I am frightened for us as women

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by Phyllis Chesler

And now, I am even more frightened for us as women.

The jury which has just found for Johnny Depp against Amber Heard reminds me that woman are as endangered as I feared we were—especially when we fight back or dare to expose male violence.

Most women are still not believed or respected; few are ever perfect enough victims. Add to that the fact that, like men, women are as close to the apes as to the angels and are capable of exaggerating and lying, capable of committing High Crimes and Misdemeanors. Add to that, that women have been exposing and fighting back against sexism and continue to face a backlash which is increasing by the second.

Also, Depp drew scads of screaming, swooning female fans. Perhaps some women just dislike other, perhaps more beautiful women and love, just love, Bad Boys. And some men may feel that Depp is their pirate gladiator who fought back on their behalf given the (unfair) humiliation leveled against all those men whom the #MeToo movement brought down or tried to bring down: Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, Woody Allen, etc.

I did not view the Depp-Heard trial nor did I read any of the articles about it. Celebrity culture does not really interest me. I do not view most trials and such a trial as forms of entertainment. They are more often blood sports and I am not a voyeur.

What was Heard’s crime? I went back to the beginning, to her December 18, 2018 op-ed in the Washington Post. It does not mention Depp. It is a low-key, everyday feminist piece. I could find nothing inflammatory, unusual, or wrong with it—but that’s because I’m also a feminist. Heard writes:

“Like many women, I had been harassed and sexually assaulted by the time I was of college age. But I kept quiet…and did not see myself as a victim…Then, two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse and felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”

Heard claims that she lost career opportunities and  saw how “institutions protect men accused of abuse…the #MeToo movement has taught us how power like this works, not just in Hollywood but in all kinds of institutions.”

Heard argues for the re-funding of the Violence Against Women Act and points out that former President Trump “has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct.”

Strange, Trump has also not sued her for defamation.

Heard refers to death threats and to having to change her phone number and writes that she wants to “ensure that women who come forward to talk about violence receive more support.”

I do not see how this vanilla op-ed piece led Depp to bring this lawsuit. However, people are telling me that she did, indeed, “defame” him in countless media interviews, and that he was moved to act so that his career would not be ruined and his children would not think him capable of violence against a woman. Not even when he was drunk and on drugs. Not even when Heard had photos credible enough to help her obtain a restraining order against him.

Well, she may have hit him too. Or “provoked” him—so all his female fans say.

Oh yes, many women seem to be supporting him, not her. Well, our people are known to write love letters to serial killers and run-of-the-mill murderers—and to marry some as well.

Okay. I wasn’t in the room. I haven’t read what the media ran with when Heard was allegedly defaming Depp. I haven’t read the trial transcript.

But I must ask: What kind of man would actually bring a public defamation lawsuit against his former wife? How great could her crimes have been? How much was he quick to anger/how much had she aggravated him?

Here’s how such a man sounds in a series of text messages.

“Hopefully that c—t’s rotting corpse is decomposing in f—g trunk of a honda civic.

In another text, Depp fantasized about having sex with Heard’s “burnt corpse” to make sure she was dead.

Finally, Depp wrote that Heard was “begging for total global humiliation. She’s gonna get it.”

He also referred to Heard as an “overused flappy fish market.”

What a nice guy.

Perhaps justice was served by this verdict. But here’s what puzzles me. Heard’s article is, as I’ve noted, entirely vanilla and does not name Depp. Apparently, journalists around the world kept asking Heard about Depp and she kept saying whatever she said. (I admit it: I have not read or seen any of this).

If the media truly defamed Depp, if they quoted Heard without checking out the facts and/or without getting Depp’s side,  I must ask: Why hasn’t Depp sued the media? Oh, he did—but he lost against the Sun. But the media apparently chose to keep quoting Heard about the Depp. And We, the People ate it all up, gossip sold the rags. And now this never-ending trial has sold more rags.

One cannot generalize based on single trial. Perhaps justice really was served.

And yet—consider the moment in which we find ourselves. Very few “real” rape cases are ever prosecuted. Incest—rarely. Domestic violence—a bit more than before but far, far from having been abolished. Pornography and prostitution in which women are “holes,” and/or “ho’s”  have only increased exponentially. Many of the poorest American women are about to lose abortion. We are not even referred to as “women” anymore. Gender identity speech codes increasingly demand that we be referred to as “menstruating people” or, in terms of surrogacy, as “breeders” or “surrogate uteruses.”

Despite some real progress for some women; despite the ways in which feminist ideas and ideals have travelled globally; I still fear that all women are now facing what always was—as well as an ugly backlash.

10 Responses

  1. Well, I did not follow the trial either, so we’re equal. But I do know that studies report women as striking men far more often than vice versa. And I can report this as true to my own experience. Second, Heard’s platform was generated by Depp’s fame. Her allegations injured his career so that just like a business he was entitled to sue. And it would seem, from the decision brought down, he was justified in doing so. I don’t think it injures women to expose frauds.

    1. You don’t even need studies to show this, it’s so common and casually so. I have never personally seeing a man striking a woman, but I’ve seen the opposite too many times to count, from schooldays all through adulthood.

  2. So you did not watch the trial or read anything about it, but you are sure that Depp has no defamation claim? He lost multiple movie roles as a result of Heard’s’ op ed. I didn’t watch the trial either , but saw enough highlights to know she was the abusive one (she taped many of their interactions). From defecating in their bed to costing Depp the tip I of his finger with a smashed vodka bottle, Heard is at best a controlling, rage-filled narcissist with no impulse control. Women–even abused women–are not well served by pretending women don’t ever abuse men. (And no, I don’t mean “provoke” them, I mean straight up abuse them. ) You can cite Depp’s repugnant texts but know nothing of Heard’s equally repellent verbal abuse of him because you neither watched nor read about the trial. I’ve read some of your other writings and found them intelligent and interesting, but when you brag about your total ignorance and then proceed to draw conclusions about parties to a case and what it all means for women in society, I find it impossible to respect you. This piece is beneath you.

  3. I didn’t follow the trial closely, Johnny Depp and Amanda Heard don’t hold a lot of I test for me but, I did read a comment from their marriage guidance counsellor who gave evidence. she said they both have as good as they got. It is disingenuous to label Johnny Depp a ‘wifebeater’ in those circumstances, in. Y opinion. No doubt it was fuelled by intoxicating substances as well. Apparently he lost lucrative work because of it is the Pirates of the Carribbean franchise. He had been married for 14 years to a French actress, Venessa Paradis, and had no history of violence towards her.

  4. So let me get this straight. You say:
    “I did not view the Depp-Heard trial nor did I read any of the articles about it.”
    “Okay. I wasn’t in the room. I haven’t read what the media ran with when Heard was allegedly defaming Depp. I haven’t read the trial transcript.”
    “(I admit it: I have not read or seen any of this).”
    So, essentially, you admit that you don’t know what the hell you’re writing about, but feel qualified to write about it and make all sorts of generalizations based on your ignorance.
    Typical feminist writing.

  5. What the hell is this toilet paper of an article doing in the NER? Absolute feminist tripe, a mass of feelings over facts.

    Go back and watch the trial from start to finish like I did, Phyllis. Heard is a liar, a lunatic, a physical and emotional abuser to not just Depp.

  6. Phyllis, you are nuts. Because she’s a woman, she’s to be believed? He was believable, even when it made him look bad. She actually came across as a nasty,awful liar. She was obviously lying if you watched, which you didn’t. I know women who lied about abuse and even rape. I know no women who have actually been raped, but I know two women who lied about rape (yet admitted lying much later). I know women who’ve claimed being victims to get attention from men they desired. I’ve met women stalkers. This is not a setback for women. This was a fair hearing and the jury considered the evidence and the witnesses and came to a decision based on what they saw…and not based on “believe all women no matter what,” and “judge before considering evidence,” and “guilty until proven innocent.”

    You are so incredibly annoying, it bothers me immensely you have free rein here and nobody apparently edits your posts. This isn’t Ms. Magazine. Go spew your ideology elsewhere please. Here we like evidence and facts, not feminist bs.

  7. Are you familiar with Hal Bynum’s music? You’d probably defend Lucille– because she has a vagina. That’s all you need. Trials could be vastly shortened with that rule? “Does the defendant have a vag? Yes? We find in her favor!”

  8. What a great juror you would have been for Heard’s side. You could ignore all the evidence, even tune out for the day, and still decide for Heard despite the overwhelming evidence in his favor. I mean, she’s a woman and nothing else is important, right?

    And you suggest all of the other women must be jealous because Amber is beautiful? Yet you’re a feminist? That’s what you think of women? Really? So, from your argument, it must follow that everyone who didn’t like Obama was racist, everyone who is against massive Islamic immigration is Islamophobic, and everyone who sided with Depp must be jealous and misogynistic. Yet you claim YOU’re the feminist intellectual? Your argument is the least intellectual thing in this magazine because you’re actually an ideologue.

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