Inches v. miles: The Depp v. Heard trial verdict is not a reason the bash the #MeToo movement

Men are taking a weird victory lap about the case

#Metoo tile art
You can’t cherry-pick cases to debunk the entire #MeToo movement. PHOTO: Lum3n, Pexels

By Isabella Urbani, Staff Writer 

Content warning: mentions of abuse

For a while there, it seemed like nearly the entire world flocked to the high-profile celebrity trial between former partners Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. After weeks of testifying, the jury unanimously sided with Depp. The verdict has been interpreted as a strike back against the #MeToo era — used as a way to prove that women lie about abuse. 

It’s not just anonymous Reddit-dwellers taking victory laps. Most concerning are the powerful people treating the verdict as a successful strike for men in the culture wars. The Twitter account for the House’s GOP members of the judiciary committee, finding nothing better to do with its time, tweeted out a GIF of Depp from the Pirates franchise. Donald Trump Jr. celebrated the verdict as being “perhaps a case that could end the effective rabid [feminist] notion that all men are guilty before being proven innocent that we’ve seen as of late.” It’s a recurring “worry” articulated by right-wing personalities. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson once mused about the intentions of the #MeToo era, suggesting that the movement could be out to “destroy men, or complete the destruction of men.” 

Those narratives are perpetuated even by people who are outside of the reactionary right. Comedian Chris Rock wasted no time putting his two cents in on the trial during one of his stand-up shows, imploring his audience to “believe all women except Amber Heard.” It’s a problematic line for two reasons. First, it’s a joke that works based on poking holes in a tenet of the #MeToo era that tries to make sure abuse victims aren’t silenced. Second, it subtly changes the actual message of the #MeToo movement, which is “believe women,” not “believe all women.” The latter, as a Washington Post Op-Ed explains, is an intentionally false argument that diminishes the movement by making it seem absolutist. The Depp v. Heard case is being used to give life to both those narratives. 

Nobody wins when we point the finger and perpetuate stereotypes about who can and can’t be abused. Women remain at much greater risk of assault than men. In 2019, 79% of police-reported domestic abuse in Canada occurred against women. By creating generalizations about who can and can’t be a victim, we create an atmosphere of distrust that discourages victims from coming forward and reliving traumatic events. Why report an accuser only to be subjected to people who may or not believe you?

The trial is not a referendum on the validity of the #MeToo movement, and it’s not providing justice for those who decide to come forward and expose themselves at their most vulnerable. At its core, #MeToo was made to shine a spotlight on cases of abuse and hold people accountable. Those who relish in debunking the entire movement aren’t seeing larger issues — and that’s the problem.