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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.

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.

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Anti-Semitism In German Rap, A Loaded Question

-Essay-

MUNICH — Artists are now using anti-Semitism and Islamism to shock, and that's not surprising. But if both listeners and rappers started to finally take music seriously, this could change.

Since Germany's top music prize, the Echo awards, honored the rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang, there has been a misunderstanding that both sides of the debate have somehow agreed upon: that anti-Semitism is part of hip-hop culture. Some intend it as criticism; others want to defend the two rappers. But no matter how you mean it, it's bullshit. Too many who are now talking and writing about the issue have no idea what rap is, to begin with.

In German rap, anti-Semitic content became visible only with the rise of rappers such as Bushido and Haftbefehl, around ten years ago. Kool Savaş, who started in the 1990s and is a pioneer of battle-rap in Germany, raps transphobic, homophobic and misogynist lyrics, but has never used anti-Semitic words. One might ask why so few have been upset about his words. But one thing is certain: The claim that anti-Semitism is part of rap is simply not true. This trend is relatively new.

It was born and grew because rap was a relatively unnoticed genre for a long time. In Germany, it was also considered to be the music of the lower classes and adolescents. This lack of interest from the public allowed the formation of a semi-criminal parallel community with its own "code of honor" — or at least one that pretends to be criminal, because that belongs to the bad boy image and offers street credibility. Much of it was and is only for show.

In recent years, the Echo awards have shown how rap has become a mass-market genre. What started out as a niche now reaches an audience of millions. The wider public is half-fascinated, half-disgusted by this strange alternative environment. It must be noted that the supposed street credibility of a rapper is also linked to whether he or she comes from an immigrant background, preferably a Muslim one.

The provocation must come in new ways, and reach new extremes.

But how did it come to now produce lyrics like "My body is more defined than those of Auschwitz inmates," with a tastelessness that's hard to beat? Obviously, for the Bad Boys it's no longer enough to "f*ck hookers and mothers' and "fill themselves with coke," rap texts, it seems, now have to embrace anti-Semitism, Islamism and conspiracy theories in order to catch the attention of their target group. What better way to shock the young buyers and middle-class white men who sit in the record company offices, ready to pay such artists a lot of money for music productions and videos. Maybe they want to be a bit of a gangster themselves, as German actor Moritz Bleibtreu suggested.

The provocation must come in new ways, and reach new extremes. Bushido, for example, relates to Osama bin Laden and identifies with the suicide pilots of 9/11. After the massacre of Charlie Hebdo he put a picture of himself in the sweater with the inscription "Paris' on the net. That suits extremists, not rappers.

German rapper and writer of this essay Reyhan Şahin a.k.a. Lady Bitch Ray — Photo: Roger Murmann

The neo-gangsters from Frankfurt and North Rhine-Westphalia have managed in recent years to again make woman the object of their degrading lyrics. The arguments that one hears defending misogynist rappers are now used to brush aside allegations of anti-Semitism: First, rap only depicts society; secondly, only the musical ego is speaking here, not the private person. Both arguments fail to take rap seriously enough and underestimate its influence.

Rap is indeed art, but art shapes society. Art can and should be political. In anti-Semitic rap, a societal problem becomes clear: From record labels to hip-hop journalists, many worry too little about what's actually "cool" and what's problematic. The subculture does not discuss its blind spots, but repeats and runs over its own image more and more. But we need to talk about anti-Semitism as well as Islamism, female contempt and homophobia. The best way is to talk about it with the artists themselves, but critical hip-hop journalism is currently almost non-existent.

Neither anti-Semitism nor sexism and homophobia belong to the rap scene per se. Rap, like any art, is what the artist does with it. So, guys, stop playing down your lines! Become political, the way it truly belongs to rap. Public Enemy's Chuck D once said rap was "the black CNN." So where are the voices of the artist-as-cool-social-critic? Thoughtful Muslim rappers? Why don't they get heard by the record companies?

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Sexism, Italian-Style: Bad News For My Eight-Year-Old Daughter

Italy is, still, a deeply sexist country. A recent murder and suicide remind one mother why part of her shuddered at the thought of having a baby girl.

MILAN — Nine years ago, when I discovered that I was pregnant — as those who read my column at the time may recall — I was shocked. I had made a conscious decision to be child-free; I was convinced of my choice, I wrote about it, and accepted the ensuing insults (nine years ago in Italy, it wasn't so common to openly address the topic — not that it's any easier today, I observe here with some bitterness.)

An amniocentesis several months later provided not only the most important news ("it's healthy"), but also the confirmation that "It's a girl." The baby's father, who secretly aspired to a harem of a home where even the cats were all female, was overjoyed. Sadness and worry were mine alone.

"What? You're not happy to be having a little girl?" No. I was not happy. And to those who asked for clarification, I answered very simply: "I'm not happy because we live in a sexist country. Because as a woman, I have had to face discrimination and aggression. Because I have had to work harder, and still do. Because I, and not you, have heard my boss telling me, "Great job, you brought in some stellar business — you really unbuttoned your shirt in that meeting, huh?" Because, in the end, I don't think and I no longer even hope that in 15 or 20 years, when my daughter is out and about in the world, this country will really be any different than it is today. And I don't want her to be subjected to the same things. I don't want her to struggle so hard to obtain what men take for granted."

Over-the-top. Pessimistic. Apocalyptic. Feminist (said as an insult, to be clear.) "It's not such a big deal." These were just some of the responses I got.

Eight years have gone by. "And a half," my daughter would add. She's in that beautiful phase of life where even half years count, but going up, not going down. For about half the time I was pregnant, I figured nothing would change. I know that some small battles have been won. I know that life tends to improve, that our conditions in life are, generally, better than they once were. I know that my great-grandmother, whom I had the good fortune to know, at age 40 already seemed like an old lady, with her head covered and those black dresses, while I on the other hand … I know that there's a woman ("wife, mom, grandma," as the short Twitter bio explains) running president of the United States.

Asking for it

But I can't help but notice that an entire Italian town, faced with the horrific, repeated rape of a young girl, says that she was asking for it. I can't help but see that a man whose lover has left him can turn into a killer because, from his perspective, his partner is nothing more than an object that cannot and must not free itself from his possession.

There are countless numbers, statistics, red shoe demonstrations, another woman murdered, it goes on and on. I can't ignore that Tiziana Cantone killed herself because someone, betraying her trust, put sex videos online, and so popular wisdom has it that if you're a woman who likes having sex freely, you're a slut who deserves to be pilloried, whereas if you're a man you're cool, we'll have T-shirts printed with your face on them.

Nothing has changed, not one bit, from when I was in middle school. If you're a girl who "hooks up with a lot of guys" you're easy, or worse. If you're a guy who "hooks up with a lot of girls," you're a stud. There is no room here for nuance, for anything in between.

And on the subject of Tiziana, the real shame lies in repeating that she was killed "by the web," or "by Facebook." Tiziana was killed by the nastiness of other people, who were the first to share those videos. And by the stupidity, lack of empathy and superficiality with which hundreds created memes, jokes and photo montages from moments of intimacy that had been violated. Or maybe they imagined that it was all a clever marketing scheme devised to launch a new porn star's career. (Because this would never happen to us: we conspiracy theorists know what's what.)

Tiziana Cantone, killed by people's nastiness — Source: Instagram

To say that the web kills is like saying a pack or gang committed rape. That a street was a killer. That a mountain was murderous. That we're not involved. It's a dangerous process of denying responsibility, attributing only generic blame — empty, faceless and nameless. When in reality, blame can be traced to a principal point of origin: sexism, stereotypes, differences in thinking, in treatment, in the way sons and daughters are raised, all of which persist today, as strongly as ever.

Stereotypes at six

You might say, "But she's your daughter, it's up to you to give her the tools she needs to defend herself. The self-esteem. The strength." To which I say, "It's like when my father was afraid of letting me drive by myself at night."

"But dad, I'm careful, I'm a good driver," I would say.

"But you're not the one I'm afraid of. It's the people you'll meet on the road who worry me, because I don't know how they were raised," he would reply.

I explain, console, share, analyze. I'm always there. I speak openly and I am willing to address any topic with my daughter; I do try. I notice with some worry the wall between "the boys" and "the girls" in her elementary school class — a wall that originates with the children's families. In the stories my daughter tells me, I listen to the gender stereotypes that are endlessly perpetuated and show up unexpectedly, and therefore even more chillingly, in the voice of children of six, seven or eight years old. That's not to mention the stereotypes expressed by the teachers, which slip in with even greater subtlety; those are more acceptable, somehow, and harder to catch.

I read with disgust (and here, Italy isn't the only county at fault, but as my own elementary school teacher — a great woman — used to say, "A shared illness isn't halved, it's an epidemic") the drooling commentary on the posteriors of female Olympic athletes. What can I actually do? How can I keep the commonplace feelings of a nation at bay? What can parents do when a whole country, or at least a large part of it, is driving down the wrong side of the highway?

Who knows if my daughter will ever be free to live her life as she sees fit. To have sex with hundreds of men or women or with no one at all. To have ten children and breastfeed them till they're three years old or to dissolve powder in water by the spoonful without anyone saying, "Hey, you're doing it wrong." Maybe, instead, she'll have no children and live with ten cats. Or aspire to the job that she wants, or stay home to raise her children (or cats) and gaze at her navel.

I don't think so, unfortunately. I've lost faith. She'll probably get to be my age and be told that she needs to stop dressing like a young girl, and cut her magnificent curls and let them go gray. Because between rapes and media violence, it seems to me that right now, there's a lot of pressure on women to dress soberly as they age; heaven forbid that we upset anyone when they notice we're no longer at the pinnacle of the beauty competition. Far better to opt for shapeless dresses and short salt-and-pepper hair, as my great-grandmother did. She knew her place.

All I know is that when I felt sad nine years ago, part of me was right.

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The Brazilian Sexism That Ensured Dilma's Impeachment

A clearer picture is emerging of the socio-political profile of those who recently voted to oust Dilma Rousseff from the Brazilian presidency: right-wing males with a penchant for more "traditional," submissive women.

-OpEd-

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's now departed president, was sacked by the Senate for having patched up the country's fiscal shortfalls by some unusual means that were inappropriate certainly, but hardly criminal nor deserving of impeachment.

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Argentina
Catalina Ruiz-Navarro

Latin America's Sexist Spectacle Of Blaming The Victim

Reactions from both officials and the media to the murders of two Argentine women in Ecuador suggest that old-fashioned misogyny still commands in modern Latin America.

-Analysis-

BOGOTÁ — The corpses of Marina Menegazzo and María José Coni showed that one had been hit on the head and the other stabbed. News of the murders in Ecuador of these two young women traveling from Argentina has quickly spread across Latin America.

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Germany
Sonja Zekri

Mass Assaults On German Women, A Clash Of Cultures Exposed

A wave of violence rocked Cologne on New Year's Eve, when more than 100 women reported that men of Arab and North African appearance robbed, groped and raped them. Though shocking in Germany, such attacks are all too common in Arab countries, wher

-OpEd-

MUNICH — Hundreds of men banding together, assaulting, groping and even raping women. This kind of sexual violence that Cologne witnessed on New Year's Eve is entirely new in Germany. The country was shocked when scores of women reported that gangs of men of Arab and North African appearance harassed, robbed and sexually assaulted them. In many cases, the mobs thwarted police attempts to reach victims. Germany's justice minister has said that migrants convicted of these crimes could be deported if found guilty.

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