What Amber Heard’s Make-up Palette Says About the Legal System. (Plus: Roe v Wade)
S1: That’s it.
S2: Welcome to the Waves Slate’s podcast about gender feminism and today two massive court cases impacting women. Every episode you get a different feminist to tell you about the thing we can’t get off our mind. And today you’ve got me. Shayna Roth. I’m a senior producer for Slate and producer of The Waves. We’re going to be talking today about the leaked Supreme Court opinion that came out on Monday. For that, Susan Matthews Slate News director is going to join me to unpack what happened and what it all means. After that, I’ll be joined by Dr. Nicole Bedera, a sociologist, to talk about what the Johnny Depp Amber Heard trial is telling us about how society views gender violence. Before we get to Dr. Bedera, we need to talk about what’s going on with abortion. On Monday night, Politico released an exclusive titled Supreme Court Has Voted to Overturn Abortion Rights. Draft opinion shows the leaked initial draft of a majority opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito shows that the court does indeed intend to overturn the landmark case Roe versus Wade. Roe is the case that essentially granted a right to an abortion in the United States. This is something that we have been expecting. But to see the intentions of the court laid bare in this draft opinion that wasn’t supposed to be released somehow still feels worse than we were preparing for. There’s a lot of great coverage on this across the Slate site, including a piece by Dahlia Lithwick. The Supreme Court’s legitimacy is already lost, and I highly recommend you go back and listen to our May 27, 2021 Waves episode How to Survive in a Post-Racial America. To briefly talk through all this right now is Susan Matthews. Susan is currently working on the next season of Slow Burn, which is all about Roe versus Wade. Hi, Susan. I’ve missed you. Hi, Cina. I’ve missed you, too. What circumstances to come back in? Of course. Of course, yes. So let’s start off with just walk us through what is revealed in this leaked opinion. How how bad is this? So I would say that I basically expected that the Supreme Court was going to rule in some way that would overturn Roe v Wade this June. That was kind of court watchers informed. Guess what this opinion does is it really makes clear that the conservative block of the Supreme Court feels completely comfortable doing that. There used to be this kind of dance that they would do around abortion rights where they would say, Oh, we’re not really taking away a woman’s right to an abortion. We’re just, you know, making sure that she’s getting it safely in a hospital like those are the trap laws and all of those things. And the thing about this opinion for me is that it really shows that they have just dispensed of that need to kind of cover up what they’re doing. It’s a really brazen attack on the legal theory that underpinned the original case. And it’s really explicit about the fact that it thinks that Roe v Wade was incorrectly decided and that it is doing the right thing in overturning it. So I feel like there’s different layers of erosion of a prior court opinion. How much eroding are they actually doing with this? Well, the question that we have here is that this is a draft opinion. And we know that Alito still needs to get the other Supreme Court justices to sign on to what he’s written here. And so if some version of this is what is handed down in the opinion, it basically overturns the law and and sends it back to the states immediately. And in that case, there are states that already have outright bans on abortion, that have the six week heartbeat, bans that don’t even have adequate abortion facilities already. So this opinion where it is right now would dramatically affect women’s rights to access abortion immediately starting in June. And you can already see and this is one of the reasons why I think the opinion is shocking, but it’s not a surprise because Texas is already operating under its SB eight law, which prohibits abortion after six weeks. So I think that what a lot of people were hoping for would happen this June in Dobbs was that they were just going to basically agree with what Dobbs laid out, which was a 15 week standard. And what this opinion does is that it goes even further than that and says, we’re not upholding any kind of standard. It’s up to the states. Talk about sort of the broader health care implications for women and for transgender people and just sort of like this idea of health care in general that this draft opinion shows us that this court is sort of thinking of, well, the way that I want to. Sir, that question, Sheena, is just to talk about something that I think that this opinion specifically attacks, which is the fact that Roe v Wade was decided originally as a right to privacy, as a right between a woman and her doctor to make personal choices. And there’s a reason why that right was, you know, founded in a relationship between the woman and her doctor, because that decision to continue a pregnancy and all of the various choices that you have to make along the way in a pregnancy really are health care decisions. They can come up in very dramatically different ways. And there’s a story that I read a few weeks ago about a woman in Texas who had an atopic pregnancy and she actually boarded a plane to go to another state so that she could get a procedure that wouldn’t be illegal in that state. And so I think that the thing that really scares me is the feeling of you just don’t have the choices that you might need to make. And I think that that really freaks me out when thinking about the fact that in so many of these cases, I’ve edited stories from women where their choice to get an abortion is not even because they didn’t want to be pregnant or didn’t want a child. But they find something out during their pregnancy where they feel that the only ethical, the caring, the motherly thing to do is to end that pregnancy. And the fact that that kind of choice is being taken away from from women, that their health care decisions are being restricted in this way, to me, feels feels really frightening. In the draft opinion, Alito said, quote, Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have inflamed debate and deepened division. Casey is the sort of follow up abortion case after Roe. What is your response to that? As someone who has been studying Roe and its impact when Roe was decided? The conversation around abortion was nowhere like how it is now. It was a72 decision and four of the Supreme Court justices had been appointed by Richard Nixon. More Republicans than Democrats actually supported the right to abortion when Roe was decided. But the real heart of what Alito is trying to say is that and this goes back to this idea that the idea of privacy is an unenumerated right, that it’s not really in the Constitution. And the thing that I want to really say about that, I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve been talking to people. And when you talk to people about abortion and particularly people who are involved in the law, they they tend to say like, oh, well, this is how I would have decided Roe and then and then the right would have been protected. But first, it’s really important to make clear that Roe was decided after a series of decisions that were guaranteeing the right to privacy and that the right to privacy, I think, can really better be thought of as a right to family autonomy. The right to privacy is grounded in the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment was written in response to the ending of slavery, and the things that it enumerates are such choices as the right to marry who you want, the right to keep your family intact. And I just think that it really is underselling it to say that this is just a decision about privacy. Because I think if you actually go and read the 14th Amendment, you can see that it really is a deeply important set of points about what it means to be a free citizen in the United States. And I think that it’s reflective of the fact that the Constitution didn’t get it right the first time. And the 14th Amendment is the second attempt to get that right around the enslaved and the grounding of the right to abortion and in the 14th Amendment is actually much stronger. And and there could be a much more, I think, emotionally resonant case than just saying it’s about privacy. Senator Chuck Schumer tweeted, in the wake of all of this coming out, he said, the Senate will hold a vote on legislation to codify the right to an abortion in law. This is not an abstract exercise. This is urgent. We will vote on protecting a woman’s right to choose, and every American is going to see which side every senator stands on. Is this helpful? Is this actually going to happen or do anything? I mean, is it helpful? I think Democrats one of the things about the party is that they’re protecting the right to abortion. They do have to do something. That’s the interesting thing that’s going to happen is Democrats know that they don’t have the votes to do this without upending the filibuster. The question is, is where this puts a few senators, I think, namely Susan Collins and Lisa murkowski. But yeah, it’s going to be really interesting to see how that plays out in the Senate. Do I think that that’s the thing that is going to to change things now? No, I. I’m not super optimistic about that. But I think that one of the real things to watch going forward right now is just kind of how is this being talked about by Democrats? What is the response? Because I think that for a long time, a lot of us have been waiting with bated breath saying this is going to happen in June. And a lot of people have been saying they’re not really going to overturn Roe, they’re not going to write the words Roe versus Wade is overturned. And I think that what this legal opinion shows is that now they’re really going to do it. And if it prompts people into bigger action sooner, I hope that that’s what it does. Susan Matthews. Thank you so much. When does Slow Burn come out? June 1st launches June 1st, four episodes every Wednesday. I mean, it was always going to be, you know, very timely and very prescient. So we will all be very excited to listen to it. Thanks for joining us. Thank you so much for having.
S3: Me, Gina.
S4: Overnight tensions running high outside the Supreme Court. The draft opinion shows the court overturning Roe v Wade in a blistering ruling.
S3: What will the.
S2: Future of abortion look like in America? It might look a lot like the past.
S1: The illegal termination of pregnancy has reached epidemic proportions in this country.
S2: What do you think that people tend to misunderstand about the lay of the land before the decision?
S5: And the answer is lots.
S2: I’m Susan Matthews. And on this season of slow burn, we’re looking back at the years leading up to Roe v Wade.
S5: Over 50 years later, I still don’t know exactly what happened. To me.
S4: It’s always women who have the abortions, but it’s always men who make the law.
S5: And that stark reality hit me like a punch in the gut.
S2: We’ll tell the forgotten story of the first woman ever convicted of manslaughter for getting an abortion. Women are told, don’t worry, it’s never going to be you. It’s going to be the person who does the abortion. And here’s a case where actually now we’re coming for you, too. We’ll introduce you to the unlikely Catholic power couple who helped ignite the pro-life movement.
S5: And your heart just sinks and you think these aren’t blobs of tissue. These are these are babies.
S2: And we’ll look at how a rookie Supreme Court justice appointed by Nixon tackled one of the most pivotal cases in American history.
S4: Frankly, when they decided the case, they were all of one mind that they had solved this issue once and for all.
S2: Slow Burn Season seven. Roe v Wade premieres Wednesday, June 1st. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.
S5: And I actually remember Dad saying, We will not live to see Roe overturned, but you kids will.
S2: Now we’re going to shift gears to talk about the Depp Heard trial. To start off, I want to tell you a story. Well, part of a story. I was a prosecuting attorney probably about a year and change out of law school. I was in the middle of a domestic violence trial, which is a 93 day misdemeanor in Michigan. And this was a case I sunk my heart and soul into the victim. A mom with two kids didn’t want to testify. She recanted. I got her back on board and I really thought we were going to convict this guy. She had bruises. He’d spent a few days in jail for violating the no contact order. Then, after I had rested my case, the defense attorney starts calling these so-called character witnesses one after the other, and each one said the same thing. The defendant was the nicest man they never met. He’d never so much as raised his voice around them. No way. He was abusive. In fact, the victim was mean and violent. I came back to this moment while following the Johnny Depp Amber Heard defamation lawsuit. I mean, following may be a strong word. While my Twitter and Instagram feeds were hijacked with posts professing belief in one side or the other. In case you have a better algorithm in your social media than I do, Johnny Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for defamation. Heard published an essay in the Washington Post in 2018 where she described herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse. Depp was not named, but his case is built on the idea that the article alluded to him enough that it damaged his reputation and career, including not getting to make a sex Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which, I mean, your mileage is going to vary on that argument. An overarching question in this case is whether Depp was abusive to her. Now, I want to be clear that I don’t know what happened, and I am not here to speculate. But so many people seem to believe one side or the other based on very little information and evidence. An article in the New York Times titled Johnny Depp Case Brings Stan Culture Into the courtroom, describes people dressing up in Pirates of the Caribbean costumes and holding signs supporting Depp Law and Crime interviewed Depp supporter Christina Gibbons outside the courthouse on April 20th. This is what she said about why she and some of her kids were there.
S6: For justice for Johnny Depp. What does that mean to you? It means getting justice for somebody who is framed for something that he didn’t do. And he doesn’t deserve to lose roles. He doesn’t deserve to lose any of that over the.
S2: The trial isn’t over. And if we’re honest, her opinion here is probably based solely on the fact that she’s been a fan of Depp for years, at minimum. It has very much colored her opinion, and she’s not the only one. Thousands of people are flocking to his defense, people who have never met Depp, let alone been in an intimate relationship with him. Heard has her supporters as well, but as the New York Times piece pointed out, it is extremely disproportionate. We’re not here today to make any judgments about what happened, what the outcome of the trial should be, or to lend support to either side. Rather, we want to highlight that this trial is putting a giant spotlight on a problem seen in courtrooms every single day. People don’t get gender violence and we need to get a better hold on it. Dr. Nicole Bedera is a sociologist who studies gender violence. Her work focuses on how social structures, organizations and culture create a world where violence is predictable and ordinary. I honestly can’t think of a better person to talk about all of this. Dr. Madeira. Welcome to the Waves.
S7: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
S2: I hate that I’m going to start here, but I’m just going to rip the Band-Aid off because this is where it all started. I wanted to have you on because of a tweet. It’s 20, 22. Here we are. You had this really insightful thread that made me just go, yes, this is exactly what we need to be talking about right now as the Johnny Depp Amber Heard trial is going on. Can you read us that tweet?
S7: The Depp discourse has been a good reminder that most people don’t know anything about how to evaluate evidence in a gender based violence trial. So here’s a thread about how everything you learn from true crime is wrong.
S2: I love that. Especially everything you learn from true crime is wrong. Part of this because I’ve long been both a member and a critic of the true crime community. And for those listeners who want to hear more about my thoughts on the complexities of feminism and true crime, you can go back to our August episode. Can we love true crime when we’re the victims? In your thread, you touched on many things, one of which was evaluating Survivor testimony. It seems like we love as a society, particularly as people who enjoy true crime. We love to dissect every little bit of evidence, and we seem to inherently want to look for inconsistencies without realizing that people are messy and complex. So talk to us about that, about a. Evaluating Survivor testimony.
S7: In all fandoms. One of the things that people like to do is go in really, really deep and try to make sense of what’s going on, try to find that little nugget or Easter egg that nobody else noticed. But that can be really damaging when we’re talking about people’s real lives. And that’s one of the issues with true crime. These are not made up stories. They are people’s real lives. And one of the things that will happen if you’re dissecting stories for inconsistencies is you’re probably going to end up siding with the perpetrator most of the time. And one of the big reasons for that is because in our criminal justice system, especially in the civil system, which is the one we’re talking about in this case, so in our civil justice system, we tend to think of victims and perpetrators, plaintiffs and defendants, as completely equal, that they’re coming in with an even playing field. And that could not be farther from the truth, because if there’s violence in the center of one of these cases, one person is the perpetrator and the other person is the one who is traumatized and terrified of them. And you’re bringing them together in a courtroom, maybe for one of the first times since a victim has left an abusive relationship. And then we’re all, as a society, expecting them to tell their story exactly perfectly, to never get caught up in something, to never make a small mistake, when in reality, there’s a lot of research that shows that cross examination in particular makes victims say things that are not true because the stress of the situation is so intense that if you ask survivors the same questions but in a trauma informed manner, their stories will actually stay completely consistent. And so when you’re trying to pick up on these little moments and saying, oh, we caught her, you know, she said something, we found a lie, it actually might not be that a survivor is making a steak. It might actually be more about the way the criminal justice system or the civil justice system is treating her. It’s the context of the question.
S2: Can you explain what is trauma informed manner mean? You said that that seems to be a way for victims to be able to consistently say what happened, what is that and when should it be used?
S7: Yeah. So a trauma informed technique, I would argue we should use it with survivors all of the time because survivors can’t take their trauma off for us to make us have an easier time questioning them or whatever it might be. A trauma informed technique just means recognizing things like the way that the brain forms memories from trauma can be a little bit different, and that if you create too much stress when someone’s recounting a traumatic memory, you might trigger a traumatic response that makes it difficult to recall memories at all. So instead, some things that you would do in a trauma informed technique is instead of trying to get those gotcha questions or, you know, attorneys, if you’ve ever watched a crime show, they always get in trouble for badgering the witness. That sort of thing is not trauma informed as opposed to open ended questions that people are allowed to answer honestly and then follow up questions if there is something that’s confusing. But then it’s more neutral, it’s more comfortable that it’s less I got you and I’m going to be on my side of things. So it’s really a reversal from the way our courtrooms currently operate, but we know that the truth is more likely to come out that way.
S2: Yeah, there’s nothing really neutral about what’s going on in a courtroom by by sort of its very nature. You have one side and then you have the other. And they are both trying to get a jury or a judge to believe their side of things.
S7: Before I became a sociologist, I actually used to work as a victim advocate in the hospitals to give a little bit of context. Victim advocates in the hospitals are often meeting with sexual assault survivors mere hours after their sexual assault has come to an end. And you’re there for the forensic exam, also known as the rape kit. And so you’re seeing which memories they can hold on to and which ones they can’t, and the way that the trauma of that exam can shape the experience. So one thing I noticed in that role is often the police interviews were pretty hostile. They came in with an assumption that the victim was lying. They were looking kind of like we’re seeing on true crime ticktock right now. They’re kind of looking for those inconsistencies and then saying, oh, I gotcha. You said that over here and you said something else over there. But the nurses, the sexual assault nurse examiners, they’re called sains. They are trained in trauma informed questioning techniques. And so once the police were gone and out of the room and the nurse would do her interview, then the victims would be able to remember a lot more. Their story made a lot of sense. They were a lot more calm. It was just easier to remember those moments and to be able to be honest and say there are some things I don’t remember and that shouldn’t count against me. When you’re told it’s not going to count against your it’s not going to get in trouble, it’s easier to remember. And that’s really important. We’re talking about the stakes of these questions in general. A place where you see this come up a lot is when you have a victim who’s under the age of 21 and who was drinking at the time of the assault. It can be hard for them to remember things because they’re getting really. Really stressed out about getting in trouble for underage drinking. And so you can imagine in this context with a defamation trial that there would be a lot of stress, a lot of concern about what bad things are going to happen if you admit something, if you say the wrong thing, if you say something in a way that’s true but will be interpreted incorrectly by someone else, then that’s still falls on the victim. And it’s just so stressful.
S2: Speaking of stress and true crime, tick tock. There is a thing that blew up within this trial and it revolves around a makeup palette. What happened was during the trial, an attorney for Amber Heard held up a makeup palette saying that Hurd had used it to cover up bruises she got when Johnny Depp abused her. Some people on the Internet with too much time on their hands, I would argue, manage to figure out what brand that palette was and then blast it on the Internet. And for some reason, the manufacturer of the palette piped up and said that actually that particular makeup palette didn’t come out until after Heard’s lawyer said that Amber had used it and this sort of blew up on the Internet. And there’s this Tik Tok video from Ethan Trace, which got 4 million likes.
S4: Her, just got exposed. And another big lie from a court case. But Johnny Depp just got exposed in another big lie from a court case with Johnny Depp. Do you remember last week during the trial when Amber Heard attorney was making such a big deal over this concealer palette that she said Amber Heard was carrying in her purse during their entire relationship to cover up the bruises from the abuse that she claimed Johnny Depp did to her. Well, the makeup company that makes this concealer palette called Amber Heard out today and caught her in a lie. The alleged abuse took place between 2014 and 2016. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard got divorced in 2016, and Melody Cosmetics released the set makeup palette Amber Heard claimed to have used in 2017, one year after they split, meaning this makeup palette did not exist when they were together. Boom. And the truth will set you free. A Loni Cosmetics. We love you. Thank you for sharing this. Justice for Johnny Depp.
S2: So listeners can’t see it, but you can probably hear it in his tone. There’s a lot of air quotes being used by this guy who is an expert in criminal law evidence and behavioral psych. I’m just kidding. He’s an actor, slash, voice, actor, slash, ticktock, comedian. So, I mean, this is the type of thing that the true crime community loves to latch on to. Please jump in before I jump out the window. So this was a mess.
S7: This was a mess because the way that I found out about this was on Twitter and everyone had made it sound like Amber Heard had held up this makeup palette and lied about using it. And she got caught in this lie because the makeup didn’t even exist. And so the Twitter discourse around this has actually turned into, well, did she make a mistake? Did she forget what kind of makeup it was? Maybe she grabbed the wrong palette when in reality, I was shocked to find out that it was her lawyer who had done this and she hadn’t done anything. And so the way that this is being held against her, when she has not at any point, to my knowledge, been on the stand and said, yes, that was the exact makeup palette, it might have just been a prop. And so the way this was blown out of proportion as proof that she was lying about absolutely everything, it’s really shocking and unsettling. So I do most of my research is on campus sexual violence. And I have looked at the way that Title nine cases have fallen apart because there’s this idea that these cases are a he said she said that there’s no evidence. But what I have found is actually there tends to be a good amount of evidence, especially in the digital age. You have a lot of videos, you have a lot of text messages, you have security footage, things like that that you can piece together pretty clearly what happened a lot of the time, especially over something like intimate partner violence that takes place over many, many months or years. But the problem is that we get distracted by this irrelevant evidence that we say, Oh, let’s look over here. The makeup palette is so huge. So to give you an example of this, from my research that came to mind in this moment, there was one case where there was literally a video of this victim who was incapacitated from alcohol, both entering and leaving the room where she was sexually assaulted and she could not stand or walk on her own. And the perpetrator admitted that he had had sexual contact with her. And he also admitted that he knew she was too drunk to get home on her own and called someone to pick her up because he didn’t think she’d be able to, like, take a bus or a cab or something like that. So from my view, that’s all the evidence we need to know that a sex.
S2: Should be a slam dunk.
S7: It’s a slam dunk. Yeah, but instead, the Title nine staff got distracted by the fact that her earrings were left in his room. And so they use that as evidence that she must have taken off her own earrings in preparation for sex. Obviously, there was no other way that she might have taken off her own earrings. From there thinking there’s no way that she just thought she was maybe going to sleep and. So she was going to take them off or maybe they were uncomfortable. Or maybe when you had a bit to drink, your clothes just come off because you don’t like wearing them anymore, you know? It was none of those things for them. They just said, Oh, she must have taken them off because she was consenting to have sex with them and she must have been the initiator. And so do you see all of these assumptions that are baked into that, that there’s all of this other, more important evidence? But this case did end in insufficient evidence for the perpetrator, which is the Title nine way of saying not guilty. And it was because of these earrings. And that’s how I felt about this makeup palette, too, when I thought the victim didn’t even say it. This is completely irrelevant. This is a distraction. But those distractions really do distract us.
S2: And kind of going along with distractions. I feel like a lot of these cases also get hung up on what I think of as the perfect victim myth. This idea that in any type of abuse case, physical, sexual, economic, emotional, we know that we cannot know for sure what happened because these are things that happen in secret. But as a society, we are conditioned to think that we can know what happened. There will be a smoking gun. And we just got to figure out, hey, that little makeup palette that’s going to tell us what really happened. And what we’re also seeing in the Depp heard trial is how likable, quote unquote and accuser or a victim is in any given domestic violence case will go a long way in whether she’s believed to be a by millions of people, by her friends or by a jury.
S7: One thing that I say to my students a lot is that we all support survivors up until we know the perpetrator. And that’s the moment when people start to switch sides. So if you think about sort of the height of the MeToo moment, everyone was telling stories of sexual assault and harassment. Everyone was so surprised to say, wow, I can’t believe I know so many survivors. And at that point, very few ordinary people were naming names. Right? We had a few celebrities. Naming names were in the backlash for that right now. But for the most part, there were no names. And then when people start to name names, you see the support disappear. They say, But I know that person. I’m really good friends with your perpetrator. I don’t believe he would ever act that way. And so this is something I say to my students all the time, as we actually all do know and love perpetrators of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. And I learned this firsthand when I started doing my research as an undergrad. I did a sexual assault climate survey for my alma mater. That was my senior thesis. And when I was presenting it, a bunch of survivors came up to me to tell me their stories. And across that process, I identified three serial rapists on campus, and I was actually friends with two of them. I went to a small school and so we were all friends with everybody, right? And they were people who are really involved in the community. Nobody would have expected it based off of this Hollywood version, the sort of true crime version of what a rapist looks like. Right. We do have our stories like the Ted Bundy is where we say, oh, it’s because they’re so charming. It’s because they’re so handsome and charismatic to some degree. We know the perpetrators are charismatic and likable people, and that’s part of how they get away with it. But we also do still have social myths around these so-called super predators. These myths are really racialized. The idea that white men commit acts of sexual violence is still something we’re uncomfortable recognizing. The fact that white men perpetrate acts of violence in general is something that we’re really not very good at grappling with. For example, one of the greatest concentrations we know of perpetrators of intimate partner violence is the police. And they’re the very people that we send survivors to to say they’re the ones who should be safe. And so I think we’re really uncomfortable when it’s someone like a beloved actor, when it’s a friend, when it’s a family member, that’s when we don’t want to believe it, in part because it makes us feel unsafe if we believe that the perpetrator is someone we know and that you were really close with, there’s the sense of, if that’s true, then it could have happened to me. I’m a bad judge of character or I’m a bad person for being friends with someone who acts this way. And so we’re really just projecting our experiences onto these types of trials to say, Well, but Johnny Depp was part of my childhood. I don’t want to believe that that was unfair or unsafe or scary.
S2: And that seems to be what we’re seeing a lot in this case. And I’m not here to say who did what in this case. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. There’s no way for for me to make any judgments. But objectively, Johnny Depp does seem to have overwhelmingly more support than Amber Heard. So if you are a fan of Johnny Depp and you do think that, hey, he didn’t do good things here, that he if you think that maybe he is an abuser, how do you get through that feeling or at least become open to it? Because it seems like for a lot of these people, no amount of evidence is going to change their mind that Johnny Depp is. Great. And as somebody who had to deal with this yourself, with these friends that you uncovered as being serious, I mean, like, how did you get through that? And how should people be sort of looking at these people whom they’ve maybe grown up with or are friends with or are just, you know, in love with in a celebrity way? How do you get through that?
S7: I think these are two somewhat different questions because one of them, we’re talking about an actor. Right. And it’s worth remembering that one of the reasons that you might be a fan of Johnny Depp is not because of who he is as a person. It’s because of the characters he has played. And so you can still appreciate these characters that have absolutely nothing to do with who he is as a human being. And that would be a really, I think, pretty straightforward way to address something like this, to say, oh, yeah, if I really likes Pirates of the Caribbean, I guess I don’t know anything about the cast. Maybe I don’t know so much about them and who they are as people. And so then the other question about what if someone who’s in your life, if it’s a friend or a family member, how you address something like that? And I think the question is a sort of it depends. There are some things you should not do right on the top of the lists of the thing you should not do is go into a place of denial or blaming the victim. We kind of have a sense of we just do this in our society. If somebody comes to you and says, oh, you know, picture something a lot less loaded than intimate partner violence. Picture somebody coming up to you and saying, you know, I got in trouble at work today. My boss says that I, you know, did the wrong thing, whatever it might be, something small. I got caught taking somebody lunch out of the refrigerator. Our go to is always to say, that’s so messed up. Anyone will even accuse you of that. I’m going to take your side. There’s no way you would ever do that. But it would help us a lot if we could just say, Well, do you think they might have a point? Right. This idea of recognizing that the people who we love are not always as kind and compassionate to other people. And this is really true in power hierarchies. Right. So one of the things that you see a lot in these cases of gender based violence is the perpetrators prey upon people who are lower in some hierarchy. Right. So looking at this case, Johnny Depp had a lot more power. He’s a much bigger celebrity than Amber Heard. They have a huge age disparity. These are things that are sort of common in these cases. And so thinking about those places of power and thinking about how why might I see this person differently than someone else? And then thinking about what does it really mean to be a true friend and holding your friends accountable, not letting them continue to perpetrate these types of violence? That’s really huge. I’ve actually done a good amount of work interviewing perpetrators and men who are at risk of perpetration and are sort of figuring out what would I do if I were accused? You know, things like that. And one of the things that they say over and over is it’s really hard to find someone who will just talk to you about it. There’s a sense of anybody who takes it seriously is going to stop being friends with you. Anybody who doesn’t take it seriously is going to tell you you were fine the whole time. And a lot of perpetrators do know that they’ve done something that even if they wouldn’t label it as violence, they know it’s kind of weird. They know it wasn’t great. And so being able to sit, it’s not something you feel comfortable with, being able to say, Well, why did you do that? And what do you need to move forward? Giving people the support they need to not engage in violence in the future.
S2: We’re going to take a break here. And then when we come back, we are going to dig into M R A’s, which are men’s rights activist groups and where they fit into all of this. But if you want to hear more from Dr. Bedera and myself on another topic, check out our Waves Plus segment is this feminist where today we’re debating whether Mother’s Day, the upcoming holiday, is feminist. And please consider supporting the show by joining Slate. Plus, members get benefits like zero ads on any Slate podcast and bonus content of shows like this one. You also get no paywall on the website. To learn more, go to Slate.com, slash the waves plus. And we’re back and we’re unfortunately going to talk about men’s rights activists. The always amazing and brilliant Dahlia Lithwick sent me an article that is, I’m going to say, chilling. It’s called Johnny Depp Men’s Rights Hero. It was published in Mel magazine. What are men’s rights activists and what’s going on with this trial?
S7: So men’s rights activists would say themselves that they are supporting men because men face a lot of social problems in society. The reason that people get confused about the men’s rights movement is because on its face, it’s a lot of things that people would agree with. Most people believe that we should try to lower the suicide rate. Most people think it’s important that men are allowed to feel their full range of emotions and that we should take a lot of the constraints and restrictions off of men, in my view. I see those restrictions as coming from the patriarchy and from traditional masculinity. A lot of other organizations like the American Psychological Association agree with that. But they see it from a different side. And so, for example, when they say things in this case like, we need to believe men and men can be survivors, too, I think most people can agree that. Men. Survivors. Right. Like there isn’t really anyone going around saying that men are never victims of intimate partner violence. We know men can be victims of intimate partner violence. But the moment when you can tell that they’re sort of going off the rails is when it’s followed up with the endorsing of women being victims and saying, I’m going to punch you in the face or something like that.
S2: All I got is it’s men.
S7: I want to add to that. This is one of the reasons why it feels like the entire Internet is on Johnny Depp side. It’s not true that the entire Internet is on Johnny Depp side, but when there’s so much harassment, when you’re getting threatened for talking about something really basic, like saying there are inequalities in our justice system, that’s all I said. And most people can agree with that. Right. But when you’re getting harassed for saying something that basic, a lot of people are afraid to speak out. And that’s what my DMS have looked like over the past week, is a lot of people, especially survivors, who see themselves in their own experience in what’s happening to Amber Heard saying, I would never speak out because it’s so upsetting. It’s so triggering. Thank you for saying something. I will not be tweeting about this. So there are a lot of people who are just afraid of the harassment and afraid of the violence.
S2: It is very much a type of really controlled silencing of other perspectives and of of survivors of violence. And that leads into this concern that you have, and I think probably a lot of other people are going to have going forward. You’ve said this case is about a man suing for defamation because a woman publicly identified as a survivor in an op ed without naming her abuser and whether that should be a punishable offense. And we are already seeing some of the broader implications here right now among celebrities. Musician Marilyn Manson is suing actress Evan Rachel Wood for defamation, emotional distress and, quote, impersonation over the Internet, according to a Rolling Stone article. This comes after Wood accused Manson of sexual abuse. The complaint filed by Manson, whose real name is Brian Warner, also names a friend of Wood, Elmer Gore. Both Gore and Wood are in an HBO documentary called Phoenix Rising about Wood’s history and activism. So here’s a bit of that trailer.
S3: I’m here today to talk about Brian Warner, also known to the world as Marilyn Manson.
S6: He studied how to manipulate people. He groomed her. He’s a predator.
S4: Everyone was looking at Marilyn Manson and they weren’t looking at Brian Warner.
S3: Numerous women heard my story and they knew exactly who it was. I realized that I was the only one that this had happened to. You’re not alone. I know. It’s crazy. We were outside of the statute of limitations. We had run out of time and nothing in our evidence could help us. Statistically, a lot of victims take 7 to 10 years to even recognize that they were a victim of this abuse.
S2: So there’s a lot of claims by Manson against these two women, mostly that they recruited other women to make false allegations against him. But our concerns here today are about the ongoing implications of people who have been accused of violence. Then getting to turn the tables on their accuser and suing them.
S7: There’s another reason that men’s rights activists are probably interested in the Johnny Depp case. And the reason for that is because it would be such a strong precedent for being able to retaliate against victims in the future. I mean, if you think about the Depp case and compare it to what the Marilyn Manson case is going to look like, Amber Heard never named Johnny Depp publicly. Never. And so if we have a situation where if a woman just says out loud, I am a survivor, and then perpetrators can come out of the woodworks and say, oh, I was accused, that’s defamation. That has really wide reaching consequences for victims who do want to name a perpetrator, who do want to seek justice, whether it’s in the public eye and being able to just say out loud to your friends, even I was sexually assaulted by this person. I don’t want to have to see them at gatherings anymore. Please don’t invite us to the same place. Something like that could be considered defamation moving forward, and in fact, these types of cases are already really common among ordinary people. So there’s a lot of concern about false allegations in the Title nine system, for example, rape. But actually, by far the most common type of false allegation in the Title nine system is a perpetrator who makes a false allegation of violence against their victim in something we call a retaliatory complaint. And so the way they go is a victim will accuse their perpetrator of a very real act of violence that very much took place. And then the perpetrator will respond and say, well, if that counts as intimate partner violence, then isn’t this thing that you did to me over here? Intimate partner violence, which is exactly what we’re seeing play out right now, this idea of if you’re going to count this, then I’m going to count that. And sometimes the cases are completely baseless. People will completely make something up. Other times they’ll take something out of context. So, for example, these types of cases really impact victims, and especially women who ever fought back against a violent perpetrator. They’ll take that violence out of context and say, You have slapped me. What you don’t realize is, yes, the victim did slap the perpetrator, but it was in the middle of a physical attack. Something that victims will sometimes do is try to spark a physical attack as a way. If they know it’s coming, they might be the one who starts the violence because they feel like it’ll be easier to stay in control. So those types of self-defensive acts will be taken out of context and used in this way. But I’ve also seen it in things like where a victim and a perpetrator had both been consuming alcohol before a sexual assault, a perpetrator saying, Well, if I was drunk at the time, then didn’t this person sexually assault me? Even in cases where a victim has been, for example, like restrained and physically incapable of moving during their assault. So these are the types of cases I think we’re going to see a lot more of moving forward, a lot more of the very act of saying what a perpetrator has done out loud is considered defamation. It’s considered a reason for one of these retaliatory suits in any kinds of form, whether it’s defamation or making an allegation back.
S2: Which is even more depressing when you think about how sexual violence and domestic violence are already some of the most underreported crimes out there. This idea that they will be even less reported because people are afraid to come forward because they don’t have the money or the resources to then later fight a potential defamation suit is really upsetting.
S7: Well, that’s exactly it. Right. Is that a lot of the men’s rights activists, they’re not necessarily intending to file retaliatory suits on their own. They might. They might someday, some of them certainly. Well, it’s a big group of people, but a lot of them are just excited that their victims are less likely to come forward, that they’re going to be afraid that this could happen. It will produce that chilling effect that’ll give a benefit to every single perpetrator of a gender based crime, every single one. And I would say especially when the victims are women, because a lot of these stereotypes that are being invoked right now just don’t come off the same way. When we’re not talking about cis women, this idea that women are vindictive liars, that they hate men, especially if, say, they’re feminists, and that they are just trying to ruin careers. A lot of this is really based in femininity, and a lot of these complaints just wouldn’t strike quite the same way if it were a different type of victim. Not to say that a lot of other victims with different genders don’t face their own unique issues. But this one, I think. Cool specifically. Be really hard for this woman trying to come forward.
S2: Before we head out. I know that we’ve really just scratched the surface here. On what people should know about gender violence. Do you have any final words of wisdom on the topic, and what are some resources you recommend for people looking to educate themselves better?
S7: One thing I’ll say is that if you pay attention to these cases, you’ll start to realize that they’re all very similar. And that’s one of the reasons why I always feel so confident talking about these broader patterns, because it’s really easy to get caught up in an individual case and to say, Well, what happened here? It’s so hard to tell what about this one piece of evidence. But to remember that in a different context, we would see these cases entirely differently. And also that if something keeps happening over and over and over again, that’s when we should start paying attention to it. And so when we’re talking about these cases going through the justice system and we’re seeing a victim get smeared, we’re seeing a victim get attacked, and we’re watching the Internet unleash on that person and all of their supporters. That’s not new. So even if you’re getting caught up in the specific details of this case, remember, there is a bigger picture here. And one thing that if you if anybody who’s listening just wants to do one thing to be better educated on this. I would google the term davo djr v0. It’s an acronym and it stands for Deny, Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender. And it’s what perpetrators do when they’re confronted with the violence they have committed. If somebody says, we know what you have done, they will deny what they have done. And that can take a bunch of different forms. They can either say that never happened or they can say it was justified. It’s something you’ll hear a lot. They’ll attack their victim, try to smear their credibility, make them look like a bad person, and then they’ll reverse victim and offender and say that they are the true victim. And that can take a couple of different forms, too. That can take the form of saying that person drove me to violence. They’re the one who was manipulating me and I’m the victim of their manipulation. It can be hearing something like this allegation process has been so hard on me that I’m the one who’s truly been harmed because being accused is even worse than violence. So those are the things that I think in general we should look out for as red flags that we’re getting off the rails. And there are a lot of good materials about Davo to help you understand it, including a lot of celebrity cases where we’ve seen it play out really, really clearly. So if there’s one thing you’re going to do after this that I want you to take with you to every time one of these celebrity, Charles, comes up in the future, it’s to understand, Davo.
S1: Get it?
S2: That’s our show this week, The Waves produced by myself, Shayna Roth, Shannon policies, our editorial director with Alisha Montgomery providing oversight and moral support. We would love to hear from you. Email us at the waves at Slate.com. If you have comments, suggestions or story ideas, please send them away. The waves will be back next week. Different hosts, different topic, same time and lights. Thank you so much for being a Slate Plus member. And since you’re a member, you get this weekly segment. Is this feminist? Every week we debate whether something is feminist. And this week we’re going to talk about Mother’s Day and whether the holiday coming up this Sunday is feminist. Nicole, what are your thoughts? You have a mother, I would imagine. Are you a mother?
S7: I’m not a mother, but I am very, very close with my sister who has newly become a mother. So I feel like I’m watching it play out through her eyes the first time. And Mother’s Day strikes me as one of those things that on its face, you probably say, of course, it’s feminist. You know, we’re supporting women and we’re celebrating women. But that has never been my experience of the holiday and said to me, it just feels like it rings pretty hollow. And it kind of reminds me of weddings where there is maybe a feminist way to do it if you’re really intentional about it. But if you just follow the path that’s put out in front of you for how you should do Mother’s Day is not going to end up particularly feminist, is my view.
S2: So Mother’s Day, when I did a little bit of digging about sort of the origins of Mother’s Day, makes me a little bit sad because it was originally supposed to be like an activist holiday. Slate had this article by Ruth Rosen in 2009 called Self Ploughshares How to Return Mother’s Day to Its Original Meaning. And she said, quote, The women who originally celebrated Mother’s Day conceived of it as an occasion to use their status as mothers to protest injustice and war. This was in 1858 for the next three decades. Americans celebrated Mother’s Days for peace on June 2nd. That sounds amazing. And what’s really sad is that now it is a holiday where I get emails saying, hey, we’re having 15% off at Cold Stone or at Joann Fabrics or wherever else because it’s Mother’s Day. I mean, it’s become so commercialized that it doesn’t even really seem to be about anything other than, well, let’s, you know, make mom breakfast in bed, which is kind of the other. Frustrating part about all this. Now, I’m a mother. I am very fortunate to have a husband who is very much an equal partner. So I know of a lot of mothers who are like, I just want a shower for Mother’s Day. I just want to take a nap on Mother’s Day so I don’t have those feelings. But I see that a lot on the Internet around this time of year where it’s a lot of women saying, I just want a little bit of time off on Mother’s Day. And it seems like an excuse to just keep taking advantage of mothers and like not letting them do some of those general mental health, personal hygiene things on a regular basis.
S7: Yeah, it feels so hollow, doesn’t it? This is why it feels hollow to me, is because, you know, a lot of families, Mother’s Day feels a whole lot like the day where you treat mom like kind of like a human for the first time all year. And the rest of the time it’s like you don’t get to shower. You have to feed everyone else before yourself. You know, you don’t have time to think even and even. I mean, it just reminds you of all of the inequalities. I was talking about this with my partner this morning. We just got married a few months ago.
S7: Thank you. I was just saying, if we have kids, I feel like we would fight her on Mother’s Day every year. If it would be a moment for me to take stock and be like, all right. So every week leading up to Mother’s Day, I’m going to be really hyper conscious of the fact that something came up or, you know, whatever it might be if then you did this traditional Mother’s Day thing, which I don’t think he would, but if he did of Oh, I forgot. We should go get Mom a card Saturday night and go get maybe some old flowers or something. It would just it would feel hollow. It would feel like such a deep reminder of the inequities that persist the rest of the year. And I think that’s what it looks like a lot of the time. It is. It’s that last minute. Oh, I guess I should go get flowers. And the way that a lot of the gifts are really gendered was something I was thinking about too. Or they’re not quite they don’t come off great. There’s like this cute.
S7: That if the present doesn’t work, like you’re supposed to love it because your kids love you, which is fine. But again, it doesn’t make anything in comparison to the act of this holiday you’re describing. It doesn’t make it doesn’t sound nearly as nice. It’s like we just accept that there’s dysfunction and then you go back to the inequality and that’s it. But you don’t actually get to make any changes. I think in part because I don’t have kids and because I am one of the most vocal feminists among especially my family, but friends as well. I’m the person who people come to after Mother’s Day to complain about Mother’s Day. And one thing I’ve noticed over and over is things like a partner who bought a gift certificate but then forgot to pay for the gift certificate. So Mom goes out and, you know, has her spot or whatever it’s supposed to be, which is maybe something she wouldn’t have chosen to do otherwise. And sometimes it feels a little passive aggressive, like maybe it’s time for mom to get her hair done, you know, and then she ends up having to pay out of pocket for it, right? So like those sorts of things where it can become more stressful and then it becomes a new way that moms have to perform. Being good moms who don’t mind, who always are compassionate and accept everyone for who they are and always put themselves at the bottom of the list.
S2: Thinking about this also reminds me of recently we had I think it’s now called Administrative Professional’s Day and some articles that I saw on Slate that are very similar to this conundrum where you had these administrative professionals being like, this becomes a day where I have to take a half hour out of my one hour of free time to go have lunch with a person I don’t really like at a restaurant that I didn’t pick. And maybe I get some flowers, but then they just spend the rest of the time, you know, just treating me how they’ve always treated me. And I think that that’s kind of the problem with these, you know, sort of special days. While it’s nice, it’s really only nice if all 364 other days of the year, you are treating these people like humans and you’re treating them with the love and respect that they deserve. And if you need a special day and be like, I’m going to take a nap or I’m going to shower for the first time in a week. Like, it gets rough. It just doesn’t doesn’t seem to work.
S7: It is. It’s that reminder of just how hard it is to be a mom, especially in the US all year long. And so the idea that you get a nap one day, it’s just kind of wild. It would be that reminder of all of the inequities that are baked into the system. That part would be tough for me. And I mean, I just think about how much better it would be trying to think about what a feminist Mother’s Day would look like if everybody was calling their senator to say that it’s time to get federal parental leave, you know, to make sure that we have universal daycare.
S2: You know what? I think we fixed it. I think Mother’s Day as is not feminist. Feminist Mother’s Day is calling your senator, your congressperson. For the things that really matter, like universal daycare and parental leave.
S7: I think that’s another thing that can make Mother’s Day feel kind of uncomfortable, especially for I’m thinking of queer folks when I say this and I do identify as a queer person. My relationship with my own mom is kind of complex because of the way, you know, not everybody has a good relationship with their mom. And some people, based off of the identities they hold, are less likely to have a good relationship with their mom. And so that’s complicated, too. I feel like moms aren’t the only ones who sometimes feel that Mother’s Day doesn’t feel super feminist. Sometimes it can be the kids who are thinking about the thing that we give moms in place of a good mothering experience where we have lots of social support and things like that. The thing we give them instead is that you’re supposed to have this undying devotion from your kids, and that can be difficult. I mean, the podcast that we recorded before this was about sexual abuse in the household, right? Or sexual abuse more broadly. And that can create a whole lot of feelings. For example, if you’re a childhood sexual assault survivor and maybe your parent did believe you when you came forward, you know, there are lots of reasons that people might not want to be forced to be back in contact with their mom every year all the way through adulthood.
S2: Absolutely. And I feel like every year around this time, I see those articles of people who are like, I have a toxic relationship with my mom. Mother’s Day sucks for me. You know, it’s this reminder that they don’t have the mom, that, you know, the culture and commercialization and all the commercials are telling them that they should have. And that’s that’s really sad and really upsetting.
S7: It is.
S2: Sad, but.
S7: Yeah, I think it’s it’s really tough because in our culture we idealize motherhood, but we don’t support it. And so you end up with a lot of people who are hurt, by the way that we raise children even with the best of intentions. And Mother’s Day is a big reminder of all of that. It’s always sort of served that way for me, is the sense of seeing my mom be that stressed out, exhausted, overtired mom, and then also being the child. She says, you know, some of the ways that we raised kids didn’t really work out for me. And I have some complex feelings here that I’m supposed to hide behind a, you know, a bouquet of flowers and a card.
S2: Maybe we would just have a loved ones day. You just pick someone that you love and you’re just like, We will celebrate you today.
S7: I like that better.
S2: All right. Is there something you’re dying to know if it’s feminist or not? We would love to hear from you. Email us at the waves at Slate.com.