Of course a make-believe pirate hijacked the #MeToo movement

By Liz Henry

I couldn’t help but sit back, turn off my screen, and consider: How does one combat a dickfestation? Is there an exterminator for that? Like, for the culture? Of course a make-believe pirate would hijack the progress of the #MeToo movement.

I did not watch the defamation trial of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp live. This was a conscious choice. There is no other way to drown a culture already flooded with misogyny than with spectacle. And I’ve already seen my fair share of trials become spectator sport—turning victims into afterthoughts or fresh kill for comedy. I’ve lived through O.J. and the Clinton impeachment. It felt like we were getting somewhere with Cosby (before the reversal) and Weinstein (at least he’s still in jail). That’s the point: Women were getting somewhere. Some men were almost held accountable for their actions. In this country, that’s incremental progress.

Hating women is a sport in this country. Possibly its favorite. More American than baseball, certainly more violent than football. Proximity to femininity has become increasingly dangerous and these are perilous times for all women. It is exceptional how hard the culture focuses on re-defining and expanding “women” yet refuses to integrate masculinity in a sustained and thoughtful way. To put it on trial; to examine the corrosive nature of manhood—how little room for joy and adventure the category holds. It’s like we somehow walked into an antique shop and missed the sign on the door: “If you break it, you buy it.” And so, here we are, saddled with the albatross of masculinity that allows for a rich, white, has-been to bend reality with his money and power—whether actor or former president—and now all of our lives are worse for such a gross oversight.

I am a coward in the face of masculinity too. I have a “fuck the patriarchy” banner in my office, which also happens to be my enclosed front porch. The banner is heavy card stock in millennial pink and white lettering and hangs across my book shelves. Do I sometimes take the banner down when an unknown man enters my home to clean a boiler? To paint a stairwell? Yes, because I do not want to get murdered. I do not underestimate the fragility of a population that is heavily armed, aggressive, and looking for a scapegoat. Millennial pink cannot be my gateway into hell. It just cannot.

It is the same reason I pull over when Dodge Rams and Ford F-150s the size of cargo ships drive behind me with mere inches between my bumper and their front end. I move to the side, I get out of the way. (There really should be the right lane, the left lane, and the toxic masculinity off ramp.)

But maneuvering around masculinity is not a long-term solution. The kind of lives we want and deserve—ones free from violence, intimidation, inequality and disempowerment—demands sustained confrontation with redefining masculinity. But power, especially the rich, white, make-believe pirate kind, will dig up the buried treasure of misogyny’s playbook and set sail on the oceans of backlash against the small, progressive gains women have been able to make under such limited conditions.

We cannot let it swallow Amber Heard or us. When I went back to watch the testimony of Heard and Depp, I was shocked by how provincial, how typical the fuse of their arguments, and how close it played to toxic masculinity’s greatest hits.

Depp, it appears, did not want a partner, an equal; he wanted an accessory. According to Heard, Depp was controlling, jealous, volatile, emotionally and physically abusive, and actively in addiction. Depp, again according to Heard, micromanaged her interactions with male actors, her friends, her outfits, how she presented herself, and the roles she chose. At one point, in a Margaret Atwood quote come to life, Heard shared that Depp, through tears, slapped her after lamenting, “no woman has ever embarrassed me like that.”

Depp, in a move of diabolical depravity, countered that Amber shit in the bed. And that, as patriarchy would say, was it. Just like he wanted, Depp had burned the witch.

These are dark times, but they are not unprecedented. Johnny Depp is not the first iconic actor accused of abusing his talented but less powerful blond partner and leaving her career on life support. He’s not even the first one to share an unbelievable story that, nonetheless, tanked the career of a hugely successful actress in her prime. The culture at large appears to be on a thirty-year-cycle against realizing the full humanity of women. Knowing we’ve been here before—“The past is never dead,” as Faulker writes, “it’s not even past”—lets me see the lighthouse on the dark shore for what it is: a beacon that begs us to keep going. That the only way out of this dickfestation is through it.

Liz Henry has written for The New York Times, Washington Post, and is a former senior editor at Scary Mommy. You can read her newsletter here. She lives outside Philadelphia.

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1 thought on “Of course a make-believe pirate hijacked the #MeToo movement”

  1. I’m so frustrated because I did watch every available moment of the six-week trial, with feminists (and TERFs are not feminists.)

    Because I will sign my real name I will not give my history with violence, but I am prone to automatically assume a woman saying she was abused is telling the truth.

    I also believe men generally downplay abuse they’ve received because of our cultural toxic masculinity.

    I actually think this case was very important as a cultural moment to acknowledge ANYONE can be an abuse victim, and this is liberating to ALL survivors of IPV.

    I checked out the trial on a variety of platforms from a variety of perspectives. Everywhere, and I mean everywhere, the real-time reactions of people actually were almost universally supportive of Depp, and based on expert testimony and character witnesses, and largely Heard’s OWN testimony, OWN recordings she took surreptitiously, so many holes in her story and some very large slip-ups she gave during testimony. All victims act differently on the stand but nothing about her presentation rang true. I watched with my therapist and all the social work team, all of us on the “listen to women” side, and not knee-jerk believe any accusation. Just listen and take seriously.

    Many of the very few AH stream supporters very much had the classic flags of bots.

    Every supporter of Heard I interact with admits they didn’t actually watch the trial.

    This is incredibly troubling.

    False claims pedophile cases hurt real victims. I grew up in the West peak Satanic Panic, those people could not support their claims but they were so certain and passionate about their accusations

    I live in Salem Mass, and am incredibly tired of the Salem Crisis being everyone’s go-to story. I’d also be open to a serious discussion with references on why using it as a feminist allegory us solely mistaken. I read academic archaeological and historical and sociological texts from leaders in the field. Arthur Miller did the memory of the hanged (and starved and pressed) a great disservice. But it is the worst of several similar incidents to choose to use as the feminist example

    So being universally almost proud of not watching the trial and not just pop off on Twitter but write think-pieces is a great disservice

    For so long prople we’re told there was no IPV in queer couples, or if men.

    What I witnessed in those real-time conversations of people watching together, independent of politics, was many men and non-binary people tell their stories of being abused. And for maybe the first time many were believed, not blamed, not shamed, and robustly supported.

    This is a GREAT win for survivors across the board and I naïvely believed would actually be received this way.

    But from people that not only watched the trial but the real time conversations…

    I’ve been a loud feminist in the streets since the 80s in parts of the country where it was potentially dangerous. My school was particularly known for SA, and pri-life fundamentalism. My coach started the Promise Keepers, and by outing his own daughters business, in service of pro-life agenda, and he leveraged that into a whole companion to operation rescue. I did clinic defense and got homemade butyr*c acid thrown on me. I KNOW these people

    Also police would come to homes, and say an IPV scene was too dangerous for them and left bleeding women and young children there, now in more danger for neighbors attempts to help and police attention. No help would be coming

    My therapist social workers and I all discussed how weird it felt to not automatically side with Heard. But the more they observed from a professional lens, they were surprised to support Depp more (Heard seems to have childhood c-PTSD. Her expert testified they assessed fir both IPV-caused PTSD and childhood c-PTSD. The tests given cannot assess for both simultaneously. Many tests were done incorrectly and applied irresponsibly. The science was BAD science.

    Heard’s OWN evidence presented was the best case against her claims. Repeatedly.

    And this was a defamation case, the IPV was just secondary

    I spent six weeks taking this VERY seriously and in orifound discussion with experts

    I have taken almost all the medications used as evidence in both sides and her expert was EGREGIOUSLY wrong. His testimony was more traumatic for me than the childhood abuse and toxic couple incredibly specific and painful dws tying the horrible things they BOTH DID TO EACH OTHER. But by her own evidence she was far worse and her behavior makes no sense (buying your abuser a huge knife as a gift. Taking tranqs and going asleep right after a fight. Punching him in the eye ON THEIR HOMEYMOON. Testimony from doctors that routinely treated them both. The tip of his finger was severed, and the witness testimony plausible

    He had people who had stayed with him for thirty years. Many no longer dependent on Depp financially. People aren’t loyal and passionate and 30 years working for a monster.

    Her only support was her sister she is known to have abused. Lies about Kate Moss who testified they were lied in the tabloids.

    So to opine not having watched is actually deeply offensive when I took serious effort to hear both sides and a lot of lived experience in most things discussed and professional opinion from multiple experts in fields I am educated in. I do my homework, and not at a first-year level.

    “I didn’t watch but…”

    We should support all survivors whoever they are acknowledging must stats support he’s bad/she’s innocent narratives.

    If we want men as feminist allies this is NOT the way.

    Very did stay everyone willing to scream and cry in public without looking at evidence and listening to testimony

    A man suggested I only had my opinion because Depp was in 21 Jumo Street (I am his age.) it’s incredibly condescending to imply I cannot understand he also is not Ed Wood or Edward Wars scussorhands

    I actually never once watched 21 jump street or consumed teen fan magazines.

    And the man making that accusation?

    He didn’t watch.

    It’s incredibly offensive and damaging to the mivement, already endangered by TERFs. Who didn’t watch.

    Then casually sneer “a fake pirate.” At a potential victim. Did you even consider your biases?

    Insulting. A betrayal of my family pain and a lifetime of apparently pointless activism, and this week of Roe v Wade dying, incredibly disappointing.

    Then casually sneer “a fake pirate.” At a potential victim. Did you even consider your biases? Do you know the current ensuing litigation is entirely about the headline? What do you know about this? And do you know the UK trial was different charges and different rules of evidence?

    The author does not seem serious. Definitely did not do due diligence.

    In the name of feminism. Without watching. Incredibly insulting. And invalidating. It’s obviously triggering for many of us.

    And damaging to the cause. Not everyone is an ally and I wish I would learn.

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