How the concept of forgiveness is used to gaslight women

Sophie King
Jun 13 · 3 min read

I’m not against the concept of forgiveness, I’ve chosen to forgive people countless times. However, what I’m definitely against, is pressuring people to forgive and shaming them if they don’t. I’ve found there’s a lot of stigma attached to those who choose not to forgive, especially if you’re a woman.

Women that don’t forgive, are assumed to be “scorned”, “bitter and twisted”. The stereotypes that surround “unforgiving” women, are used to gaslight them.

When women express that they’re upset or angry (and justifiably so), as a result of being hurt, people dismiss them as “bitter” and the validity of their feelings and experiences are questioned.

She isn’t psychologically traumatised because she’s been wronged, she’s just a “scorned woman”, “got an axe to grind”, “holding a grudge” and “unable to move on”. The fault lies with her, not the perpetrator because she won’t “let it go” and “get over it”. She’s not the victim, she’s bringing it on herself by not forgiving. The blame is shifted from the wrongdoer to the victim.

People assert she isn’t understandably angry and hurt, she’s “overreacting”, “irrational”, “crazy”, “psycho”, “too sensitive”. She’s “making something out of nothing”, she’s being “petty”, “creating drama”. She doesn’t want justice, she’s “out for revenge”.

Labelling a woman “bitter”, is like calling them “crazy”, it’s just another way to dismiss their feelings and whatever has happened to them as “all in her head”. Her feelings and experiences are just irrational and paranoid delusions of a “bitter” and “crazy” woman, not the reality of how women are mistreated every day all over the world.

Men often use the status of an unforgiving woman, to avoid accountability for their actions by disregarding whatever women accuse them of, by saying they’re “just bitter”. What he did was wrong but she’s worse for not being the better person and forgiving him.

No one wants the reputation of being a “bitter” woman, so this manipulates women into keeping silent and the perpetrator remains protected and their behaviour remains unchallenged.

In the past, when I’ve chosen to forgive and I’ve chosen not to, in both instances it was for my own benefit, on my own terms and my personal choice. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t end up a bitter and twisted woman for the times I didn’t forgive. In fact, I found it empowered me to draw the line, my line of what I deem forgivable, to protect myself. I don’t owe anyone forgiveness and I won’t be shamed if I don’t forgive. Instead of telling someone they should forgive, tell the perpetrator not to do unforgivable things. Instead of assuming women that don’t forgive are scorned, listen to them.

Sophie King

Written by

artist and writer based in the UK

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