IntersectionalityGender The Cyber Trolling Of Amber Heard: How Power And Gender Determine Who Must Be Believed

The Cyber Trolling Of Amber Heard: How Power And Gender Determine Who Must Be Believed

While the verdict is not out, and there is evidence against both parties, the internet has supported Johnny Depp and made Amber Heard a villain.

Trigger warning: Mentions of domestic violence, abuse and gender-based violence

The ongoing Johnny Depp- Amber Heard trial began as a consequence of Amber Heard publishing an op-ed in the Washington Post in 2018 for which Johnny Depp has sued her for defamation. In the op-ed headlined “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change,” she did not mention Depp, but referred to herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.

While there is enough evidence that violence has been perpetrated from both sides, the internet is largely only supporting Johnny Depp while shaming and defaming Amber Heard. On TikTok, the hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp has 9.9 billion views. A similar hashtag for Heard has only 37 million. Searches for Heard on the platform also bring up #amberheardcancelled, #amberheardsucks and #amberheardistrash.

Image: News18

While it is true that male domestic violence victims are often shunned due to toxic masculinity roles, the reason why Johnny Depp has a massive support is due to his star status, gender privilege and fame which is much more than that of Heard. Moreover, domestic violence with men as victims is not as often heard as when women are victims and hence, the public engages in a psychological phenomenon where they pay more attention to the inconsistent information, one that doesn’t fit in the general idea of domestic violence. 

One in four women who have experienced intimate partner violence are most likely not going to speak about their side of the story given the epitome of hatred that Heard has been receiving. The situation has aggravated so much that prominent psychologist Dr. Taylor told The Independent that women awaiting similar case hearings are considering ‘retracting or pulling out’ after witnessing the online harassment of Heard. She said, “People are revelling in the details and the scrutiny. Every misogynistic trope possible has now been utilised – and every woman who has ever been abused or been through a court process like this – or is awaiting a case hearing – is watching on in horror

The support that Depp has been receiving has resulted in a number of misogynistic tweets and posts against Heard, where Depp’s supporters do not believe that he has also been the abuser in the relationship. Amber Heard speaking about her side of the story and getting visibly petrified of Depp during the trial has turned into a meme, and her testimony is being joked upon.

Experts in domestic violence studies say that while testimony suggests both parties behaved violently, a combination of Depp’ star status and the fact that he testified first may also be influencing public sentiment in his favor. They also suggest that domestic violence is essentially an imbalance of power, where there is usually one aggressor and one abuser.

There can be different types of violence within a relationship which can be devoid of power. While the verdict has not been passed and there is evidence against both of them, the internet has greatly supported Johnny and made Heard a villain. But what does this mean for women who have faced violence?

Also read: How The Amber-Depp Trial Stigmatises People With Mental Health Conditions

One in four women who have experienced intimate partner violence are most likely not going to speak about their side of the story given the epitome of hatred that Heard has been receiving. The situation has aggravated so much that prominent psychologist Dr. Taylor told The Independent that women awaiting similar case hearings are considering ‘retracting or pulling out’ after witnessing the online harassment of Heard.

She said, “People are revelling in the details and the scrutiny. Every misogynistic trope possible has now been utilised – and every woman who has ever been abused or been through a court process like this – or is awaiting a case hearing – is watching on in horror.”

Women celebrities who speak up against abusive men are hardly treated well by netizens. They are subject to various trolls, labelling them as ‘misandrist’, accusing them of following the trail of ‘guilty until proven’ innocent instead of the other way round. This however, is not applicable for women under trial, that is to say, Amber Heard has already been declared a culprit, which again, she might be, but the sexist reaction she has been receiving has not been the same for Johnny Depp. 

Such behaviour by netizens is very common in India as well. Samantha, a Tamil actress faced online troll and abuse after divorcing her then husband and south-Indian star Naga Chaitanya. She was called terms like ‘gold digger’ and criticised for her perceived ambition. One social media user wrote, “Samantha Ruth Prabhu is a divorced ruined second hand item who has 50 crores tax free money robbed from a gentleman!” The actress gave a befitting yet dignified reply to him saying, “Kamarali Dukandar God bless your soul.

She was accused of being the main reason for the divorce and rumours of her extra marital affairs started floating online without any context other than the fact that she has taken a decision to end her marriage. On the contrary, her ex-husband Naga Chaitanya was free from such online abuse, propositions and hate.

While the focus rests on all these aspects, the actual reason for the divorce is put under the blanket, which in the Depp-Heard case is domestic violence. There is an inherent power imbalance when it comes to Depp and Heard. While acknowledging that Heard might have been an equal participant in the incidents that occured, we must also address the fact that she faces more distrust, character assasination and abuse than Depp

Similarly, when Malayalam actors Manju Warrier and Dileep got divorced, the society and online community was quick to pin the onus on her for the breakdown of the marriage, citing ambition and greed for money. The responsibility of maintaining the relationship, caring for it and working on its longevity somehow always falls on women, where the men involved are not held accountable for their lapses or abuse of power and gender privilege.

Later, when Dileep was accused and arrested for conspiring and facilitating the assault of a female actor in a moving vehicle, the internet was full of supporters who backed Dileep by painting the survivor as a promiscuous, fame hungry woman whose dignity and integrity was questioned for filing a legal complaint.

Taking into consideration the Depp-Heard case, as Depp does not have a negative or sexist public image due to his body of work and fandom as an actor, perhaps, if a woman had the same position, would she also be spared from such online abuse? Well, no. Veteran actor Rekha, who predominantly works in Bollywood films, was exposed to several accusations of being a ‘witch’ for ‘devouring her husband’ after her husband Mukesh Aggarwal died by suicide. The similar case of ‘witch hunt’ was seen when Rhea Chakrborty was accused of her then boyfriend Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide.

Whatever the case may be for a man in the backdrop of the breakdown of a relationship, the man does not have to assume sole responsibility for it, and the woman is most often wholly accused for it. Divorced women are always looked down upon and when they speak about abuse in the relationship, they are instantly criticised for making up false allegations, or initiating a divorce just to inherit the man’s wealth.

While the focus rests on all these aspects, the actual reason for the divorce is put under the blanket, which in the Depp-Heard case is domestic violence. There is an inherent power imbalance when it comes to Depp and Heard. While acknowledging that Heard might have been an equal participant in the incidents that occured, we must also address the fact that she faces more distrust, character assasination and abuse than Depp from the society and online community.

This could also affect the spirit of other survivors of domestic abuse, especially those who do not have as much social capital as Amber Heard, from naming their abuser, especially if it is a man in power.

Also read: Vanitha’s Latest Edition Really Wants Us To Sympathise With Sexual Assault Case Accused Dileep


Featured Image Source: Decider

Comments:

  1. Someone says:

    Feminists will always support a woman because in their minds “all women are victims”. This is the reason we don’t see articles on abusive mothers-in-law.

    • Someone says:

      Yes… This is true “all women are victim”… victim of suppression

      • Someone says:

        Women are suppressed, which is why they abuse their husbands, beat their domestic help, and torture their daughters-in-law.

        • Someone says:

          but small portion of women who beat their husbands so that’s why we need to focus on majority of women (including domestic workers)who face domestic violence by their mother in law and husband every day in this country.

          • Good says:

            (Can you please comment with a different name. We don’t need two ‘someones’).

            Men face just as much violence, and domestic violence is not limited to physical violence. Along with physical violence women perpetrate psychological violence, verbal abuse, taunts, threats, false cases of dowry and fake cases of domestic violence. Men don’t talk about it because of social shame. People laugh at male victims of domestic violence. Numerous social experiments have proven it too. Man beats a woman, people intervene. Woman beats a man, people laugh.

  2. Someone says:

    “Samantha Ruth Prabhu is a divorced ruined second hand item who has 50 crores tax free money robbed from a gentleman!”

    If men and women are equal, and both are earning, why does a woman rob a man after a divorce?

    • Good says:

      A woman commits daylight robbery of 50 crores and no one bats an eyelid!

      Equality is only applicable when it works in favour of women.

  3. Good says:

    @Someone2:

    1. 100% combat deaths are men.
    2. 93% workplace deaths are men.
    3. 77% homicide victims are men
    4. 70% suicides are men
    5. 67% homeless are men
    6. More men die from prostate cancer than women from breast cancer yet no awareness for prostate cancer.
    7. Innocent men are thrown in jail in false cases of dowry, rape, and domestic violence.
    8. Even if a man is able to prove his innocence in court, he will still lose his job, reputation, and face social boycott.
    9. Women who falsely accuse men walk scot free.
    10. Society laughs at male victims of domestic violence.
    11. Women get less jail time for the same crimes committed by men.
    12. Lifeboats are reserved for women.
    13. Women are saved first in hostage situations.
    14. Women are rescued first from burning buildings.
    15. Women get to spend men’s earnings.
    16. Women are handed child custody in the majority of divorce cases.
    17. Media does not cover men’s issues.
    18. Girls are treated better than boys in schools and colleges.
    19. Seats in buses and metros are reserved for women.
    20. Men’s life savings are spent in alimony and child support payments.
    21. Even in two income families, men bear the monetary burden.
    22. Men face mandatory conscription.
    23. Men are victims of paternity fraud.
    24. Women receive the same social standing as their husbands overnight after marriage.
    25. A jobless man is a loser but a jobless woman is a homemaker.
    26. Men suffer from hypertension due to work related issues.
    27. Men have shorter life expectancy, men work longer and die younger.
    28. Women can choose easier courses in college because they don’t have to worry about getting a high paying job.
    29. Women can choose a comfortable job because they don’t have to worry about salary.
    30. Women can quit their jobs whenever they feel like it.
    31. Male bosses hire pretty women over deserving men because they enjoy female company. Female bosses hire women because they hate men. Deserving men end up jobless as a result.
    32. Jobless men face ridicule and taunts from family and society.
    33. Women get paid for on dates – free drinks, free lunches, free dinners.
    34. No one talks about misandry in sitcoms and advertisements.
    35. Men do the majority of earning and women do the majority of shopping.
    37. Men pay the majority of taxes.
    38. Women have reservations in jobs, colleges, and politics.
    39. Men are expected to leave their seats for women, just as the black community were forced to leave their seats for white people due to racism in South Africa.
    40. Men are injured, crippled and maimed working the most dangerous jobs in the world – sewage workers, coal miners, electric linemen, construction workers, iron and steel workers, chemical and gas factory workers, firefighters, police officers, loggers, roofers, etc.

    • Someone says:

      most of points are may be true but some points are only assumption driven.it’s true that media don’t present men issues but that doesn’t mean people’s attitude toward women’s issues addressed respectively.
      women have to struggle with cultural and systemic oppression to survive

  4. Good says:

    36. Men suffer from hypertension and heart attacks due to work related stress. India tops the world in heart attacks among 35-plus men. 78 per cent of men between 30 and 34 run the risk of a heart attack.

    https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/special-report/story/20111017-india-tops-the-world-in-heart-attacks-among-35-plus-men-747956-2011-10-08

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think in the USA at least, woman are the most free and powerful, I don’t think there is even equal rights since laws on marriage, child custody, and divorce laws all favor woman. Feminism is the woman’s version of misogynist aka misandry.

    I would think the real place a woman needs help from oppression is middle eastern woman, that’s a place where real oppression is where you can’t even be a Feminist, because they will kill you, that’s real oppression.

    • Anonymous says:

      FYI to Johnny Depps point – This isn’t the first time he had to battle Amber in court, he lost the one done in the UK, and you know why? Because the laws favor Amber, the woman, and the judge ruled in her favor. This why this one in the USA is so important and done public, so the world can see the truth and the Judge is more incline to view the facts.

  6. Good says:

    Anonymous, women in the Middle East are not oppressed, don’t believe the propaganda you see by Western media. Women all over the Middle East choose to wear the abaya/burka. They are educated, they travel, drive cars, eat out, go to cinemas, go shopping, etc. Go to any mall and you will see crowds of women in designer abayas, holding their iPhones and expensive purses and handbags. Female graduates outnumber male graduates in the Middle East. During marriage, men pay dowry (mahr) to women. Women’s participation in the workforce in very high. Every household has domestic help. Women have a lifestyle where they don’t have to turn to anti-depressants, anxiety pills, alcohol, or drugs, unlike their Western counterparts.

  7. Someone says:

    Feminism has given women freedom in the USA. They have freedom from clothes, freedom to have sex with as many men as they like, and then they end up depressed and alone with their cats.

  8. Good says:

    Feminism:

    A woman serving her husband tea, snacks, breakfast etc. is slavery, oppression, patriarchy.

    An airhostess serving hundreds of people tea, coffee, snacks, breakfast, lunch, etc. is emancipation, liberation, freedom.

    ALSO

    Woman: I am equal to a man
    Matrimonial ad: I need a man earning a six figure salary.

    • Fg says:

      If she is supposed leave her family, her old life, risk her health, body and life to birth the child to take forward to MAN’s legacy, sacrifice rest of her life to take care of that child but every where the child is known with the father’s identify, financial security is the least the woman can expect. Do you expect her to choose all these compromise to live in poverty or homelessness?

      When the airhostess serves food , it’s her job which she chose..hence its freedom. When the women serves scacks in your family, very likely they are doing it because society made her believe this is why she was born, this is a female’s responsibility. Since a long time they did it because they were forced to do it with no other choice left, hence it is slavery. If all these simple things we need to spell out for you, you have a lot growing up to do.

  9. Just looking around says:

    Generalization of any group of people whether it is viticimization Or villianization adds no value to a educated discourse

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