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Le Weekend ➡️ Djokovic, BoJo, Xi Jinping: Rules & Power In Pandemic Times

Le Weekend ➡️ Djokovic, BoJo, Xi Jinping: Rules & Power In Pandemic Times

January 15-16

  • Kazakhstan’s vicious circle of strongmen
  • COVID school chaos around the world
  • The truth behind why we lie to ourselves
  • … and much more!


What do you remember from the news this week?

1. What extreme measure did the Canadian province of Quebec take to encourage people to get vaccinated?

2. What caused a massive power outage in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires, leaving 700,000 in the dark for hours?

3. Norwegian soldiers were asked to return what piece of clothing at the end of their military service, so that future recruits can reuse them?

4. What news story have we summed up here in emoji form? ❤️ 🐖 🏥 👨 👍

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]


Djokovic, BoJo, Xi Jinping: rules & power in pandemic times

It was the phrase of the week down on Fleet Street, the historic HQ of the London press corps: “Bring your own booze” — BYOB — the instructions secretly sent around for the garden party held at 10 Downing Street in blatant violation of the first coronavirus lockdown, back in May 2020.The revelations of the event (the second such scandal to emerge in the past two months) has left British Prime Minister Boris Johnson barely holding on to his job after his admission to Parliament this week that he was there … and he was, well, quite sorry.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the former British empire, Australians are following how their public representatives will resolve the latest twist in pandemic policy that has captured the sporting world’s attention. Back and forth, like a tennis match. By the end of the week, Australia had reversed a Monday court decision, and canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa that would have allowed him to defend his Australian Open title. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the visa was revoked on the grounds that the presence of the unvaccinated Serbian star risks fueling anti-vax sentiment on home soil.

This is high-stakes political gamesmanship indeed. The unprecedented health crisis, and associated restrictions to limit the spread of the virus, requires our elected leaders to react to ever-changing information and a chain of lose-lose public policy choices. COVID continues to make the hard job of being a public representative that much harder. The best, we can agree, are doing the best they can. The worst, well … are the worst.

The British public has rightly taken offense to the idea that the very people charged with making and enforcing COVID rules, were also busy breaking them. In the Djokovic saga, skeptics of vaccination mandates — in Australia, Serbia and beyond — will have new ammunition if the world’s top tennis player is kicked out of both tournament and country.

The good news is that in our eternally flawed democracies, the public eventually (though not always!) finds out what goes wrong, and ultimately has the final say of who’s in charge. The same can’t be said everywhere, including the country that has been cited for having the most successful methods for controlling the virus and limiting death tolls. That is, of course, China … where it all began.

Yet the authoritarian regime's “Zero COVID policy” comes with deeper questions that largely mirror the downside of authoritarianism in general: ruthless enforcement, quelled dissent and the sometimes blind following of the masses. It’s hard to imagine that Xi Jinping has had any “BYOB parties” in the past two years. But if he did, you can be sure we’d never know.

— Jeff Israely


• Makar Sankranti 2022: The Hindu festival of Makar Sankranti is celebrated on January 14 and 15 in almost all parts of India and Nepal in a myriad of cultural forms. The festival marks the end of winter, the beginning of a new harvest season, and has ancient religious significance.

• Parthenon fragment returns to Greece: A marble fragment from the Parthenon temple has been returned to Athens from a museum in Sicily. Authorities hope the move will rekindle efforts to force the British Museum to send back ancient sculptures from Greece's most renowned ancient landmark.

• 400 years of Molière: France honors its seminal playwright on the 400th anniversary of his birth. His influence, comparable to that of Shakespeare in the anglophone world, is such that French is often referred to as the "language of Molière."

• Vinyl surpassed CDs sales for the first time in 30 years: For the first time since 1991, annual sales of vinyl records surpassed those of CDs in the U.S, according to MRC Data and Billboard, with an estimated 41.72 million vinyl records sold in 2021 (up 51.4% from 27.55 million in 2020). This means that vinyl is now the leading format for all album purchases in the U.S.

• Kendrick Lamar teams up with South Park creators: Grammy-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar and his former longtime manager Dave Free are working with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to produce a live-action comedy for Paramount Pictures.


The decisions to close schools have been some of the toughest choices made during the pandemic, with students suffering both academically and socially from online learning or no education at all. It’s universally acknowledged that children most succeed with in-person classes, but the question still remains whether the health risk to students and those around them is worth it.

The Omicron wave has only caused this debate to heighten, with teacher strikes in France, rising drop-out rates in Argentina and shortages of staff in South Africa. But there are signs of hope: Uganda has finally reopened schools, ending the world’s longest shutdown, and some American parents have decided to offer more personalized education with homeschooling.

Read the full story: COVID School Chaos, Snapshots From 10 Countries Around The World


The real transition of power in Kazakhstan was supposed to have taken place in 2019. Former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had ruled the former Soviet Republic with an iron first since its independence in 1991, finally stepped aside to allow his successor, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, to take power.

However, Nazarbayev retained enormous influence behind the scenes. The real transfer of power is in fact happening only now, following large-scale unrest and protests around the country. Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev promises a new way of doing things, but his methods are strikingly similar to his predecessor. For Russian daily Kommersant, Vladimir Soloviev and Alexander Konstantinov ponder why strongmen are able to keep power in Kazakhstan — but can't ensure its peaceful transfer.

Read the full story: Kazakhstan, When One Strongman Replaces Another


Things are getting fishy over Nordic fishing regulations, as the Danish government has banned further growth in sea-based fish farming, claiming the country had reached the limit without endangering the environment. In Danish newspaper Politiken, marine biologist Johan Wedel Nielsen explained why Demark’s policy has given Norway a de facto monopoly on the lucrative salmon industry. This is particularly significant as changing diet habits are increasing demand for the nutritious pink fish, and Norway has taken advantage, accounting for about half of the world’s salmon production.

Nielsen argues that environmental concerns aren’t warranted, as fish have an inherently small impact on the environment. Denmark has the potential to establish 150 salmonid (a family of fish including salmon and trout) farms in the Baltic Sea, producing some 500,000 tons of trout per year with a value of 2.7 billion euros and employing tens of thousands. But the Danish government has so far given no indication of allowing any addition to Denmark’s 19 existing farms.

Read the full story: Norwegian Salmon v. Danish Trout: Lessons On Ecology And Economics


French start-up Airxôm has unveiled its unique respiratory device at Las Vegas’ CES tech event. Their plastic and silicon face mask is the first capable of destroying particles of all sizes and has inbuilt decontamination properties, hence protecting against pollution, bacteria and viruses including COVID-19. Oh and, as a bonus, it also prevents your glasses from fogging.


Boris Johnson memes flooded social networks this week, mocking the UK’s prime minister's excuse for attending what was quite obviously a party at the height of the pandemic: “I believed implicitly that this was a work event.” The quote was shared alongside a toe-curlingly bad 2013 video of BoJo dancing to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” which resurfaced on Instagram, while Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair puts its own spin on the lame explanation.


A Belgian national was intercepted by the French police while riding his e-scooter on a highway in eastern France. The confused trottinette user said it was his first time riding in France, and that he’d failed to select the “no toll roads” option on his GPS.


Climate, COVID, Costa Concordia: why humans are wired for denial

This past week marked 10 years since the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Tuscany. Writing in Italian daily La Stampa, Guido Maria Brera sees connections between the way passengers and crew reacted in the minutes and hours after the ship ran aground to other calamities we face that may seem to be moving more slowly:

In 2012, the same year the Costa Concordia cruise ship sank off of Giglio Island, David Quammen published his book Spillover, which predicted that somewhere in Asia a virus would be attacking the human respiratory tract on its way to becoming a global pandemic. And so it was. This terrible shipwreck, which the world watched in slow-motion exactly ten years ago on January 13, 2012, now appears to us — just like the COVID-19 pandemic, like the trailer of a horror film we are now all living for real.

Millions dead, ten of millions sick, and the psychological collapse of entire generations, the youngest and most defenseless. In the meantime, climate change is spiraling out of control: sea levels are rising, land is drying out, ice caps are melting, not to mention hurricanes, storms, floods, droughts, famines, wars, migration.

The correlation between climate change and the pandemic has been demonstrated countless times by scientists. Soaring temperatures, intensive livestock farming, deforestation and the devastation of the natural animal kingdoms have led to zoonosis: Species-hopping, in which a bacterium or virus escapes from its host and spreads to another, creating a chain reaction with devastating results.

Finding the correlation between the sinking of the Costa Concordia and the current situation is more a subtle exercise: by looking at the decisions we made to respond to the disaster — or rather, how we failed to take action.

"The Concordia has become a maze of choices in the dark, deciding whether to open a door or not, whether to move or stay put, can be the difference between life and death,” Pablo Trincia said recently in his podcast “Il Dito di Dio.” (The Finger of God). A cruise ship with more than 4,000 people, including passengers, crew and ship personnel, is a microcosm in itself: it contains everything. And indeed, in these very long and slow moments, when time seems suspended, a tragedy was in the making.

There were reported many notable demonstrations of solidarity, as strangers helped each other. There were also those who fled as quickly as possible, seeking their personal safety at the expense of others. There were those who, between the ship crashing into the rocks and the dropping of the first lifeboats, seemed not to care.

If it is true that there are lessons to learn even from the worst tragedies, then we must make sure that the terrible wreckage of this small world can help us understand and identify the rocks we are heading towards today: the climate crisis and the pandemic. Time is the discriminating factor, as always. Director Adam McKay explains it well in his movie Don't Look Up, showing us how people react as they face slow-motioned tragedies.

In this scenario, the slowness of the film is the central narrative choice: there is initially plenty of time before the comet would hit the earth, ineluctably ending human life, and there remains plenty of time to live and love and enjoy.

Hence, we also have time to expect that the asteroid is still far away, to imagine that it will deviate from its course. We even have time to forget that the impact is inevitable, and to continue to live as if nothing is happening.

This is the most common reaction to pandemics and environmental disasters. Turn your head away, pretend you don't see, don't look up.

Denial is the work of politicians incapable of questioning the only development model they know, of the billionaires who built bunkers to survive in New Zealand, (where it seems that the crisis will have less impact), of the Silicon Valley gurus have already bought coolers to preserve their bodies for eternity by cryogenics.

On the Costa Concordia, refusal to look the disaster in the eye wasn’t just the work of those who were supposed to give the alert and manage the evacuation: we are all in the same boat when it comes to denial. When a disaster happens in slow motion, it feels as though there is still too much time to bother rushing for solutions now.

We tend to think about the time we have left, about the costs and benefits to our tiny lives, without even realizing that never has the need for salvation been more collective.

Ten years ago, as today, we convinced ourselves that we are absolved of responsibility precisely because we know that everyone shares the same responsibility.


• Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov set next week as the ultimatum for a confirmation that NATO will neither expand nor deploy forces to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations.

• Next Sunday will mark two years since the World Health Organization declared during an emergency meeting that COVID-19 was a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

• On Tuesday, a 3,400-foot-wide asteroid will make a safe flyby of Earth, whooshing by our planet at the equivalent of five Earth-Moon distances (still pretty close from a cosmic point of view).

• Monday is Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day, so you still have a few more hours to decide whether that gym membership really was a good idea.

News quiz answers:

1. Quebec announced plans to charge a health tax to unvaccinated residents, who represent 12.8% of the Canadian province but make up nearly half of hospital cases.

2. A heat wave scorched Argentina's capital Buenos Aires on Tuesday, bringing temperatures to 41.5 °C (106.7 °F) and causing a lengthy power outage.

3. Norway has ordered members of its military to return underwear, bras and socks after the end of their military service amid a shortage of supplies that the army partly blamed on the pandemic.

4. ❤️ 🐖 🏥 👨 👍 A 57-year-old American man became the first person to get a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig, a potentially major breakthrough that scientists hope could help alleviate shortages of donor organs.

✍️ Newsletter by Worldcrunch

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*Photo: Frank Molter/dpa/ZUMA

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Yes, Her Too: A Feminist Reading Of The Depp Vs. Heard Case

The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation suit has become a Hollywood media (sh*t) storm, but there are troubling real consequences in the way domestic violence is being portrayed, when the victim is less-than-perfect.

Fans welcome Johnny Depp with "Justice For Johnny" signs at the defamation trial against Amber Heard.

Catalina Ruiz-Navarro*

First the background: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard met in 2012. They started a relationship when Depp was still with Vanessa Paradis, and eventually married in 2015. Fifteen months later, Heard filed for divorce, accusing Depp of domestic violence and asking for a restraining order.

In the lawsuit, Heard said, ”I endured excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him.” They then made a million-dollar settlement, and soon after, Heard asked for the restraining order to be dropped.

In December 2018, Heard wrote an article for The Washington Post presenting herself as a victim of domestic violence and suggesting that her attacker had been Depp, though she didn't cite him by name. According to Depp, the column got him fired from the Pirates of the Caribbean series, although there is also a Disney document explaining the reasons for the dismissal as "repeated misbehavior."

Lawsuits and countersuits

As a result of the column, Depp decided to start a legal battle against Heard for slander and the lawsuit accuses her of being the aggressor in the relationship. As the registered office of The Washington Post is in Virginia, the trial is taking place in that state, instead of California, which is where Heard and Depp reside and where most of the attacks that both denounce took place.

This was a victory for Depp, because California has what is known as the "Anti-SLAPP" law, which consists of extra protection for the freedom of expression of people who file cases about issues of public interest. In Virginia, there are similar laws, but their scope is much more limited, and they include the exception of when those affirmations generate work losses to the accused person. The trial we're seeing right now is specifically for Depp's $50 million lawsuit against Heard for defamation and Heard's countersuit against Depp in response for $100 million.

Depp also sued the English newspaper The Sun over a headline saying he had been cut from the Fantastic Beasts franchise and labeled him a "wife-beater." This went to trial in the United Kingdom and a judge determined that the accusations of abuse against Depp were "substantially true" in a 130-page document detailing a string of incidents and fights where it was already noted that both Depp and Heard are very reactive.

In the long series of incidents and fights detailed in the ruling, there are some patterns: Depp is drunk or using other drugs, usually cocaine or MDMA, often drinking wine. He breaks glasses and for almost every fight there are at least two broken bottles. Among the evidence presented is a video of Depp destroying things in the kitchen. He never comes close to hitting her, but he does throw things at her, insult her, and grab her by the hair. During their relationship and marriage, Depp was in rehab for an opiate addiction.

Heard also uses drugs (Ambien for sleeping, and it seems marijuana and MDMA recreationally). The judge, in his ruling, rejects the theory that all of Heard's accusations are a setup, since these have also been catastrophic for her career. So the judge ruled that The Sun newspaper could refer to Depp as a woman beater, and the actor's attempt at censorship was unsuccessful.

The vanishing armadillo

There is something important in the series of incidents that are narrated in the ruling, and it is not the first time that Depp, in a fight with his partner, destroys things. In 1994, he was staying in a very expensive hotel in New York, The Mark Hotel, with his then-girlfriend, model Kate Moss: “An altercation took place, loud enough for the authorities to go see what was going on. They found Depp and Moss in a totally destroyed room after an alleged fight. The officer who arrived said he found Depp calmly smoking, but the scene was horrifying: "There was glass everywhere, upside-down furniture, tables with broken legs." Depp said that "an angry armadillo had been hiding in the closet" and that the destruction of the room was the result of Depp's attempts to ward off the creature.

Depp is the contemporary incarnation of the Byronic hero of Hollywood

The armadillo was never found and Depp was arrested on charges of $10,000 in damages. Depp himself speaks of the incident, almost with pride, in an interview for Esquire magazine: “You gotta have an outlet available, stimulus, know what I mean? But I wasn’t embarrassed about it then, and I’m certainly not embarrassed about it now. I mean, you know, I was in a bad mood, I assaulted a hotel room. I broke a lot of stuff. And it felt good. I felt better afterwards. Can’t say that I would recommend it, but, you know, you do what you have to do in the moment. Then you have to do it. You know you get old, and then you get thrown out the pasture, and the worst thing you get is: didn’t you used to be Johnny Depp?”

This is important because Depp is the contemporary incarnation of the Byronic hero of Hollywood: "mysterious, alternative, romantic boy, tortured by a deep pain that makes him sensitive but at the same time elusive and unattainable." But that does not exempt him from being a sexist/macho. His is not a “new masculinity”; it is the same toxic masculinity that solves problems with parties, women, substance abuse and romanticizes the idea of “geniuses” and systematically “love bombing” (remember that Depp is famous for tattooing his girlfriends' names and hastily proposing). In the messages that have been disclosed in the trial, he uses all kinds of misogynistic insults to refer to Heard, calls her a “cheap whore” in various ways, and fantasizes about killing her and raping her corpse. This is how the most sensitive heartthrob in Hollywood thinks.

A pop cultural phenomenon

Heard was arrested in 2009 for allegedly grabbing and striking her girlfriend, Vanessa van Ree, at an airport in Seattle. Today, van Ree says that the arrest was unfair, that the incident was blown out of proportion, in part, by the homophobia of the police: “I recount hints of misogynistic attitudes toward us, which later appeared to be homophobic when they found out we were domestic partners and not just ‘friends.’ Amber is a brilliant, honest and beautiful woman and I have the utmost respect for her. We shared five wonderful years together and remain close to this day." Both Depp and Heard have a history of extreme, sometimes violent, reactions and ex-partners who defend them and assure them that they are sweet and peaceful people.

The trial, packed with celebrity witnesses, has become a pop culture phenomenon with everyone taking sides. Depp has a number of especially virulent fans who attack people online, and because they won't let them camp outside the courthouse, they park outside from 5 a.m. with signs that say "JusticeForJohnny." A Vulture reporter recounts that fans gather at a nearby cafe to talk about how much they hate Heard. The fans are a kind of Greek choir for the trial and they applaud and laugh every time a witness makes Heard look bad. This is particularly serious because the wife of one of the jurors is one of those Depp fans who intensely hate Heard, she is a #HeardHater, according to Vulture magazine.

In this trial, Depp has to prove that Heard's accusations in The Washington Post article are false, and yet the trial has been more about proving that she is an aggressor. And it seems that this can be proven. There are audios of Heard admitting that she hit Depp. It seems that many of the fights had to do with Depp continuing to use alcohol and drugs despite being supposedly rehabbed. It seems that Heard was also a rude and exploitative boss and hung out with a group of obnoxious and capricious friends. It seems quite likely that in one of those jokes with his friends, Heard defecated on Depp's bed, in revenge for being late and drunk for her birthday. It is also said that Heard had affairs with James Franco and Elon Musk (she has terrible taste).

On the other hand, the evidence presented by Heard's defense has not been the most solid: They have not wanted to disclose the photos of the aggressions for forensic analysis of the metadata. Days after one of the altercations that she denounces, she appeared on a television program without visible marks of those attacks. The makeup artist testified that she hadn't seen any such marks, though Heard apparently told her something along the lines of "can you believe I did this show with two black eyes?"

There was another incident where Heard accused Depp of destroying things and breaking wine bottles in one of his apartments in L.A. However, when the police arrived, twice, Depp was no longer present, only Heard with Depp's friends who were reluctant to let them in. When the second group of police officers with cameras on their uniforms arrived, they observed the same reluctance but also recorded on video that the apartment was clean and tidy. There is also the infamous "Australia finger" incident, in which Depp ended up with the tip of one of his fingers sliced off in a fight and had to go to hospital. This means that Depp has a medical record of the assaults and Heard does not. It's unclear if the accident was caused by grabbing a broken iPhone (as Heard claims) or a vodka bottle thrown by Heard (as Depp claims).

Amber Heard

Amber Heard wrote in The Washington Post in 2018 that she was a survivor of domestic abuse from an unnamed person.

Ron Sachs/CNP/ZUMA

Victim vs. villain? It's not that simple

To summarize, Heard is a woman who can be really obnoxious (or charming, as Depp himself describes her at the beginning of their relationship), and it seems that she has told quite a few lies. She is a villain. Thus, Depp becomes "the good victim" because it is easier to see things in black and white and because as a society, it is still hard for us to imagine that a woman can be both a victim and an aggressor.

That human complexity is a privilege that we reserve for men who, for example, we can see accused of all kinds of atrocities, particularly sexual violence and harassment, and still recognize that they are talented in their field, that they have made contributions to the humanity and we even excuse their terrible temperaments with the idea that they are "geniuses." Nyla Burton said in February 2020 in the wonderful Bitch Magazine — which sadly has just closed — that "in a culture that often seems incapable of nuance, there’s a persistent need to see victims and perpetrators through an unrealistically narrow lens before acknowledging the harm itself. Cisgender women are held to an impossible standard in cases of domestic violence and rape, tasked with proving their own lifelong perfection before the violation of their bodies or spirits can be accepted as valid."

As a society, it is still hard for us to imagine that a woman can be both a victim and an aggressor.

For the philosopher Diana Tetjens Meyers, there are two types of victims who are "acceptable" in our societies: the "pathetic" victim (who is something like the damsel in distress who needs to be rescued) or the courageous cartoon heroine who is willing to put the common good before her own. Any deviation from these two paradigms implies putting the victim under suspicion and this is very evident in cases of gender-based violence related to harassment or sexual violence. Heard, specifically, incarnated the deviation from these paradigms.

Is it possible that Heard is a victim of gender violence and misogyny and at the same time is an abuser and a morally questionable person? Is the enthusiasm with which many people criticize and persecute her at the moment only because her case is weak and she appears to be an aggressor as well? It is hard for us to understand it because we are used to very reductive narratives about the relationship between victim and perpetrator.

Witch hunt disguised as moral crusade

The philosopher Kate Manne has a long work on how misogyny works in our societies. According to her, we tend to think of victims as innocent, without any guilt, and we have a persistent resistance to acknowledging someone as a victim when they are suspected of being guilty or are in fact guilty of something minor. The focus shifts from the assault to the ways the (sometimes genuine) recklessness, or even morally problematic behavior, of the person on the receiving end contributed to a situation in which she was assaulted. Manne emphasizes that this implies their role as victims in the narrative is totally compromised.

Manne explains that sexism is something like the ideology that justifies patriarchy and that misogyny is much more than a personal hatred against women. It is a social function that serves to keep women in the place that patriarchy has reserved for us. Misogyny, according to Manne, demands that women be "generous, loving, caring, as opposed to being power-hungry, careless and domineering." Manne adds that women are positioned in an asymmetrical relationship with regard to the moral support they give men, who have historically required them to show respect, approval, admiration and gratitude.

“When she breaks character and tries to make moral criticisms and accusations against him, she is taking away that good faith that maintains her sense of self-worth. Her resentment can feel like a betrayal to him, leading him to seek revenge and retribution.” This is one of the reasons why women who report sexual harassment or violence are often later prosecuted by their aggressors when they have the economic power to take legal action.

On the other hand, misogyny is something that all people, men and women, and even feminists, can exercise. Manne says that misogyny "feels like a moral superiority, like standing up for justice, like a moral crusade and not like a witch hunt." When I read reviews of Heard online, I get the feeling that those who criticize her don't feel like they're being misogynistic. On the contrary, they feel like they're being fair and that this social sanction is necessary. I am particularly struck by how many men, who have never shown any interest in the public health crisis that is domestic violence, are suddenly more involved than ever with this case. It is as if they believed that proving Heard to be a liar or guilty would exonerate all male harassers, abusers and aggressors.

"Himpathy" for Depp

But that's not how it works. This is an exceptional case. What the statistics show is that according to 2020 figures, men in heterosexual relationships are victims of domestic violence "with a prevalence between 3.4% and 20.3%". The statistics also show that the majority of men who have been victims of some form of domestic violence had also been violent against their partners. Between 10.6% and 40% were victims of violence in their childhood. Jealousy, alcohol abuse, mental health problems, physical limitations and short-term relationships are factors associated with a higher risk of domestic violence.

The consequences of such violence committed against men often include minor physical injuries, impaired physical health, mental health problems such as anxiety or a disruptive disorder, and increased use of alcohol or other illegal drugs. Depp seems to fit this profile, but that does not change the terrible reality that the majority of perpetrators in cases of domestic violence are men. It is estimated that around the world, 1 in 3 women has been a victim and that 38% of all the murders of women in the world are femicides committed by an intimate partner.

At trial, Depp's defense has done everything better: They managed to paint the actor as a victim of an evil woman, a survivor of childhood abuse, a generous man, an ordinary man (who owns an island in the Bahamas). It must be said that most of the witnesses who testified in his favor, including his sister, are also his employees. The greatest success was the testimony of Depp himself, who is a magnetic and charismatic guy, and managed to dodge his long stay on the stand very well.

Around the world, 1 in 3 women has been a victim

Depp is taking advantage of what Manne has defined as "Himpathy": a general tendency in our society to always empathize with men. Culturally and socially, we are trained to assume the point-of-view of men as the neutral look. We are used to seeing them as complex human beings, so feeling sympathy and empathy for them is irresistible. They live lives that are "worth living," as Butler would say. And since the lives, dreams, desires and experiences of men are worth living, we are very concerned that "a lie" will "ruin" them.

This empathy that people feel for men — even strangers — becomes very evident in cases in which women report sexual violence: There is a "tendency to forgive privileged men for their mistakes and crimes, arguing that they are very vulnerable to us, to criticism, to cancellation, while society is markedly hostile to the victims who speak out,” says Manne. Despite these concerns, what experience shows is that himpathy is so powerful that it enables men to come back, even when they have admitted guilt. Luis CK who was denounced by five women for sexual harassment, has just won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album, with a work in which he makes fun of the same complaints.

Fans taking pictures of Johnny Depp as he arrives at the courthouse.

The Depp Vs Heard trial has become a pop cultural phenomenon.

Cliff Owen/CNP/ZUMA

Mutual abuse — but women judged more harshly

All this empathy towards Johnny Depp seems to want to overlook all his macho behaviors and will probably help Depp win the case. Yes, Heard most likely was an aggressor, but what the lawsuit is about is whether she lied when she said she had been a victim of violence in The Washington Post column, which was the cause of his firing from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Fantastic Beasts. The firing thing is difficult to prove because, as I pointed out earlier, it seems that many of the problems on the set of the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie had to do with Depp arriving on set drunk, to the point of needing his lines dictated through an ear device.

And, despite all her lies, it appears that Heard was indeed a victim of abuse. There is enough evidence to show that Depp was insulting her, throwing things at her, and had problematic drug and alcohol use. Their couple's therapist famously said the abuse was mutual. But somehow these aggressive behaviors by Depp, which are serious enough to admit that Heard's column was not libelous, have been downplayed in public discussion.

As Manne explains, this interplay between misogyny and selective empathy with men results in "women being judged more harshly than their male counterparts for the same actions." For example, at trial, Depp's defense called an expert psychologist to the stand who diagnosed Heard with Borderline Personality Disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of BPD include “an intense fear of abandonment, including going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection, a pattern of intensely unstable relationships, inappropriate anger, such as losing your temper frequently, being sarcastic or bitter or having physical fights.”

I mean, it doesn't seem unreasonable that Heard has BPD. What is very interesting is that this diagnosis, at trial, favored Depp's defense and helped to strengthen Heard's image as an abuser, stigmatizing, incidentally, people with BPD. Note that, on the contrary, when men are aggressors and it is pointed out that they have some condition that affects their mental health, these diagnoses serve to exculpate them from their behavior. For example, Depp's obvious addiction and substance abuse problems have served to say that he is generally a great guy, except when what he himself has called "the monster" comes out: His violent facet is an “exception” to his “true personality.”

The end of #MeToo movement?

Many people are excited about this case because they see it as the end of the #MeToo movement. For years, they have told us that "reporting abuse just like that" was "dangerous" not for the victims, but for some poor innocent men who would see their lives ruined by an evil woman with a hunger for revenge. This is a common trope in fiction and soap operas, although in real life it is as rare as a shooting star. But here it is: The paradigmatic case that will forever be used to justify the suspicion on any woman who comes forward. And a powerful message of warning to all those who want to report: If you don't have hard evidence, don't bother speaking. If Amber Heard lied, no one is going to believe you.

But if Heard is lying, does that mean that any woman making sexist violence accusations could easily be lying too? If it is true that Heard is lying, her accusations will most likely not stand the test of time, manner/mode, place, and circumstance. Complainants of sexist violence have the entire system against them and a permanent suspicion that will exhaustively search for cracks in their history. The burden of proof is always on the victims who denounce, so no, they haven't had it, they don't have it, and they won't have it easy.

The victims know this and that is why the vast majority do not report it. Heard is an exceptionally privileged woman, and yet her career is going to be ruined by this claim no matter if it's true or false (in which case, it'll cost her $100 million plus). So there is no such thing as the possibility of a woman making a complaint, because, if it is true, the punishment of misogyny will come for leaving the corral. This implies such terrible things as economic bankruptcy, being forced to migrate to another country to make a new life without the shadow of the verdict, reputational destruction, mental health problems and much more.

The aggressor can easily “flip the story”

Nyla Burton quotes Danielle Tcholakian who says that “Every time a complication presents itself, you see who hates the #MeToo movement on some level. They pour out of the woodwork, declaring the movement has finally gone too far, or is dead, or both. They don a cloak of neutrality, the protection of the spectator, as opposed to a participant. It was inevitable, they say.” To this Burton replies that “When such complications arise — and they will — advocates for survivors of domestic violence and rape shouldn’t default to defensiveness or confusion, but should instead acknowledge the essential truth at the heart of this movement."

We must support survivors and work toward creating a world where violence is eradicated. Cases like that of Argento (who denounced Weinstein, and was later also accused of sexual abuse) and Heard are co-opted in bad faith in order to shut down conversations about how to create that world, but we can use these cases to reignite, broaden, and deepen such discourse. Acknowledging how complex these issues are doesn’t negate the amazing work of the #MeToo movement; it only continues it. Burton also explains that “the myths of 'the perfect victim' and 'the typical abuser' to the detriment of all abuse survivors. By accepting that perpetrators of abuse are often victims as well, we can better understand and address the dynamics of interpersonal violence.”

Not all victims stay crying under the shower in the face of aggression. Some respond, answer, bite, hit. Some decide to take revenge on their attacker. It is rarer, in fact, that a woman shows absolute submission to the aggression of a partner. We live in a world that insists that the solution to domestic violence is that "we stand for ourselves." But when, in fact, a woman does this, she has to think twice before reporting abuse because the aggressor can easily “flip the story” and accuse her of being an aggressor if at any time she has reacted in an upset way, or with anger, or if she does not look fragile and tearful as we expect “the real victims” to be. Maybe this is not the case with Heard, or maybe it is. The truth is that we have no way of knowing. At this time, that is the problem for a jury and judge. Our problem is what are we going to do to build a safe space for women to speak out even if they are not “the perfect victim.”

Double standards

Scrolling on social media, I saw a meme that said that Johnny Depp had proven that "you are not guilty for being a man, nor are you a victim for being a woman." We feminists have never said that. What we are saying is that we live in a system that minimizes, makes invisible and even celebrates the violence of men against women and that harshly punishes and represses women who leave subordinate feminine roles, either because they denounce and expose their aggressor, or because they are the aggressors. What we are saying is that men have more power than women and trans and non-binary people, and that inequality makes it easy and tempting to abuse that power, especially when there is a guarantee of impunity that exceeds 90%.

It astonish me, although it does not surprise me, that when a man (especially a white, hetero-cis man with some social power) is accused of macho behavior (ranging from mansplaining and gaslighting to physical and sexual violence) people immediately jump to say the now classic "not all men!" However, if one woman among millions screws up, or lies, or takes advantage of the circumstances to become an aggressor, then it seems that her behavior does represent that of all women, that of all victims and, especially, that of all women that file complainants.

That double standard is not explained simply by laying out in detail the reasons why someone might think that Heard is indeed guilty of being an aggressor. The misogyny begins when we begin to think and say that Heard's behavior "discredits" the word of all women, as if any woman had the possibility of suing her husband for 100 million dollars. The himpathy begins when we refuse to see or minimize Depp's macho behavior: "He never punched her, he just threw an iPhone at her."

To say that Heard's behavior is "morally problematic" is an understatement. Precisely for this reason, this case is putting our feminist principles to the test: How to assimilate that women are aggressors and that they lie, and at the same time continue to believe the victims? It is said that Amber Heard is harming all the victims of sexist violence by setting this precedent of lies, but the ones who are doing potential harm to them are us, those who prefer to simplify moral dilemmas, those who do not understand the complexity of the victims, and those who hide behind Heard to create a hostile environment that discourages women from speaking up in the future.

*Catalina Ruiz-Navarro is a Colombian feminist and author of the book “Las mujeres que luchan se encuentran.” She is the co-founder of Volcanicas, the Latin American feminist magazine and her work as a journalist has been published in international newspapers such as The Guardian and The Washington Post.

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