In June 2022, the famous trial of John C. Depp, II v. Amber Laura Heard ended with an unprecedented favorable decision for Johnny Depp. Once the world’s highest-paid actor, in large part due to his role as Jack Sparrow in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Depp lost many of his contracts and had his career destroyed after his ex-wife Amber Heard publicly accused him of physically abusing her when they were together.
Depp sued Heard for defamation and though defamation suits for public figures are rarely successful in the US, the jury, convinced by a multitude of evidence, ultimately sided with Depp and awarded him $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
Feminist Organizations Stand in Support of Abusive Amber Heard
Then, months later in November 2022, an open letter was published in opposition to the verdict and in support of Heard. They claimed that Heard was vilified and the victim of harassment:
“fueled by disinformation, misogyny, biphobia, and a monetized social media environment where a woman’s allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault were mocked for entertainment.”
What’s shocking, though, is not that the letter was written, but rather who signed it: 130 large, mainstream, openly feminist organizations, including:
- The Women’s March Foundation
- The National Women’s Law Center
- Women for Change
- The Asian Feminist
- The Feminist Majority Foundation
- The Feminist Litigation Firm
So what does it mean for feminism, men’s rights, gender equality, and the discourse around these things that these organizations would write such a letter? First, let’s consider the domestic situation, as documented with overwhelming evidence, between Depp and Heard.
Most Telling Pieces of Evidence in the Depp v Heard Trial
The evidence presented in the trial painted the picture of a highly dysfunctional relationship, one in which neither partner treated the other with a healthy amount of respect. Boundaries were crossed and feelings were hurt, but one thing was indisputably apparent: Heard was no victim. In fact, she regularly abused Depp and admitted to it, making it even more contemptuous that she would then try to portray herself publicly as a victim of domestic violence and a role model for other victims.
Recorded Audio of Heard Admitting to Assaulting Depp
An audio recording was presented to the court in which Amber Heard says outright, “I was hitting you.” Apparently, she was trying to qualify the way in which she had assaulted Depp, saying,
“I don’t know what the motion of my actual hand was, but you’re fine. I did not hurt you. I did not punch you. I was hitting you.”
She then went on to insult Depp, saying, “Grow the f*** up, Johnny.” Although this clearly reinforces the male gender role, the fact that men should be “tough” and can’t be the victim of violence, these organizations had no problem ignoring this piece of evidence.
Recorded Audio of Heard Taunting Depp
In another audio recording presented as evidence, Heard taunted Depp by saying,
“Tell the world, Johnny. Tell them Johnny Depp, I, Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim too of domestic violence.”
Not only does this seem to imply that Heard knowingly abused Depp, but it’s also an example of her taking advantage of the one-sided narrative on domestic violence and using gender roles to her advantage: the role of woman as victim and man as perpetrator.
Physical Evidence on Depp
There were two astounding pieces of evidence presented showing the physical injuries that Depp suffered, allegedly at the hands of Amber Heard. The first was a photo of Depp’s face covered with scratches. The second was a set of photographs of Depp’s severed and bloody finger, which Depp claimed was the result of Heard throwing vodka bottles at him during a fight.
Admittedly, the photographs in and of themselves can’t prove that Heard abused Depp, though the circumstances surrounding them were corroborated by witnesses. Nonetheless, combined with the audio recordings, one can certainly surmise that Heard was far from the victim of Depp’s dominant abusive behavior that she claimed to be.
The Implications of the Open Letter
So… when the evidence is this clear cut, what does it mean when not just one or two but 130 public and prestigious “feminist” organizations choose to ignore it and still maintain the narrative that Heard was the victim of domestic abuse and that any criticism of her is “misogyny”?
The Feminist “Brand”
The first big implication is that “feminism” represents a biased political narrative. Opponents of men’s rights usually make a lot of contradictory claims:
- Feminism merely seeks the “equality of women” and nothing more
- Feminism also fights for men’s rights, so men don’t need a movement
- Men’s rights activists just complain about feminism and don’t actually stand for anything
- Feminists that support anything bad aren’t “real feminists”
However, this open letter disproves all that. It was 130 organizations. These organizations are public, and well-known, and they identify with the feminist label. It’s hard to say that they aren’t “real feminists,” even if you’re willing to entertain that no true Scotsman fallacy.
This would be like a neo-Nazi trying to tell you that they just love their heritage and that racists identifying as Nazis aren’t “real Nazis.” Naturally, you would think that if this person truly opposes racism, then they should pick a new label and not identify as a Nazi rather than try to clear the Nazi name with logical fallacies. The same is true with feminism, this just being one of many examples.
Additionally, it seems valid that men want their own movement if prominent feminist organizations are willing to one, dismiss recorded examples of male abuse victims, and two, continue portraying a man as an abuser just to shore up their political narrative.
Discounting Female Victims
One of the most shocking things about the open letter is it makes it seem like these organizations, many of which were ostensibly started to support women who are victims of abuse, are willing to discount real victims.
To put it in other words, Heard is obviously not a blameless victim. At best she was in a terribly dysfunctional and mutually abusive relationship if not the abuser herself. Polls have shown that the vast majority of the country supports Depp and recognizes the severity of the evidence. When domestic abuse organizations come out in support of Heard, it downplays true abuse and makes people less likely to believe future claims.
In reality, these organizations should be criticizing Heard. She’s done a lot to damage their cause, but apparently, their narrative is more important.
Discounting Male Victims
Last but not least, these organizations have made it clear they don’t care about male victims. As Depp was at least willing to admit, he may not have treated Heard with the utmost respect either, but then if these organizations will give this kind of deference to Heard, shouldn’t they treat Depp like a victim as well? Instead, they seem intent on preserving old gender roles where women are only victims and men are only perpetrators.
In the end, this definitely shows that men need their own movements and organizations to support male victims and promote solutions to men’s issues. Feminism is not a solution.