Cartoon of Johnny Depp

Men It Is Down to Us to Change

There has been a great deal of silence last week about the result of the Depp/Heard defamation suit result. Obviously there have celebrations by the Depp fans, who can see no wrong in their hero. Other than that there has mainly been comments such as "I have not followed it..." or "They deserve each other...".

Whilst I sympathise with these comments, I would have hoped to see more from the generality of men pointing out the glaring inconsistency of the verdicts that just promoted the dominance-based culture of masculinity. These verdicts bore no relation to what actually happened and just seemed to examples of fan-worship.

Self-Deception by Men

I have no axe to grind about the details of the case or the two individuals involved other than to point out that it was clear to any intelligent observer that Depp is a man who is used to dominate women and clearly feels that control over women is normal and acceptable. Unfortunately the jury—men and women—seemed to agree with him. In any dispassionate view the result was a travesty and a typical example of how much men dominate our culture, and how much this is deemed acceptable.

In 'Men Who Oppose Violence Against Women and Girls But…' Mark Greene wrote,

This self-deception by men, that we can both be good to women and deserving of power over them, forms the foundation of our dominance-based culture of masculinity. The end result is a spectrum of abuse, from smallest micro aggression like “talking over women,” to economic and political violence against women, to outright femicide. Every man is free to choose how his version of control over women will play out. And millions of men of are making very violent choices because the rest of us insure that right of control remains in place.

This self-deception by men is a perfect way of describing it.

Culture That Oppresses Women

The Guardian had several articles and opinion pieces looking at this issue. In 'Depp-Heard trial verdict decried as symptom of a culture that oppresses women' Edward Helmore quoted Wendy Murphy, a former sex crimes prosecutor,

This is a symptom of a culture that has oppressed women since its founding. This is exhibit one in proof that women need full equality under the law in this country. Without it, we get absurd verdicts like this.

Heard was denied equal protection because the US constitution has denied it to women since 1868, when the 14th amendment guaranteed equal protection of the laws without explicitly mentioning women. It wasn’t until 1971 that a supreme court ruling, Reed v Reed, established that dissimilar treatment of men and women was unconstitutional.

Orgy Of Misogyny

In 'The Amber Heard-Johnny Depp trial was an orgy of misogyny' Moira Donegan said,

The strange, illogical, and unjust ruling has the effect of sanctioning Depp’s alleged abuse of Heard, and of punishing Heard for speaking about it. It will have a devastating effect on survivors, who will be silenced, now, with the knowledge that they cannot speak about their violent experiences at men’s hands without the threat of a ruinous libel suit. In that sense, women’s speech just became a lot less free.

She went on to reference an earlier suit by Depp in a UK court,

In 2020, a British court heard Depp’s lawsuit against the British tabloid the Sun, which Depp sued for defamation after an article referred to him as a “wife beater”. UK courts are much more amenable to defamation claims than American ones, but Depp still couldn’t prevail: the British judge found that the Sun’s characterization of Depp was “substantially true”. That same trial found that Depp physically abused Heard on at least 12 occasions.

The difference was that the case was heard by an impartial judge rather than a star-struck jury. She finished the opinion piece with,

In some ways, one could see the defamation suit itself as an extension of Depp’s abuse of Heard, a way to prolong his humiliation and control over her. The only difference is that now, the legal system and the public have been conscripted to take part. This seems to be at least partly how Depp sees it. In 2016, as their marriage broke apart, Depp texted his friend Christian Carino, vowing revenge against Heard. “She is begging for global humiliation,” Depp wrote. “She is going to get it.”

Such a kind and compassionate man who has no beef about women!

Fear Of Humiliation And Ridcule

In another opinion piece, 'Was it really asking too much for Amber Heard to be listened to without prejudice' Gaby Hinsliff pointed out that,

British domestic violence experts warned even before the verdict emerged that the extraordinary vitriol heaped on Heard on social media was reawakening age-old fears in victims about coming forward. The fear of humiliation and ridicule is never far below the surface. And why wouldn’t it be, when this distressing trial was treated in some quarters like just another light celebrity spat, livestreamed worldwide via YouTube for viewers’ gawping convenience?

In conclusion she asks,

All women really ask of men—and, arguably, vice versa—is the chance to be heard without prejudice. Whatever did or didn’t happen between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, right now that modest goal seems ever more tantalisingly out of reach.

It Is Down To Us To Change

It may seem that the problem is peculiarly American one. While it is a big issue in the USA, it exists everywhere. Afghanistan is particularly extreme example of how it plays out in public, but rest assured it exists everywhere especially in private.

Mark Greene concludes the article I started with,

Until we, as men, give up the generations old presumption of men’s right to control women, girls, and non binary people, we are the source of the violence. No matter how we behave.

Men. We categorically CAN NOT be good to any group that we also presume to have power over. It is impossible.

Men, it is down to us to change this behaviour starting with ourselves.