OPINION | Online attacks targeting Amber Heard send a dangerous message to women victims of violence

Publisher’s note: Jill Filipovic is a New York-based journalist and author of the book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this comment are solely yours. Read more opinion articles on CNN en Español.

(CNN) — There are no heroes in Johnny Depp’s libel trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard. To a casual observer, the case appears to be about two deeply dysfunctional people who saw their emotional dysregulation worsen exponentially due to their romantic relationship.

For much of social media, however, seems like a simplistic morality tale: a hero brought down by a scheming girl; a good man cheated by a bad woman. What was clearly a complicated relationship has been rendered in black and white by legions of Depp superfans who seem to find a greater purpose in life by defending the honor of Captain Jack Sparrow and smearing the woman who dared to accuse him of wrongdoing. conduct.

As CNN reported, the social media responses to the trial have mostly come from users who are by Depp’s side and are often cruel to Heard, who is more than two decades younger than Depp and was much less famous before. of marriage, divorce and all the drama that followed. Depp fans include some very vocal men’s rights activistswho claim that women are often the abusers in relationships, as well as seemingly average citizens who have become experts in everything from domestic abuse to body language to personality disorders.

“A joke” and “a seller”, Heard’s insults to Depp 0:41

The impact beyond the testimonies of Depp and Heard

Sure, men can be victims of abuse too, and sometimes relationships involve two people physically hurting each other. Both Depp and Heard seem to have a loose relationship with the truth. Her marriage counselor testified They both abused each other. Heard says Depp physically, emotionally and sexually abused her; Depp He says that he never hit her but that she assaulted him.

Previous reports and testimony at the trial suggest that Depp struggles with alcohol and drug use. According to Depp’s testimony and the graphic and violent text messages he sent about Heard, which were presented at trial, he too appears to revel in misogynistic and violent fantasies. (He claimed on the stand that the text messages were intended to be humorous.)

But the impact of this trial is not limited to its outcome or what it says about the story either side is telling. It’s also about the message these vicious online attacks on Amber Heard send. The misogyny of the fandom has produced toxic results beforeAnd what is a woman, particularly one who may be the victim of emotional or physical abuse, supposed to get out of the vitriol that this trial has unleashed? And the answer to that question is important, because the reality is that abuse is very much a gender issue: women face much higher rates of intimate partner violence and it is much more likely that your intimate partner hurt or kill them.

This, of course, does not mean that women are the victims and men are the perpetrators in all cases. Statistics paint a big picture, but they don’t tell us what did or didn’t happen between two people. The problem with the Depp-Heard case, though, is that while the evidence doesn’t make either side look particularly honorable, the social media comments don’t add complexity. They want a hero and a villain, and they want to sink that villain to the bottom.

Amber Heard recounts how she dealt with her addictions 2:42

misogynistic abuse online

Ironically, or perhaps unsurprisingly, protests of Depp’s total innocence have turned into crowds online that swarm over anyone who disagrees and believes Heard is the victim. I’ve heard that followers are routinely targeted and abused online; their accounts are reported en masse and sometimes suspended, and are subjected to currents of misogynist vitriol, all, ostensibly, to show that Depp is not an abuser. In the meantime, Heard’s testimony is teased and teased. And even Depp’s daughter is being targeted online by Depp fans who believe she isn’t supportive enough of her father.

These self-appointed defenders of an alleged victim of abuse happily engage in misogynistic abuse online. And in the meantime, both victims of domestic violence and abusers are watching this unfold. The lesson seems to be that who is believed in a situation where there are mutual accusations of domestic violence will depend on popularity, and that men will be given the benefit of the doubt, while women will be ridiculed for their tears.

Depp is a world famous and much loved actor. Heard is a much less well-known and less successful entity. His profession is used against him, since depp fans they claim that he is acting his way through his testimony and is clearly not sincere. Depp, also an actor, does not face the same volume of accusations of artificiality. Trial observers obsess over the smallest details to assert that Heard is a drug user and therefore not to be trusted. Meanwhile, Depp has well documented and supported issues with the drug and alcohol abuse that do not seem to take into account the case of their defenders.

It’s okay not to know the answer to a question as complicated as what happened within the Depp-Heard relationship. It helps to understand that one can be a fan of an actor and also realize that intense admiration does not translate into intimate knowledge. This kind of humility is also useful for feminists: we can understand that women are much more likely to be abused than men, but that does not mean that women are the victims and men are the perpetrators in 100% of abusive relationships. . We can choose to look at conflicting accounts and evidence and conclude that we just don’t know exactly what happened.

But we can also see the public response to that complicated evidence as a kind of indicator of sexism. For too many social media users, Depp fanaticism and a strangely inflated sense of purpose and self-righteousness around this trial have become pretexts for a family pastime: stalking women online.

There’s almost a suspicion that for some of the internet’s most vociferous defenders of Depp, misogyny is the point.

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OPINION | Online attacks targeting Amber Heard send a dangerous message to women victims of violence