Despite no official announcement from Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, it is being reported that the young actor has forgiven his Twilight sweetheart. If this is true, and this is not just a promotion for their movie, then Pattinson will possibly be the first famous man of his generation to forgive a cheating woman.
I am not a fan of Twilight, and I am not personally invested in seeing the two get back together nor will I boil with hate in the event of a reconciliation. What I’m interested in is how this scandal reveals a gender-based skewed culture of forgiveness that we should examine and reflect upon.
A Huffington Post article “Trampire:” Why the Public Slut Shaming of Kristen Stewart Matters for Young Women by Nico Lang traces celebrity relationship mishaps, and points out that in many instances men are left unscathed despite cheating scandals and other grievous mistakes. The article says:
I might not be concerned for K-Stew, but I am concerned for all the young women today who are tuned into this scandal, ones who are learning that it’s not okay to screw up, ever. Chris Brown can publicly beat the hell out of his girlfriend but still be played on the radio and win Grammys. However, if you ever cheat on your boyfriend, your life is over and no one will ever want to be associated with you. Almost no one will blame the much-older guy you cheated with, and it might actually make him more famous and help his career. Few will care that he was your boss and in a position of authority or that he may have have taken advantage of your youth and relative inexperience. Everything is your fault, and your life will be threatened over it. If you are a trampire, you will be publicly staked for it, even though cheater Ashton Kutcher recently emerged relatively unscathed by the media. No one asked for him to be fired from Two and a Half Men.
The article’s discussion of the way the public forgives men more easily than women interested me, but I also want to examine forgiveness as a personal choice and how cultures of forgiveness differ between men and women.
I can’t say that forgiving a cheater is the right choice or the wrong choice. It’s really up to the person involved to make the final decision. I am not arguing that Pattinson should forgive Stewart, but if he has already genuinely forgiven her, then I celebrate his personal choice because it is rare to find famous men who have forgiven cheating women.
Although men are considered to have a higher tendency to cheat, they are the ones who lack the capacity to forgive when they’ve been cheated on. According to this article, six in ten women would forgive a man even if he has cheated twice, but only one in ten men would forgive a woman if she cheats once.
Forgiving someone is a personal choice, but sometimes our personal choices are influenced by the way we are socialized to believe in certain values or how we are raised to perceive certain behaviors as permissible or forgivable. These values are often reinforced by the people around us who give us advice during trying times.
When the scandal broke out, I remember reading an article which said that Pattinson’s friends (let’s assume they were male friends) were working hard to stop him from getting back together with Stewart.
A woman’s friends would not react the same way. Sure there will be those who will tell her to forget him, but some will ask, “Do you still love him? Can you still forgive him?” If they are already married, the woman’s friends will tell her to save her marriage. I wonder if male friends would tell the man to forgive his wife and work on the marriage for the sake of their children.
Ok, let’s do an experiment. Answer these two questions with either a yes or a no:
Question 1: Do you believe that cheating should never ever be forgiven?
Question 2: Are you a man?
I wonder: is there a higher chance that those people who say yes to the first question also say yes to the second? If so, why do men and women have different standards when it comes to forgiveness?
We must ask ourselves why it seems that men are allowed to make more mistakes than women. We must ask ourselves why society makes us believe that are men reform-able cheaters but women are unforgivable sluts.
King Henry the VIII of England had a string of wives and a larger throng of mistresses, but when his wives were accused or proven to be unfaithful, he had them beheaded. At least men have learned to stop killing women for infidelity, but even in this century are the fellas still jumping the gun?
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