On Wednesday morning, several national feminist organizations and writers, released an open letter of support for the actress Amber Heard. The letter is published on a site called “Amber Open Letter,” and its list of signees — including the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s March Foundation, and Gloria Steinem — is significantly longer than the letter itself, which is full of non-specific and wimpy hedging about the villainization of Heard, who was successfully sued for defamation by her ex-husband Johnny Depp.
Everything about this letter — its signees, its resolution that “the Depp v. Heard verdict and continued discourse around it indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of intimate partner and sexual violence and how survivors respond to it,” its arrival some five months after the conclusion of the trial — is fucking useless. It is, at best, a show of belated solidarity to bolster the egos of its writers, and at worst, a flagrant and cowardly admission of guilt over further silence.
What exactly took so long for something like this to exist? The Virginia defamation trial between Depp and Heard was the second court case on the topic of his abuse against her, the first of which was decided in her favor in the U.K. Were these organizations doing their own research? Discovering their own findings? Waiting until the horde of Depp supporters on TikTok calmed down? In the wake of the five year anniversary of the #MeToo movement and all of the subsequent reckonings that followed, it’s baffling and disgraceful that so many seemingly outspoken feminist organizations fell silent in the case of Depp and Heard. Anyone with their head screwed on properly could see the way in which misinformation spread like wildfire across the internet and how online mobs perpetuated falsehoods about the couple’s relationship.
The supposedly “tricky” aspect of this court case was that both of its defendants were and are miserable — Depp an alleged addict with a temper, Heard also an alleged addict with a temper — but that never justified the way in which Heard was branded a liar. For all intents and purposes, she told the truth; she just just never the ideal victim for a feminist organization to rally around.
The letter bafflingly grants specific attention to New York Times film critic A.O. Scott for writing in defense of Heard, rather than any of the number of women who wrote about it, both for national publications and humble blogs, whose long-winded Twitter threads made them the subject of hate and vitriol. Got it, got it: the NYT citation will always be the one that carries the most weight, as self-congratulatory Spotlight-esque #MeToo journo-thriller She Said opens in theaters at the end of the week. That film’s conclusion, however, is not so much about the powerful of mainstream journalism nor the beautiful Times cafeteria nor Carey Mulligan’s American accent, but about the solidarity required to speak up in the face of injustice, that victims ought never feel as though they are alone. Too bad all these girlies missed the memo.