Chinese-American singer Wang Leehom's divorce scandal popularizes concept of gaslighting, providing a lesson to Chinese netizens
Published: Dec 21, 2021 09:51 PM
The photo taken on May 18, 2014 shows Lee Jinglei and Wang Leehom in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. Photo: VCG

The photo taken on May 18, 2014 shows Lee Jinglei and Wang Leehom in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. Photo: VCG

The concept of gaslighting, a form of emotional manipulation in abusive relationships, went viral on Chinese social media overnight after Lee Jinglei, ex-wife of Wang Leehom, accused the Chinese-American singer online on Monday of gaslighting her for years in their marriage. 

Lee referred to the concept in a post on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo, attracting the attention of numerous netizens who began asking the meaning of gaslighting is and how to avoid it.

"As the psychologist said, your post is a typical example of gaslighting," Lee wrote in a response to Wang's accusations made in an earlier post. 

Lee later explained the meaning of gaslighting, saying that Wang attempted to use false or misleading accusations to divert people's attention and make her angry so he could pretend to be a victim. He wanted to manipulate his friends, family and fans to join him in bullying Lee.

"I was in this dilemma for years but now I have been taught by a psychologist to see what you were doing and to develop the ability to bring the focus back to the issues that really need to be discussed," Lee wrote in a long post.

The term was inspired by the 1944 movie Gas Light. In a relationship, if a partner questions your memory of events, trivializes your thoughts or feelings and turns things around to blame you, you may be caught up in a pattern of gaslighting and emotional abuse.

If we want to avoid being gaslighted by others, it is important for us to learn to believe in ourselves instead of making excuses for the mistakes of others. We should get rid of the habit of blaming ourselves, ignoring our own feelings and suppressing our emotions, and  be confident about our judgment.

Lee's situation is not only a warning for women in romantic relationships but can also be a lesson for men too, as they can just as easily be the target of their partners' gaslighting. It is important for everyone to recognize various emotional manipulation methods and have the courage to avoid them.

Following the trend, some Chinese netizens said they bought books about emotional manipulation while others posted videos to introduce the concept to more netizens.

The Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests is set to insert content about emotional manipulation, including emotional abuse like gaslighting, to provide women legal protection. The draft amendment was submitted on Monday.

Late Friday night, Lee posted a long article on Sina Weibo in which she said that Wang had cheated on her, transferred marital property, had affairs with married women and emotionally abused her forcing her to agree to a divorce.

Wang responded on his Sina Weibo account on Sunday night saying that he had been living under the shadow of horror, blackmail and threats for almost six years until they separated.

He denied being unfaithful to his wife and said that he finally conceded to Lee's demands by giving her 150 million yuan and additional life expenses.