying but critical of both Peter and Catherine for the way they were arguing it.

      • stevethompson49 says:

        “Have you read her blog about the show? It explains a lot about her reaction.”

        I have now but it hasn’t changed my view. I understood what drives her from watching #SBSGoBack and the followup and her tweets.

    • Tess(the travelling tranny) Emery says:

      Thank you Steve Thompson I agree with you about Catherine.

      I tend to think some people get a little full of themselves and go over the top just to be heard and appear to be right.
      Jesus did not hate woman, the only people to stay with Jesus as he hung on that Cross were Woman as the men including Paul ran away scared they would be next.

      It’s a complex debate and both sides need to stop playing games!

    • Tiki Swain says:

      Steve, I can see where you’re coming from as my scientific background (and preference for logic) also predispose me to dislike pseudo-facts and hyperbole. However, every time you or anyone makes a statement against a “loud mouth”, we all should stop and think – would we have used that phrase, or even noticed the loudness of the delivery, if the person we were listening to was male? Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes it isn’t. I’m all for against hyperbole. But I’m also against subconscious double standards, the ones we apply in forming our own opinions without even realising we’re applying them. I’m not saying we shouldn’t ever call someone a loudmouth, but I am saying we should think about it before we do. Give our own opinions a quick reality check before speaking. And consider if, maybe, being loud is the only way someone can feel heard and not ignored or left aside.

      • stevethompson49 says:

        “. But I’m also against subconscious double standards”

        If you really are, then you should not apply your preconceived ideas to me. You’re presuming that just because I’m male and Catherine is female, that I’m predisposed to criticising the way in which she delivers her message. That’s quite wrong.

    • tamlyn123 says:

      Stevethompson, you have, in a handful of words, confirmed everything Jane described. The way in which your mind has been manipulated by Jensen’s accomplished gaslighting of Catherine Devenny is demonstrated in your leading description of: “her loud mouth” and subsequent dismissal of her arguments, a dismissal which seems based more on your dislike of that mouth, than on a careful analysis of what she was saying.
      For what it’s worth, I recognised Jensen’s tactic, and found it as distasteful, as infuriating, and as comprehensively, insultingly dismissive as he no doubt expected Devenny would do. That so few others of her audience saw what was happening is a dubious tribute to the level of Jensen’s skill.

      • stevethompson49 says:

        This sort of reply is the reason that I was reluctant to get involved in this discussion. You’ve just done exactly what you’ve accused me of. You are being “insultingly dismissive “.

        If you had read carefully rather than rushing to your keyboard, you would have read that I agreed with the content but not the delivery of Catherine’s argument.

      • Team Oyeniyi says:

        I will defend Steve on this one. I do not believe he applied any double standard. While I have never met him in person, I have communicated with him for many months and I believe Steve would have the same objections whether Catherine was male or female.

        I may not agree with him 100% on this one, but I do not for one minute think he is gas lighting. I had never heard the term before, but I believe I’ve seen it action in the past.

        We are all different. I love Catherine, I understand her passion and her frustration, but even I agree she may have been better to fight fire with fire on #qanda. I accept that some people will have found her style not to their liking while still agreeing with her arguments.

    • James says:

      But stevethompson, forgive me, this is exactly what Jane is writing about. Some very clever person did an analysis of this entire programme (I’ve misplaced the link) and has recorded things like the level of volume, interruptions, words uttered for the whole programme etc – and Catherine actually comes out considerably lower in all counts than most of the other participants. BUT by deliberately sitting next to her (he insisted on it prior to the show), Jensen’s gas-lighting tactics are given even more power – because, in comparison with his softly spoken, albeit no less toxic delivery, she only APPEARS to be a loudmouth. This is the WHOLE point of Jane’s writing. I don’t think she was insulting either, by the way. Because she called his pathetic non-debate (whilst insisting he WELCOMED the debate!) for what it was. A bare faced lie.

      • jane douglas says:

        The clever person who did the analysis of the Q&A program was Chrys Stevenson, James 🙂 Here’s the link to her excellent post:

      • stevethompson49 says:

        “, forgive me, ” That was the point of Jane’s article. There is no need to apologise before expressing your point of view.

        But I’m not talking about just the QandA program. I’ve been following Catherine for a while. I agree with most of what she types and says.

        And I’m well aware of the tactics of Peter Jensen; I’ve seen it many times before and been on the receiving end myself plenty of times, just haven’t put that particular name to it. Being the victim of this “gaslighting” is not the exclusive domain of the female, nor it is perpetrated only by the male. I’ve found it to be very common in the clergy, middle-management and particularly the medical profession (towards patients and their parents).

  12. Di Pearton says:

    Thank you for this wonderful clear explanation of Jensen’s behaviour. As a greenie/atheist/socialist/feminist I frequently encounter the smug attitude of the suited male. They are dangerous, and they are wrong. They are becoming more militant because they know they are losing their influence on society. Expect more backlash, and let’s respond with whatever we want, because their rules are dumb and we don’t need any!

  13. Alison says:

    Excellent post and describes the situation perfectly. Yes, I have known men to use this strategy, occasionally women too. Best strategy is to keep disagreeing, not to back down, but also remain completely calm. Hard, but can be achieved through much practise.

  14. GEMS says:

    Thanks for your well written letter. I hadn’t watch the program and expected all sorts of fireworks. Instead I saw an arrogant smug man who seemed to believe that by saying he was open minded means that he is. Thanks for the term “gaslighting” , it’s powerful and appropriate. I found his manner chilling. I also noticed the politician , Concietta’ I think her name was , seems to believe that she doesn’t need o have opinions, she just needs to know what ” the majority” says. Also chilling.

  15. Elisabeh says:

    I’m with others here about the strength of this letter and the appalling nature of tactics described to discredit strong women. There seems to be a bit of a backlash going on in Melbourne at the moment, hopefully throughout Australia, on the denigration of women in powerful places, particularly in politics. Catherine’s experience here as described in Jane’s letter alerts me to this same tendency to silence women and I applaud you both, Catherine and Jane, at speaking out. Women are often attacked on their delivery, while the substance gets ignored. It is an undermining strategy and needs to be exposed. Thanks Jane for introducing us to the concept of gaslighting. In my experience, it happens a lot.

  16. Jennie says:

    Thank you so much for this Jane.

    I have been very ambivalent about Catherine for some time – fascinated by much of what she says, but repelled by much of it too. While I still think she can take things too far on occasion, you have really helped me to understand myself much better as a woman who was brought up Catholic and who has always tried (too hard) to be ‘good’. I understand myself and all women a bit better now and am profoundly grateful to both you and Catherine for this (not that Catherine would care, she says she cares no more for people’s admiration than she does for their censure).

    I also have a 23 year old daughter in an abusive relationship and strongly believe she is the subject of ‘gaslight’ as you explain it. Perhaps your explanation will help me to find a way to show my daughter what is happening to her more clearly … thanks again …

    • James says:

      Jennie, thanks for your wonderful, open post! It’s comments like yours that give me hope that we will one day stop this ridiculous oppression and misogyny that comes hand in hand (it seems) with all the organised religions and the MEN that dominate them (and their sheepish ‘flock’).

  17. dyoll09 says:

    Reblogged this on AZIAZONE.

  18. Brett Stokes says:

    Recently I said – “They pretend they are wanting to debate, but all they do is spout lies and then accuse us of being emotional … ”

    I was talking about the media interaction I have with uranium industry advocates, especially on ABC radio a couple of days ago …

    The Nuke Gang are killing our kids, and they use our media to spout lies and call us emotional if we challenge the lies.

    This is a mass media version of the “gaslighting” as described in this fine articie, thanks very much for the insights.

  19. Dr Sally Cockburn says:

    Congratulations on your erudite post Jane. Your insight into your own reactions and the evaluation of this behaviour by corpoorate religion and some other men is so perfectly put. I know that so many women could benefit from reading your thoughts and I hope all women read this . Are you on twitter so I can follow you ?

  20. Gabby says:

    Thank you Jane. I have been following the conversations since Monday’s Q & A with interest. I am enormously grateful for your contribution to this dialogue. I can honestly say I am seeing and feeling the issues being discussed in a whole new light. This is a big deal. Thank you to you & the incredible women who are telling it as it is.

  21. ken says:

    So because Jensen was polite, not raising his voice, presenting his view without interrupting, calling those that disagree with him dinosaurs and effectively disillusioned idiots, he was in fact using an age old technique you call gaslighting. One which is not really concerned about the actual content of his thoughts but is rather, for all intents and purposes, a calculated and masterful technique used for the express purpose of repressing females.

    So… if he is not allowed to speak in a reasonable, somewhat softspoken manner, he should be shouting and dictating his thoughts to Catherine. Calling her names, disrespecting him whilst he was speaking. Is this really the best form of conversation and communication in these modern times?

    I am not sure if that is really the answer. Perhaps all christians and in fact all religious types should keep their mouths shut because they don’t really count in any debate because their thoughts are invalid because they don’t agree to our way of thinking.

    I think his point was, that in marriage. Women have a role, Men have a role because we are physiologically and mentally very different. Men are supposed to respect and live a life that is loving to their wives, putting them first in all decisions that they make. As soon as that does not occur, “the contract is broken” (Jensen’s words). The idea is not really in being a slave or being under someone, the idea is really in the service of the wife, the man is forced to make decisions for the couple and for putting his wife’s desires and wants before his. Generally speaking this is not like clouding out your own identity. Its about having the same direction in a marriage and submission is to do with the resolution of conflict.

    I do not want to be rude and I do not know the way your ex-husband acted but if he was using this technique of gaslighting he was definitely wrong and did not understand his responsibilities to respect you. It is clear that you have a voice, with both wit and intelligence. I actually enjoyed your open letter. Yes, Jensen was polite, yes, he presented his thoughts in the open forum for all to see, perhaps his thoughts did not agree with yours but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it is a mind controlling technique with a malevolent intent to make those that disagree look unreasonable and rude. I think catherine did all that on her own.

    • J Bell. says:

      Ken, I am a devout Christian and missionary. I think the way the church has imposed sexist cultural norms on top of biblical principles and distorted scripture to uphold male privilege is wrong, and a disgrace to the Gospel. You talk of different ‘roles’ – the problem has been that entrenched cultural sexism and privilege has influenced how exactly those ‘roles’ are proscribed. And much of that influence comes from fundamentalist America, with very little critical thinking on the part of Australian Christians. Male headship doctrine is spiritual deception and fundamentalism itself is a manifestation of attachment & bonding disorder. You say the husband is “forced to make decisions for the couple” and you seem to be saying that’s OK so long as he is unselfish in weilding this power, and puts her needs before his own. I wonder where you got this from. We have often heard teaching along the lines of “the husband makes the final decision” or that he has the tie-breaker vote or the right of veto. I want to speak to you as a fellow Christian woman and say as carefully as I can, how wrong and offensive I find this. I am an intelligent, sentient, equal partner in the gracious gift of life. I am a yokefellow and co heir, and spiritually I am a “king and priest”. The Bible teaches MUTUAL submission in marriage (Eph 5:21) and the husband is described as the “kephale” (not the poorly translated “head” in English) which means completer, enabler, and source of blessing – not boss, leader or authority. There is nothing in scripture that supports husbands having the right to “make decisions for the couple”. Mutual love, servanthood, honour and submission in Christian marriage means that decisions are made TOGETHER and the responsibility for the outcomes of those joint decisions is bourne together – both having equally broad and mature shoulders to bear the weight of normal accountability. When Christian doctrine skews scripture to make out that men are the ones who are innately structured to handle the weight of decision making, this is patronising and disempowering to women as honourable equals. Yes there are different roles but they are EQUAL roles that do not provide greater power, vote or voice for men – regardless of what “male headship doctrine” would try to convince us of. Mutual submission in Christian marriage is characterised by the kind of heart to heart active listening that is required in the normal course of joint decision making. One last comment – submission is not to do with conflict resolution and it is not to do with power. It is to do with intimacy, trust and the humility of giving and receiving love. The primary way that this submission is shown in a truly Christian marriage is through truly listening to one’s partner, and through validation and acknowledgement – the “abc” of non-violent communication.

  22. ken says:

    oh, by the way. The bit about the women and men in marriage thing is only a model for the Christians. In no way, do I think Jensen is asking everyone to subscribe to this way of things. I was basically outlining the logic behind the thinking for CHRISTIANS only.

    • James says:

      The thing is, Ken – that intelligent debate takes an openness of mind AND heart. You can say the words until the cows come home but if you don’t actually MEAN what you say (Jensen insisted that he was open to and, in fact, welcomed the debate about marriage, sexuality, etc but there WAS the debate happening right in front of his, our and your eyes and he wasn’t open to anything!) I’m not religious (in fact, very much opposed to religion as a patriarchal, dominating, dehumanising institution, long outdated and past it’s use by date). But I wouldn’t dream of insisting that people who have faith should be stopped from practising their beliefs, as long as they hurt no-one. As Voltaire said, “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. The same openness is NOT true of Jensen and his followers. The patronising comments he made about having ‘dear gay friends’ who simply choose not to act on their sexuality are some of the most frightening and hurtful words I’ve heard in a long time. Why should I, an out, proud gay man, live a life devoid of love and sexual intimacy just because it offends a man who believes the life and times of a man, written in a book that I have no faith in? Talk about a recipe for extreme mental ill health. All humans have a right to love, to express their love and receive love from another human being – providing both parties are of the age of consent and no one is hurt. That’s the law. And Jensen, with his ‘accept the person but not the behaviour’ philosophy would deny that very basic of human needs from a significant proportion of society, just because it says he should in a book. Do I need to point out that we don’t stone people any more? The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson wrote some equally compelling literature. But we don’t choose to live by their stories.

  23. BW says:

    I do wonder, though, exactly how Jensen was supposed to behave. What would you have had his manner be? Is he in a no-win situation in terms of manner?

    • James says:

      No, BW – it wasn’t about his manner but the intent behind it. The ‘smiling assassin that Jane wrote about (I think) perfectly sums it up. And that people were fooled by his ‘gas-lighting’ strategy is perfectly demonstrated by the amount of responses that were anti-Catherine.

      • BW says:

        James it’s very difficult to prove or establish intent. People tend to read intent into an individual’s behaviour based on their prior attitudes towards that person.

        A word like “smug,” for example, can be applied to someone who is simply smiling and being polite; if you don’t happen to like that person.

    • James says:

      BW, seriously – I don’t think it’s hard for me to prove or establish his intent when in this very same programme he publically insisted that he has close, gay friends who do not choose to actively participate in gay intimacy. As I said in another post here, his ‘love the person, but not the behaviour’ philosophy is absolute proof that Jensen has no real regard for these so-called gay friends. If he did, he wouldn’t be insisting that they’re only ‘good people’ in his eyes as LONG as they DON’T expect to receive or share in intimacy. This is a basic human need. I wouldn’t call this ‘smug’, I’d call it inhuman. Imagine, if heterosexuality weren’t the so-called ‘norm’ – and all straight people were only considered ‘good people’ provided they didn’t act on their desires for intimacy? This above all else that Jensen said, demonstrated that his intent is oppression and suppression. Control. Dominate. As long as we do as we’re told, we’re ok. Please. Really? These comments (of Jensen’s) upset me greatly.

      • BW says:

        James, you’re conflating concepts and making more assumptions.

        The fact that you disagree with Jensen does not mean his actions are about control, even if it relates to sexuality within his church. The fact that power is exercised does not entail that it is occurring purely for the sake of exercising power.

        It might be, but you assume it because you disagree with him.

        Even if was all, actually, sneakily about power, it would not mean that he conducted himself badly on Q&A. He was polite, courteous and willing to reason…as we should all be, when we encounter people with whom we strongly disagree. Would you rather have had him shout?

  24. This subject is one that is close to my heart; it took me 12 years to get away from someone who did this to me, but finally I am finding my voice.
    Thank you for this great letter 🙂

  25. Well said, Jane. Peter Jensen was oozing so much smugness during Q and A that I’m sure that the ABC will have to replace the chair he was sitting on as it will not be recoverable even after dry cleaning.

    The views of the bible and the christian church towards women (and “teh gays”) is so out of step with the reality of a truly moral society that all Peter Jensen can do is talk about “reality” without having any concept of what it is. He even finished by talking about his god and Jesus as “the greatest reality in the world” which shows how out of touch with reality he is when he claims that his imaginary friend is “the greatest reality in the world”. The immorality that the bible teaches, the immorality that Jesus teaches (leaving alone, for now, the questions about the existence of Jesus – even the Encyclopaedia Biblica questions the existence of Nazareth ( at the time Jesus was purported to have lived (his parents traveled from there to Bethlehem where he was purportedly born, then back to Nazareth)), is unacceptable. That’s what Catherine Deveny seemed to be rightfully angry at, yet Jensen was happy to smug away from it in an attempt to make it look like Deveny was the crazy one.

    It amazes me when christians claim not to have to obey the Old Testament teachings because Jesus came to start with new rules and regulations as even Jesus said that was not the case (for example, read Matthew 5:18-19, Luke 16:17 and 2 Timothy 3:16). And then there are the parts where Jesus condones slavery (Luke 12:47-48 (where he even condones the beating of slaves), Ephesians 6:5 and 1 Timothy 6:1-2). Just as they can falsely claim that the Old Testament is irrelevant when they want to, yet also relevant when they want it to be, Jensen seems to pick and chooses not only what he wants to believe from the bible, but also to be sure to portray a woman, clearly asking that people be treated equally, as an evil person.

    I have re-watched the whole episode and cannot see where Deveny is out of order. Along with Chrys Stevenson’s response to the criticisms of Deveny (, this is a level-headed response to a situation that was engineered by an evil person who is clearly still a proponent of the subjugation of women and equally as clearly completely out of touch with today’s society.

  26. Guy Curtis says:

    I’m a psychologist and I hadn’t previously heard of the gaslighting effect. Interesting stuff and makes sense. As a viewer of Q&A I was much more concerned by what was said then by how it was said or the gender or the people saying it, and, as a consequence, I too found Deveny to be spot on and Jensen dreadful.

  27. Rob says:

    Very interesting. It seems to me a problem of different styles, and not a problem of gender, (it does irk me how much this stuff is made into a gender issue).

    CD and PJ form a pair – set for ‘complementary schizmogenesis’ which makes good television for QANDA. An argument starts and its spiralling opposition all the way down. But it is conceivable that PJ was a woman and CD was a man.

    Should one adopt the other’s style in order to acheive rapport so that they can then talk about their disagreement? That would make CD sound reasonable or PJ appear ‘rude’ and ‘intolerant. Could Catherine mirror Jensen’s ‘strategy’ of slow, reasoned speech? If so, perhaps the argument could progress and give PJ a run for his money. Or is that just the approach of ‘white male’s reason’? Contrawise, would it go any where if PJ mirrored CD’s behavour? Perhaps CD should read the philosopher of Critical Thinking, Trudy Govier about feminism and logic. Then she might win her case. Being reasonable is not a white male human construct. It is genderless. Or is there a third way where they both have to adopt agreed upon conversational rules? If so, what are they?

    No one is forcing CD to change her views yet she gets so upset. It is clear that she is upset but it is not clear what her reasons are.

    PJ GAVE no arguments and he should have, CD HAD an argument, and she should not have. FInd rapport first. If that is too hard, don’t enter into a conversation. Otherwise you are not just arguing from different premisses, you are just making great television.

    • stevethompson49 says:

      “No one is forcing CD to change her views yet she gets so upset. It is clear that she is upset but it is not clear what her reasons are. ”

      It is my impression that CD uses this deliberately to win the argument but, as I said earlier, she loses the debate.

      • CD’s views don’t lead to depression, domestic abuse and suicide. That’s why she is so upset about Jensen’s views. It’s not about whether she’s being asked to change her views, it’s about being asked to stay silent about propaganda that does real harm to real people.

      • James says:

        A matter of opinion only, Steve – in very many people’s views (as witnessed by the supportive comments here) CD not only won the debate but exposed Jensen for what he is – a homophobic, misogynistic bigot. With a (so-called) nice manner and a quieter voice. Doesn’t make his words any less damaging, destructive or toxic.

      • stevethompson49 says:

        Your time-frame is wrong. You need to take a much, much, much longer view. Catherine Deveny won one argument against Peter Jensen on QandA, in spite of him having the last word, but the debate about refugees, marriage equality, etc. has been going on for years and is likely to go on for many more years.

        Catherine has some very valuable input to the public debate but her manner causes many people to stop listening.

    • James says:

      Actually Rob (and stevethompson) I didn’t think CD was upset at all – more I thought she was passionate… when someone feels something very deeply and is strong in their drive to voice their feelings it can sometimes be misinterpreted as aggressive (personally had this levelled at me a few times!) by those who are either a) on the receiving end or b) more passive in their expression of their views. CD was simply doing something that women are often criticised for doing – expressing her self with passion, and energy.

      • Rob says:

        Hi James, Thanks for the comment.
        OK then, let’s grant for the sake of argument that she wasn’t upset but passionate. But what is she feeling? What is she passionate about? You see, I don’t know what she is passionate about from watching the show. There is a studio audience, and a national audience. I think she forget about them. She could have convinced them exactly what was wrong with PJs views.

        She obviously is in disagreement with PJ but its an antecedent disagreement that seems to be long-running. I have learnt more of CD’s views from reading her supporter’s responses on twitter and blogs. Why couldn’t she articulate her views on QANDA. Her supporters and followers who watched it would know exactly where she is ‘coming from’ but poor little ol me…haven’t had much to do with her. And so I understood nothing about her position.

        Rob @Acognostic

  28. Jeff Poole says:

    Thank you for bringing the whole ‘gaslighting’ concept to my attention!

    It’s not just aimed at women… Queer men get it all the time too! Often from our partners and always, always from our ‘betters’ in the church.

    As a former fundamentalist myself I completely understand you when you talk about the damage done by the church. It’s so darn insidious. People who have never lived it don’t see it…

    • Jeff, I can relate to that. I was in a relationship with a minister of religion (male) and got it for the best part of 8 years. That was 9 years ago and I’m still in recovery.

    • That’s a really good point Jeff. As a gay man and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse in my Catholic family Jane’s article opened my eyes to the profound impact of ‘gaslighting’. I actually felt Jane was describing something I’ve experienced.

      Thanks Jane for so eloquently raising this issue and naming the behaviour. I was appalled by Jensen and even as a 40 something queer man who is comfortable in his own skin, I was sickened to my gut by his remarks.

      I was so grateful to have Catherine on that panel and speaking for those of us who don’t feel we have a voice in the face of such insidious psychopathy. I was appalled by the treatment Catherine received on social media in regard to her justified and reasoned response to Jensen.

      Jane, you along with Catherine and Chrys, help to maintain my faith in the intelligent, articulate and powerful voice of women and men who are willing to bring men like this to account. Thank you xo.

    • James says:

      Gotta differ ever so slightly with your view here, Jeff – thanks to fairly laissez-faire parenting, I have never been more than remotely engaged with any organised religion (although Catholicism has figured prominently in my life via marriages, etc) and yet I can TOTALLY see the insidious, brain-washing evil that goes on within their (virtual) walls. There’s a saying “give me the child til he is 7, and I will show you the man!” – can’t remember who said it – and as someone who has worked in child mental health for a long time, I can assure you this is one of, if not the, biggest challenge to changing the powerful stranglehold that these organisations have on society. They start with our smallest, youngest most vulnerable minds – and twist them – to the point where, as adults, they don’t even know that they’re twisted. In my clinical work, I have seen the most amazing, first hand evidence of this pure evil, brain-washing of children – and it’s sanctioned by society and our various governments. It’s heart-breaking to see just how many young teens and adolescents are damaged by rigid, unthinking, inflexible parenting whose rationalisations for their interventions are religion based. Trust me, so many of us non-religious people see what happens… 🙂

      • Jeff Poole says:

        HI James – the 7 year old thing is a catch cry of the Jesuiits… The people who had such influence on Tony Abbott, which explains a lot!

        Interestingly the founder of the Jesuits was a philandering, swaggering soldier named Ignatius Loyola.

        That changed when he had his balls shot off by a cannon. It was shortly after this that he found god…

    • Tess says:

      Yes Jeff I understand to that most people don’t ‘get it’ unless they have gone through it. I can now say I hate Christianity, the way it messes with people lives, emotions and thinking. I ‘get it’ too! Jane ‘gets it’ too! And thank you Jane for writing such a great word!

  29. Louella says:

    Jane, I am in awe of your courage, intelligence and ability to think things through clearly then articulate them in a way the rest of us can absorb.

    I too shouted at Jensen on my TV screen several times – and I’m not a shouty person. The thought he gaslighted me, a lifelong non-believer, makes me nauseous. At least it was only to the extent of an emotional response, ie the shouting. I didn’t go the next step and start to think Catherine’s remarks or behaviour were inappropriate. I thought she was impressive: passionate and well-reasoned.

    Thank you so much for this open letter. I hope Tony Jones reads it too.

  30. Karen Doolan says:

    A perfect example of Emotional Abuse of Women, 😦 is there no end to domestic violence!!

  31. Thank you so much for this – I found my myself becoming angry with Jensen, even as he became more genteel and refined. I didn’t know why I was becoming more angry with him, but now I do know. He was trying to make Catherine more and more crazy as she spoke with passion.
    Good on you Catherine for showing us that women have the right to speak out.

  32. Anna Meadows says:

    Well said Jane. I felt similar watching Jensen’s creepy manner at work.

  33. I’m so glad so many people are discovering what an amazing, brave, passionate, talented woman you are, Jane. You are a real ‘discovery’ and I hope we’ll all be much better informed as you continue to offer insights on social issues and current affairs from your very unique perspective. YOU are the voice that has been taken away from so many. I know you will use it well. I am so very proud of you.

  34. Ako says:

    What an insight, thanks so much for sharing.

  35. Jayjaycee1 says:

    From a background of SEVEN generations of preacher’s wives/daughters, I swear Jane, you are spot on. Being the one female that broke this cycle (though not entirely, as my ex’s surname is BISHOP ;-)) I can assure you this gaslighting effect is so very very real. I can’t begin to start on the damage it had done.
    Thank you Jane, and thank you Catherine. For your clear thinking that calls it all what it is. And by not breaking, you exposed Jensen’s crap to the world. Yes, Q and A will have to replace that shit’s seat.

    • This kid of input is so important. Jane must not be left to be hung out to dry for citing her experience. It is so much more powerful when more women who have had the same experience speak out against this pernicious (and little known) technique of religious abuse.

      • Jayjaycee1 says:

        Thanks Chrys. It’s Jane’s wonderful articulation of her experience that led her to be able to see what was happening on Q and A; her post her enabled me to say YES that was what happened to me. Not only to me and many other women, but also those on the ‘outer circle’ of the church’s hierarchy, whenever they question and apply critical thinking to what they see, hear, and are asked to believe.Twenty-five years of being in this culture has left it’s scars. Most of all on my self-belief and confidence in my own thoughts. I’m much better now, but still my brain scrambles itself with self doubt and guilt whenever my values or thoughts or decisions are questioned, even by those with absolutely no thought of judging me. I am grateful to Jane because this post has given voice to a part of the nagging puzzle of my long-time problems with decision making. An ‘Aha’ moment for me.

  36. James says:

    Thanks so much for clearing that up for me with such a timely and brilliant piece of writing, Jane. I’m a fan of Catherine’s and believe she writes with wit, intelligence and a passion that impresses me. So it was disturbing for me, as an out, proud gay man to be squirming at what I thought I was seeing – a loud, outspoken, slightly brash woman (even though she was saying all the things I want to shout from the rooftops, take a plane and skywrite!) And now, I understand and have the language to describe what I witnessed. Thank you. Thank you so very much. James

  37. Jasmine Collier says:

    So what your saying is anytime im not nice then this is ok? This just sounds like an excuse to vent unreasonably.

  38. […] an open letter to catherine deveny. Share this:TwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  39. Great letter Jane… Gas-lighting eh… I didn’t see the show, but being a Family Violence worker I know the kind of crap that self-righteous makes dish out. Good on you Catherine for being who you are.

  40. Jo Palmes says:

    Well said Jane 😉 We are cheering for you! 😀

  41. Julia. says:

    Thank you Jane for writing this.
    And thank you Chrys for directing me here from your blog.

    I too saw through Jensen’s facade, but didn’t have a word to describe this abusive technique. It’s was clearly obvious what he was doing, & I appauded Catherine for rising above it, for not taking the poisoned bait. I certainly couldn’t have done as well.

    Once upon a time, before hearing or reading anything she had actually said, only knowing what others claimed about her, I was ready to dismiss her out of hand. But the more I read or hear Catherine say the more I admire her.
    On QandA, despite the constrictions imposed by the show’s format, Catherine shone. I would love to experience her in full fight.

    Jane, may I post your letter on Facebook where it will probably be reposted internationally? I know several people who could benefit from your desciption of gaslighting. But only if you are comfortable with it.

    Thanks again

    (I also like your other blogs I’ve been reading)

  42. Phil Browne says:

    Jensen, Pell and other similar men of the cloth (i.e. Old Farts) are mere smug smiling bullies. They seem to not care about the psychological harm their bigotry, intolerance and division causes. They certainly are not true Chrisitans.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and enlightening us more into this abuse, and the Culture of Nice.

    I was very disappointed that the host of Q&A gave Jensen the time he was granted to launch his offence on so many people.

  43. Jeff Poole says:

    If there’s one thing the fundies can’t stand even more than ‘uppity’ women it’s being laughed at.

    You’ve inspired me to start writng again Jane!

    Until I get some new stuff going I hope you enjoy this scurrilous little piece from a few years ago.

  44. lancybabe says:

    More power to your elbow Catherine. Used to love your articles in The Age, until political correctness intervened. Missed your interaction with the fundamentalist red-neck Jensen, but from all reports, you showed him up for what he is, just another right-wing religious git. Makes me almost ashamed to admit that I am an adherent of the Anglican (albeit “high”) Church, when you have dickheads like him spouting forth. £x.

  45. A fair go says:

    Oh…you have described exactly the techniques used by big corporations to subdue opposition. This is a growing issue that is ripping the heart out of honest debate everywhere. I have been described as “unorthodox, disagreeable, uncooperative, disruptive, and difficult.” Pushed to screaming point, yet compelled to react in a “polite” manner due to legal ramifications, I fight the battle in my own way. Your comments struck a chord with me. The biggest problem in the corporate world is that these guys group together like cluster-f*cks.

  46. Brian Lennon says:

    Excellent article, Jane, and a clear naming of the suite of emotional techniques used to undermine another person’s sense of self and sense of reality. I hadn’t run across the term “gaslighting” before and it is a very useful term indeed. The strategy is used in so many ways in our emotionally ignorant society, for example in the climate change “debate”, and in every instance betrays a profound assault on the integrity of the person or group targeted, and is also in every case a violation of the rights of that person and a glaring admission of the lack of integrity of the perpetrator. I have always found Jensen creepy, and this article confirms that reaction and illuminates why he has struck me that way. Of course, such people conflate their “arguments” with their employment of the soul-destroyinng techniques in their arsenal, so that many people, as some above, get led off the track by the arguments and manner, and miss the real message that these people attempt to deliver.

    • tamlyn123 says:

      Cushla Geary
      Thank you Brian – you’ve just clarified for me one of the things I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on: the gleeful use of ‘gaslighting” in public debate. I wish I’d known and understood the term many, many years ago.
      I only encountered a proper description of ‘gaslighting a couple of years ago, but recognised it as a technique which had been employed against me in the past. Until then, I’d been frustrated by my own inability to find a way to counter attacks made on me in my private life, but (DUH!!) hadn’t recognised the technique when it was used to silence me in public debate..
      I was ‘gaslighted’ by my husband for years, and never understood what was going on – how my own justifiable objections and/or anger could be turned on me, leaving me defending my sanity, rather than my point. Now I look back on years of frustration and unheppiness, and wonder how I could have failed to recognise what was happening, even though I knew its effect was unjust and destructive.
      The “loudmouth” description used by an earlier poster is one I know well – as is the technique for its use: lead with a gratuitous criticism of her manner, and you’ve already destroyed the woman’s argument.
      If you look, you can see this happening to many women in the public sphere – Julia Gillard springs to mind as a prime example. Her argument is neutralised before she has given it. Because she is not conforming to the accepted model of femininity, she’s a liar, she has a big arse or a whiney accent: whatever her audience has been primed to think of her person, her delivery, her manner. Anything but her argument. As has happened with Catherine Devenny, who, we are assured, cannot possibly offer a constructive debate, because she is loudmouthed, and has an aggressive manner and delivery.
      It happens to men, too – but I think perhaps not quite so successfully, as men aren’t usually expected to be quiet, or ‘nice’ in their manner. The principal means of emotional traction is absent. Jensen however, is a master at undermining male self-confidence: witness the gay man in the audience, whom Jensen effortlessly managed to neutralise, even as he was asking for someone to discuss the very matter the man had brought up.

      Woops! this wasn’t meant to be a lecture, but I see it’s leaning that way – I’ll shut up now.
      Thank you, Jane, so very much, for speaking out, and up.

      • jane douglas says:

        In my post, I’m drawing a comparison between what I know about gaslighting and Jensen’s dealing with Catherine Deveny. Just to be clear, I’m not claiming to be an expert on psychological abuse, or suggesting that this is a text book gaslighting case. I’m just pointing out that I can see significant similarities between gaslighting and Jensen’s apparent strategy.

  47. Rob says:

    Gaslighting is very interesting and I do not doubt it’s existence in coercive and abusive relationships.  However, the Psych Today link demonstrates that it happens is very close and longstanding relationships where there is an obvious precondition of power that may then be misused.

    Now, PJ and CD are on QANDA for one hour sitting next to each other. I do not think they hang out together at the pub or play tennis with each other on Saturdays. Hi then, does Peter Jensen commit  Gaslighting against Catherine for this hour?

    Really, he did not commit gaslighting.  The fallacy is this:
    1. Manipulative Gaslighters sound considered and reasonable.
    2. Peter Jensen sounds considered and reasonable.
    Therefore, Peter Jensen is a manipulative Gaslighter.

    It the undistributed middle term fallacy: All dogs have 4 paws, My cat has 4 paws, ergo, my cat is a dog. Similarity does not imply sameness. Yes, PJ sounded considered and reasonable but more has to be shown that he is coercive and manipulative.

    I was on jury duty last year and the instructions from the judge were to deliberate and weigh up the evidence. The people who were on the jury, who managed to persuade the others, were those who were considered, slow to talk and reasonable. Its a worry to think that the jury was won over by gaslighters and the accused let off through their ‘cunning’.

    Thankyou for letting me respond. I do not doubt all of the horrible  stories of women who are abused in violent and coercive relationships by men in their lives. And I thank the brave women who speak up on this blog and let us know if their experiences. 
    Rob @ACognostic

    • Brian Lennon says:

      The point Rob is not the reasonableness of the overt behaviour. It is the use of that persona to deliver denigrating messages that provoke “unreasonableness” from the intended target. I think you have missed the thrust of Jane’s article and the descriptions of gaslighting behaviour.

      • Rob says:

        Thanks Brian. I understood that bit.
        Then, the onus is for us and others to show that the messages are denigrating without assuming that they are.

      • stevethompson49 says:

        Yes, but this “gaslighting” requires a close and long-standing relationship involving one person having some power / position / influence over the other. That clearly does not exist between Peter Jensen and Catherine Deveny. The meeting did involve similar techniques on the part of Peter Jensen, but Catherine Deveny clearly was not in the position of a controlled victim. Nothing Peter Jensen said caused Catherine Deveny to doubt herself or her ideas.

        Now that I consider it further, I think that applying the term “gaslighting” to this particular encounter on QandA is not correct.

        But don’t assume that I support Peter Jensen in any way or that I minimise the harm caused by this type of unbalanced relationship.

  48. Rebecca says:

    Thanks Jane for a very interesting letter. I watched the Q&A episode and I found myself agreeing with what Catherine Deveny was saying but shaking my head at the way she said it. I have read the article that goes in depth into volume controls etc and while all the statistics show that she did not shout, interrupt, take up more time/words she still came across as if she did in fact do all of the above.
    My thoughts are that what we saw was a passionate woman very skilfully played by not just Jensen but by all of the other people on the panel. I would imagine all the other guest were wiping their brows before the show even started knowing that they would be fine “because” Catherine Deveny was also there. A passionate person often doesn’t make the most skilful debater purely because of that passion. They look heated and their mannerisms become more pronounced because of their beliefs, their passions.
    Every other person on that panel looked softer, slower (I’m sorry I like Anna Krein but she looked and sounded stoned next to Catherine Deveny). All any of the other panelists needed to do was sit still, take their time, appear calm and less passionate and that’s what they did.
    I found your explanation about gaslighting extremely interesting and I’m sure it came into play here.
    I found the show actually quite boring – the only saving grace was Catherine Deveny because she didn’t “play” the game.

  49. stevethompson49 says:

    After participating in this discussion and reading Chrys Stevenson’s analysis, I viewed the program again from start to finish to see if I would change my mind about Catherine’s approach to the longer debate, but I didn’t.

    Chrys’ numerical analysis is accurate. But Peter Jensen had the majority of time speaking simply because the majority of the questions were about religion or the church’s attitude to various subjects and recent events.

    At 28 minutes, Catherine did unload a mouthful of sarcasm, insult and ridicule towards Peter. Another short burst at 51 minutes and finally she crossed herself while Tony Jones was thanking the panelists. She did ridicule Peter a number of times. Not the way to influence the wider public debate.

    And Catherine was certainly not a victim of gaslighting in this instance. It’s an ingrained manner for Peter Jensen but Catherine was no victim.

    • Rob says:

      I saw the repeat too and I agree with you.
      And CD crossing her heart at the end. The habit is an anathema to most protestants. What is the intention of her act? To show self-righteousness on PJ’s part? I think it backfired and just made CD look like a fool. And being at the end of the programme, that’s the last image I have kept.

      • Elisabeth says:

        I don’t think CD’s crossing herself at the end showed her up as foolish. To me it was a wonderful gesture, filled with irony. So quick, so witty and so to the point, even for protestants who would surely know something of the significance of the sign of the cross – subservience to a higher authority in the form of god and a mark of discipleship. It’s easy if you belong to the club but so much harder for outsiders, as CD observes.

    • Tony Smith says:

      Despite your best intentions, Steve, you are still missing Jane’s point. This was never about Catherine as victim and that is the last thing she would see herself being. It is about the perceived audience reaction that you too are concerned about, but for the wrong reasons.

      At this stage of these debates, the only thing that matters is that 1% of the audience, women, gays, indigenies, refugees and others habitually trampled by authoritarian paternalism, find the courage to stand beside Catherine, it won’t matter a damn what the other 99% thought at the time, because the debate will shift, as it needs to.

    • Keith Gow says:

      My problem here isn’t that CD was the “victim” of gaslighting, but that – in a way – the viewers were. It wasn’t that PJ was saying things in a calm, reasonable tone of voice that was the problem, it’s that he kept suggesting that his calm, reasonable tone of voice was the only and best way to approach any discussion. More than once he qualified his answers with thanks for the question (how reasonable!) and the opportunity for discussion (how lovely!) but sidestepped actually answering the question or engaging with the substance of the question. Jensen’s insistence on playing the calm and “rational” card over and over and then relying on blatant untruths, half-truths and lies was aggravating. Perhaps Deveny was more blunt and to-the-point, but at least she answered the questions she was asked.

      But the calm man is considered “reasonable” and the blunt woman is considered a “problem”. And while Deveny might not have fallen for his tactics, it’s clear many viewers did.

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  52. Amrita says:

    Hi Jane – your letter is so sensitive and insightful – I feel such joy in reading it – a real antidote to all the ‘trolling’ that goes on via the web. I applaud Catherine because she is brave, she is willing and ready to say what she thinks and stridently advocate her ‘politics’ (and I hate how that has become a dirty word) and I agree – the Jensens et al of this world are very good at discrediting what threatens their power. Hasn’t it always been the way of white, wealthy men? Those who identify racism in our society are similarly ostracized – shall I mention the action against Andrew Bolt under the RDA? I’ve spent a lot of my life being dismissed for being too passionate, left-wing, ‘not-in-touch-with-reality’ but I’ve also engaged and maintained friendships with people from many different walks of life who do respect me and my views and we influence and impact on each other. You Jane, and you Catherine, are inspirations.

    • tamlyn123 says:

      Amrita, I agree with you 100%, particularly about the identification and discrediting of a threat to male power – I’ve seen it in action many times in my own past, particularly when I was actively involved in working for women’s rights. I DO wish I had understood the mechanisms of this process then!

  53. Jane says:

    From one Jane to another, thank you for writing this.

    You hit the nail on the head describing what took place on Q&A. Jensen is well practiced in this technique like many other religious leaders.

    One of the best tweets during the show said something along the lines of – “If Jensen looks at Catherine’s chest and turns into a pillar of salt this will be the best Q&A ever.” If only.

  54. Abbie Noiraude says:

    Thank you Jane for allowing this letter to Catherine be shared through Chrys Stevenson’s blog.
    Finding women who can show me how to be ‘ok’ with who I am and how I feel is helping me on the road to fighting my anxety.
    All my life I have been told to ‘be quiet, sit still, don’t laugh so loud, don’t speak up, stop giving your opinion, Men won’t like you if you are talkative’ etc.
    From my dear father ( who believed all women should be small, demure, quiet and pretty) I was already behind the ‘eight ball’. I am tall, big, plain and opinionated, to the religious who tried since I was 6 to keep me in my ‘box’. From many forms of Christian leaders ( I was on a ‘search for the truth’ during my teenage years) I was ‘instructed’ in how to be a ‘good woman’.
    I knew about ‘gaslighting’ from my mum who loved the movies and had worked in the late 1930’s in a mental asylum. Funny that, since dad really ( for all his goodness and his sweetness) was one of these type of men ( my brother now is one too).

    Thank you for being another voice, explaining, clarifying and exposing the way men of power are able to control women in our society; control their voice, their confidence and their passions.
    Thank you for your support of Catherine and thank you for your friendship with Chrys who I admire so very much, for her intricately researched tomes.

    (To the men who think men are assertive and women are aggressive under the same circumstances, your days of abuse are numbered.)

  55. tamlyn123 says:

    I am impressed by the tenacity of the mansplainers here, but sorry, guys – you’re way off beam. And clearly, most of the woman responding here don’t need your manful efforts to enlighten us.
    It doesn’t really matter what the clinical definition of gaslighting may be – we are not talking of clinical psychology here, but of an all too common behaviour pattern – particularly amongst dominant males. Outside of a psychiatric unit, it is the silencing of an individual by means of making them question their own reference to reality. In other words, it is a technique for undermining opposition – often unconscious on the part of the person attempting control, but more often employed BECAUSE IT IS SO SUCCESSFUL.
    The object of the gaslighting effort is not always close to the manipulator, and does not always succumb, as was demonstrated so well last Monday.
    As for Deveny’s debating technique:
    If some of you feel she was in the wrong, failed to engage in “proper” debate, or lost the argument because she was “loudmouthed, “brash” and “crude”, then I suggest you re-visit your own understanding of what it means to hold, and defend, passionate views on the ways in which we treat our fellow men and women. QandA is usually politely boring – and utterly, blandly, bloodless. Catherine showed us how it could be – it is a great pity that Jones did not recognise the opportunity when he saw it, nor that any of the others really took up the cudgels against Jensen’s complacent hypocrisy.

  56. The Scarecrow says:

    I am also compelled to write. Thank you for making me feel less alone in the world.

  57. ales says:

    i don’t think we really know what either deveney or jensen’s motivations were in their behaviour – only they do 🙂 thank you for being brave jane in sharing your story of emotional abuse however.

  58. elspeth says:

    be careful jane as you might just be guilty of some pop psychology yourself through the process of demonising jensen and thus breeding unnecessary conflict!

    (Psychological Demonisation: Throughout human history, the relationships of individuals and groups have been disrupted by “demonisation,” the attribution of basic destructive qualities to the other or to forces within the self. Demonisation results in constant suspicion and blame, a systematic disregard of positive events, pressure to eradicate the putative negative persons or forces, and a growing readiness to engage in escalating conflict.

    Recent popular psychology–the authors argue–has tended to encourage demonization. An appropriate alternative to this view is known as the “tragic view”: Suffering is inevitable in life; negative outcomes are a result of a confluence of factors over which one has only a very limited control; there is no possibility of reading into the hidden “demonic” layers of the other’s mind; the other’s actions, like our own, are multiply motivated; escalation is a tragic development rather than the result of an evil “master plan”; and finally, skills for promoting acceptance and reducing escalation are necessary for diminishing interpersonal suffering.)

    just sayin’ :p

    • tamlyn123 says:

      (Cushla Geary)
      You don’t think that perhaps Jensen needs no demonising because the accusations levelled at him are accurate (including Jane’s speculation that his treatment of CD perhaps equates to gaslighting)?
      Why should a public man who advocates the submission of women (even if only within his church) and openly discriminates against homosexuals not be roundly criticised, and called to defend his attitudes? If these were private views, expressed only to his personal
      circle, they would be no business of the wider world, but they are not – Jensen is a public figure who expects to be heard in the public sphere. His views are obnoxious to a substantial portion of the populace, and his method of stifling protest, as demonstrated on QandA is devious and hypocritical. No demonising necessary: he does it all by himself.

      • elspeth says:

        he certainly should be called to defend his attitudes – but his motivations cannot be demonised as we don’t know what they are 🙂 we can only speculate. i just think that presuppositional judgement on the character of a person (either jensen or deveney) is unhelpful because we don’t know them personally.

  59. dandare2050 says:

    I find it fascinating that people can so strongly dump on Catherine for her delivery style. And to suggest she was rude and used wrong facts. The big facts were on refugees and she got her facts right but forgot the name of the report, and then was shut down by Terry Jones who could have stepped in to fill the blanks but didn’t.

    Here is an experiment. Take the transcript of the show and ask someone to replace all the male names with obvious women’s names and vice a versa. Then read the transcript.

    The religious girl is speaking vile, easily rebutted rubbish and there is one guy who is speaking directly to those statements and trying to shut them down and highlight their vileness. There is no hope from the other guys. For some reason the female moderator keeps giving this religious fundamentalist the last word, even at the end of the show. Go figure.

  60. Hinton John Lowe says:

    Archbishop Peter Jensen seems devoid of understanding, let alone of the compassion, of those different from himself which was the preeminent character and demonstration of the moral visionary leader – Jesus of Nazareth – from whom he claims his moral inheritance, legitimacy and authority – in fact a counterfeit form of ethics which is more properly described as a prescriptive, exclusionary, mean-spirited, dogmatic ‘moralism’. And certainly without any basis in the understanding of human beings which modern science has yielded, and which has surpassed the archaic superstitions and myths upon which these conservative religionists still base their moralistic pronouncements. The tradition and legacy of these religionist, authoritarian, patriarchal hierarchies has been an eon long trail of emotional cruelty and mutilation and waste.

    It was a ludicrous parody of the dark arts of propaganda that Jensen claimed to be a victim of censorship from publishing his opinions – at the same time as he was expressing them as an invited guest on a program of the national public broadcaster! He has the public podium of the pulpit, and large publication network and resources. The man truly has some gall! Only Andrew Bolt can match this for chutzpah!
    In any case, the ‘belessening’ of couples of same sex partners committed to lives in loving relationship, as unworthy of sanctioning as ‘marriage’, is a travesty of equity and compassion.
    The promotion and permission of such ‘belessening’, and even condemnation, contributes to the suffering, and sometimes resulting suicide, of many young people recognising and developing their own authentic sexuality.
    It is now widely recognised that the emotional agony of young people as they struggle with the emotional rollercoaster of recognising their attraction to others of their own sex is a cause of youth suicide – now on an epidemic scale. The consequences of the vile prejudice, stigmatisation and discrimination – that insidious everyday shaming and exclusion which is inflicted on young homosexual people still today through many kinds of acts of cruelty – without kindness of any kind – include suicides of such young people. No doubt their tragic early deaths contribute significantly to the alleged statistics of lower life expectancy of gay people – which the virulent religionist antagonists of homosexual people such as the so-called – a misnomer if there was ever one – Christian Lobby, and its spokesman Jim Wallace – have recently misused in their propaganda against legalising marriage for same sex couples.
    In the light of the above, it might be worthwhile for Christian religionists to reread this from their holy book:
    Matthew 7:19-21 (King James Version)
    19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
    20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
    21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

  61. Amanda says:

    Wow! That’s all. Just ‘wow’.

    OK, one more word – fabulous piece (ok, two words!)

  62. Anne Powles says:

    I thought your letter wonderful Jane. While watching QandA I was aware of what Jensen was doing and frustrated by it. However, I think we have to be careful in blaming men only, as some women do this too. However women are, as you say, much less accepted than are men when they strongly rebuff anybody.

    I have been a feminist and an athiest for many more years than I like to admit and have to say that trying to lead by example and being reasonably softly spoken and respectful has not and does not work. And, particularly, it does not seem to have worked in convincing a lot of younger women. Do they fear that disrespect with which Catherine has been treated?

    I decided to forego moderately quiet reason and go with just reason in whatever form it comes whenever I can make an opportunity to do so. But I will not resort to the language of the misogynist because it is just falling into their trap to be actively rude, which Catherine was not.

    If you think it is hard being an outspoken woman try being an outspoken OLD woman who is expected to know better. Ask Germaine Greer whose outspoken comments are constantly misunderstood as no one listens properly!

    More power to the likes of Catherine and Jane and you wonderful supporters.

    You should see how poorly loud, passionate OLD women are treated

    • tamlyn123 says:

      Anne, I can sympathise with your plight – I’m old, and while not particularly loud, am passionate. Life doesn’t get any easier. But I have found one advantage to being fairly quiet – people get a HELL of a shock when you raise your voice! ;o)

    • I am neither a fan of Jensen or Deveny. Having commentators like these two is the reason why I don’t watch Q & A. In this case, it was a circus of ignorance and bigotry. How people could imagine that these are the only two opinions available on the subject beggers belief. LIfe is far more interesting and complex. My favourite quote that had me laughing out loud: “Perhaps all christians and in fact all religious types should keep their mouths shut because they don’t really count in any debate because their thoughts are invalid because they don’t agree to our way of thinking.: Well, that’s a really grown up, reasonable attitude! I suppose people like Martin Luther King Jnr should have stayed in the ghetto? This is my first twitter post and, given the standard of ‘debate’, I think it will be my last.

    • Alison says:

      Loved so much about your comment.

      However, re Germaine Greer, many times she has said awful things that cannot be misconstrued – for example when she said that 47% of Queenslanders cannot read texts, recipes or newspapers. The actual figure is 14.7 %. Or when she went off on a rant straight after Steve Irwin had died. She actually made some good points, but to say that the “animal kingdom” had “taken its revenge” upon Irwin, straight after his death was appalling. People were genuinely grieving for him, she should simply have remained silent at that time. Sometimes what she says is just stupid, as when she said: ““Bras are a ludicrous invention, but if you make bralessness a rule, you’re just subjecting yourself to yet another repression. For some, the bra remains a symbol of restrictions imposed by society on women.” – um, to me a bra remains a way to stop my breasts hitting me in the face every time I run, one of the best inventions ever! Regardless of what the original intent was, I would HATE to live in a world without bras. Agreed, she is a brilliant, outspoken woman who makes men (and some women) uncomfortable and for that reason often is misquoted and misunderstood, but much of the time she is simply unpleasant and does not use her powers for good. I do not think she is a good spokeswoman for your point, is all I really mean to say, too many times she has dug her own grave.

      As for the rest, I am also outspoken and completely agree, being softy spoken and respectful is a waste of time. I no longer suffer fools gladly, or at all, in fact. And yes, more power to Catherine. To give something a name is the first step to having power over it – I love that I now have the name “gaslighting” for this ugly, insidious technique.

      • Alison says:

        Should have made that clear that my “loved your comment” was addressed to Anne Powles.

  63. josiemaddyk says:

    Thanks Jane. A wonderful letter.

  64. Prue says:

    All power to you. Beautifully written and a message well conveyed.

  65. […] Deveny,  in her famous face-off against Archbishop Phillip Jensen on ABC’s Q&A, I have refused to be ‘nice’ in response to a religious person bearing false witness. I have refused to observe the social […]

  66. ladytexaslee says:

    I’ve been aware of gaslighting my entire life as a vocal, shit-hot woman AND because I have a father too who is often perceived as “a bit eccentric”. I think that’s the male version of being gaslighted. Regardless, it’s a gift, indeed empowering to finally have a name for this insidious abuse of power.
    Hooray for Jane and many thanks!

  67. ladytexaslee says:

    Tamlyn, I couldn’t help but have a giggle at your post. It is indeed a lovely thing to watch a naturally reserved yet passionate woman pipe up! The shock and awe it causes is a joy to behold.

  68. jaguarpython says:

    Reblogged this on Jaguar Python and commented:
    Fantastic post about “Gaslighting” – the way an emotionally abusive person can make someone question their reality.

  69. […] Tanya’s chapter for The Australian Book of Atheism is one of my favourites. It’s called “Far Above Rubies” and tells the story of how little girls in fundamentalist Christian churches are taught how to be ‘Proverbs 31 women’. It’s a concept my friend, Jane Douglas (another escapee from fundamentalism) wrote about recently on her blog, Putting Her Oar In. […]

  70. Alison says:

    The fact that anybody at all does not understand how correct the author is(or at least pretends not to understand) demonstrates three things either a) you are also a religious zealot/control freak b) you have been fooled by his gas lighting or c) (following on from b) and therefore you refuse to question and look critically at this very effective technique because your gawd (or so you believe) wants you to do as you are told without ever thinking for yourself. There is no such thing as a role for men or women. You make your own roles, you choose your own fate. And everyone in the world has the right to love and be loved, openly. I will continue to live my life, as I have always done, using those facts to guide me.

  71. […] (ironing, according to our Australian Leader of the Opposition) as the Muslim religion.  For a personal experience of Fundamentalist Christianity, read Jane Douglas.  Different? Christians don’t run wear the […]

  72. Ahaa, it’s a pleasant dialogue regarding this piece of writing here at this blog,
    I have read all that, so now I’m also commenting !

  73. […] that you read it. I haven’t been this excited about discovering a new writer since I found Jane Douglas at Putting her Oar In! Go on! Head over to IA and have a read – and then share it with your […]

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