It’s been five years since the Me Too movement was first announced.
A draft of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe, and American women’s rights in
reproductive freedom, was leaked on May 2. Johnny Depp won the defamation case against
Amber Heard. He claimed that he had abused her. Depp’s argument was accepted by the jury.
Heard had in fact abused Depp and lied about it. (Heard was convicted of one count of
defamation against Depp’s ex-lawyer Adam Waldman. It is fitting that the cultural moment that
began with women speaking out against powerful men who hurt them ended in the courts
deciding in favor of one of these men.
Every wave of feminist activism receives a backlash. The 1970s political movement was met by
the reactionary work of Phyllis Schlafly, her cohort, and the Equal Rights Amendment.
Third-wave feminism of the 1990s saw the end of girl-power and was replaced by the
Bush-era’s virginity-obsessed purity culture. Fifth-wave feminism is now facing its own backlash,
five years after Harvey Weinstein’s 2017 fall the Me Too movement reached its peak.
This is the end of the reaction: Our legal system appears to be on the brink of recognizing
neither women’s right to control their own bodies nor women’s right to talk about violence done
to their bodies.
Depp’s victory did not result from a criminal case. It was a civil matter about an op-ed in a
newspaper. Heard published an op-ed in the Washington Post titled “I spoke out against sexual
violence — faced our culture’s wrath.” That must change.” Heard does not mention Depp in the
Washington Post, but she calls herself “a public figure representing domestic violence.” Depp
claimed that Heard was clearly referring directly to him and that this was defaming him. The jury
This verdict goes so far as to state that anyone saying “I was abused” can be sued as a liar. It is
also likely to chill other domestic violence victims who may want to come forward. In a recent
Rolling Stone article, one victim’s advocate describes how “hundreds” of domestic abuse
survivors have retracted their victims’ statements and pulled out of court cases in direct
response to Depp-Heard’s trial. Depp fans already support Marilyn Manson who was accused
by Evan Rachel Wood of abuse.
This news is being received with joy by both Depp fans as well as major cultural institutions.
tweeted, “THIS WILL BE DAY YOU ALMOST CAUGHT CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW.” House
Judiciary GOP’s official Twitter account celebrated the win with a GIF featuring Depp dressed in
full Jack Sparrow regalia. Numerous celebrities, including Bella Hadid, Ashley Benson, and
Taika Waititi, who supported Me Too, “Liked” Depp’s celebratory Instagram photo.
The past five years have been spent on a cultural reckoning regarding all the wronged women
in the ’90s, all of the Britney Spears, Monica Lewinskys, Lorena Bobbitt, and Tonya Hardings,
and all the women we considered to be punchlines, who were clearly victims and perpetrators of
abuse, assault, and sexual violence. The hashtag #AmberTurd was trending on Twitter after a
court ruled Amber Heard should be ordered to pay $15 million for a man who abused her.
Depp supporters claim that Depp’s victory is not the end of Me Too, but an expansion of the
movement. Depp claims that Heard is the domestic violence victim in the story. His supporters
claim that Depp is helping to end the stigma against abuse victims. How can anyone claim that
real men aren’t abused after Captain Jack Sparrow revealed to the world that he was a victim of
domestic violence? According to the story, this trial is necessary to correct the #BelieveWomen
hashtag, which was popular in the early days of Me Too. The goal is not to believe all women
but all victims, even male victims.
There is strong evidence that Heard acted violently towards Depp. She admitted hitting Depp at
least once and can be heard on audio recordings talking about hitting him.
Also, there is compelling evidence that Depp behaved violently towards Heard. Photos and
contemporaneous witness accounts of Depp striking Heard are backed up by multiple
Heard was always more powerful than Depp. Heard was 22 years old, Depp was 46 and he was
looking to hire her for a job. He was a household legend. He was more popular, richer, and more
loved than she was. Even though Heard was not a perfect victim and if she had incited violent
encounters with Depp at times, it does not change that Depp had power over Heard that she did
not have. I Too taught us that victims don’t have to be perfect to get justice. People who behave
badly do not deserve to have their rights violated. This lesson seems to have disappeared.
Depp’s win is not an expansion of the gains made by Me Too. It’s a cynical use of Me Too’s
rhetoric, now applied to its end.
It is worth asking the question: Why all this backlash? Harvey Weinstein was convicted of some
of his alleged rapes after the Me Too movement took place several years after he had stopped
being able to deliver Oscar winners reliably. The Me Too movement was created in response to
Donald Trump’s election. This was even after Trump was recorded boasting about sexually
assaulting several women.
Our judicial system seems to have said that while an alleged rapist held the highest office in the
country, another less-powerful one was sent to prison. It is important that women give up control
of their bodies to ensure safety.
Every wave of feminism is met with a backlash. It’s still heartbreaking to think that this backlash
would be so abruptly or definitively.