Tag Archives: gender double standards

Why Johnny Depp (And Men Like Him) Will NEVER Get The Benefit Of The Doubt

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’re all subject to certain biases and assumptions. Whether it involves religion, politics, or which movies you like, we can only ever be so objective. We’re not machines. It’s next to impossible to analyze a situation with cold, unfeeling logic and render a perfectly objective judgment.

I make that disclaimer because I’m about to talk about the ongoing situation between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Please note that I’ve been avoiding this topic, but not because it involves serious, emotionally charged issues. I’ve touched on issues of spousal abuse and double standards in the past before. I’ve even attempted to pose distressing thought experiments about gender politics and double standards.

This case, however, is one of those instances where it’s just too late. There’s no possible way to have a balanced discussion anymore. It has gone beyond he said/she said, celebrity gossip, and double standards. At this point, this whole case is just one big, ugly affair in which any side can find a detail to confirm whatever bias they want.

The details of the case are simple, but disturbing. When the anti-harassment movement was picking up steam, Amber Heard accused her ex-husband Johnny Depp of serious abuse. Her stories were disturbing, but enough people believed them that he was ultimately fired from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

At first, Heard’s story checked all the boxes for a standard #MeToo narrative. It was easy to believe because Johnny Depp, whatever you think about his movies, is an odd character. He’s no Tom Cruise, but many see him as eccentric, even by Hollywood standards. It’s not too hard to imagine him having a dark side.

Then, the narrative changed. During a number of legal battles, he accused Heard of being physically and emotionally abusive towards him. It’s not the typical narrative. There’s still a major taboo, as well as a gross double standard, surrounding women abusing men. It’s either not taken seriously or brushed off.

However, there’s one detail about Depp’s accusation that sets it apart from Heard’s. Unlike Heard, there’s actual audio evidence to back up his claims. This isn’t some rumored recording either. It was made public. It included direct quotes of Heard saying stuff like this:

“You didn’t get punched. You got hit. I’m sorry I hit you like this. But I did not punch you. I did not f***ing deck you. I f***ing was hitting you. I don’t know what the motion of my actual hand was, but you’re fine, I did not hurt you, I did not punch you, I was hitting you.”

To date, there has been no evidence to back up Heard’s claims about Depp. That didn’t stop her from doubling down on her claim as an ongoing libel trial wraps up. She still stands by her claims, even though she doesn’t have audio evidence to back up those claims. Even without it, there’s no guarantee the audio will make a difference.

This is where an uncomfortable, but unavoidable truth emerges. Regardless of your gender or your political leanings, this case has revealed something that has and will continue to disrupt any efforts towards gender equality.

Johnny Depp, and men like him, will never get the benefit of the doubt.

In making this statement, I’m not just referring to cases of spousal abuse. In the grand scheme of things, with respect to the various injustices driven by gender politics, we just can’t treat everyone by the same standard. We can try and we really should, but the results are always going to be mixed to some extent.

It’s hard to avoid. Were it not for that audio recording, how many would give Depp’s accusations of abuse by Heard any credence? He’s an eccentric, yet very successful actor in an industry that has a long history of enabling awful men. Him being an abuser just fits the standard narrative of how most people imagine spousal abuse.

Even before the anti-harassment movement, many of us already had that narrative ingrained in us. The idea of a woman abusing a man just doesn’t fit with every idea and assumption. We think spousal abuse and our immediate reflex is to think about a man abusing a woman. That’s the default. Anything other than that is going to draw skepticism.

On top of that, there’s also the beauty factor. That’s another distressing, but understated truth that this case has exposed. Amber Heard, however guilty she might be, is still a beautiful woman by most standards. Like it or not, beautiful women are far more likely to get the benefit of the doubt for pretty much everything, including abuse.

That’s not an extreme opinion. It’s well-documented that beautiful people have things easier and are given more credence. There’s even some biology to it. People are both drawn to beauty and feel compelled to trust, revere, and preserve it. Even if Johnny Depp was just as beautiful as her, relatively speaking, being a woman still gives her an edge.

Like I’ve noted before, women’s bodies tend to be more valued than men. As such, we’re just going to be more inclined to trust them, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. That means, even with a verified audio recording of Amber Heard admitting physical abuse, we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt before Depp.

It’s not fair.

It’s not right.

It’s certainly not just.

Regardless of your gender politics, abuse is abuse. Women suffer from it, but so do men. Celebrities like Corey Feldman and Terry Crews have been vocal about it for years, but no matter how much awareness they raise, our biases don’t change. In cases of serious abuse, we’ll still never give them the benefit of the doubt.

There’s so much I can say about this case, which is one of the reasons I’ve avoided it. I’ve seen a lot of heated discussions between feminists, anti-feminists, liberals, conservatives, and even moderate-minded people. Very little actually comes of it. There’s no way this case will ever change anyone’s mind or shift their gender politics in any way.

Any instance of abuse is awful. Regardless of the outcome, it’s still going to leave everyone unsatisfied. Depp and Heard will have their respective supporters, but the overall narrative surrounding this case won’t change. A man accused of abuses a woman cannot and will not be viewed the same as a woman who abuses a man.

It’s tragic, as well as frustrating. That’s just the current state of affairs for gender politics. A lot will likely change because of this global pandemic, but this ingrained narrative will likely persist. The end result is more abuse and less justice.

Leave a comment

Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Current Events, gender issues, media issues, men's issues, outrage culture, political correctness, politics, psychology, sex in society, women's issues

Al Bundy, Circumcision, And Double Standards In Humor

does-male-circumcision-shield-women-from-hiv-750

When you want to know how taboo a topic is, it helps to look at how sensitive people are to jokes about it. Most people can comfortably joke about teenagers, old people, the President, the French, and the Pope. Some of those jokes even make it into popular cartoons and sitcoms that we still laugh at to this day.

Then, there are topics for which making jokes is a gamble. Make the wrong remark at the wrong time and it could really cost you. Just ask Gilbert Gottfried or Roseanne Barr. The stakes get even higher when you joke about religion. Some have a better sense of humor than others, but those that don’t tend to make the news for all the wrong reasons.

Since humor and religion rarely mix, I want to focus on a topic that’s slightly less sensitive in circumcision. I say slightly because gender-specific humor is a lot trickier these days. Old jokes about women drivers and gay men just don’t work anymore and not because more cars are driving themselves.

Between trends in feminism and outrage over Wonder Woman’s armpit hair, the current state of gender politics is no laughing matter. I’ve talked about gender conflicts on many occasions and I’ve also discussed serious issues surrounding circumcision. I’m also aware that the current issues surrounding circumcision aren’t on many peoples’ radar, but I still think it’s worth talking about.

This isn’t just about representation in media or offensive stereotypes. This is about purposefully mutilating parts of the human body. When it happens to women, it’s a major problem that warrants major resources to combat. When it happens to men, though, it’s no big deal and prone to plenty of humor.

It’s more than just a double standard. It reveals a lot about our overall attitudes when we’re willing to joke about something. It shows how much the issue matters and how much energy we’re willing to put in to confront it. To understand the state of circumcision for men, you need look no further than an old episode of “Married With Children.”

I’ve mentioned this classic Fox sitcom before. I put it at the top of my list of TV shows that could never be made today. The fat jokes alone would get it cancelled. It’s a show that went out of its way to be controversial, much to the chagrin of a Michigan house wife. That included an episode about circumcision.

This particular episode was called “A Little Off The Top” and if you know anything about male circumcision, you understand why that’s an overly appropriate title. It starts with Al Bundy getting injured in a basketball game, going to a hospital, and getting circumcised due to a medical error.

It’s all portrayed with typical “Married With Children” hilarity. In fact, one of the most memorable moments of the episode is when Peggy gets a call from the hospital and Marcy, the Bundy family’s neighbor and one of Al’s many enemies, laughs hysterically. I’m not going to lie. When I saw a recent rerun of the episode, I laughed too.

That’s the genius of “Married With Children.” It can take depressing situations like a loveless marriage, a lousy job, and idiot kids and make it funny. It’s part of why this show is one of my favorite shows of all time. When you strip away the humor in this episode, though, there are some disturbing overtones.

To illustrate, here’s a quick thought experiment. Imagine, for a moment, that this isn’t happening in a TV show and you just randomly stumbled across a news article.

“Local Chicago man rushed to a hospital after injury playing basketball is mistakenly circumcised. Family and neighbors make fun of him.”

Take away the iconic Bundy family and the context of a sitcom. Just look at it in terms of raw facts. A man gets an injury, goes to the hospital, has his genitals mutilated against his will due to an error, and is laughed at because of it. The fact that it happens to Al Bundy makes it funny. If it happened to anyone in the real world, it’s not likely to be as funny.

Medical errors are already horrifying enough. This one is extra disturbing for men because it involves our genitals. There’s already a growing reservation about circumcising baby boys for no medical reason who cannot consent, which did not exist when “Married With Children” was on the air. On top of that, there’s a distinct double standard in play.

Even in the lewd world of a 90s Fox sitcom, there are lines that even the Bundy family cannot cross. If you were to reverse the genders in this episode, as I’ve put forth as part of previous thought experiments, then the humor just doesn’t work. If the episode involved a woman who’d been circumcised against her will by accident, then it wouldn’t be funny. It would be disturbing.

The reasons for that aren’t entirely simple. There is a medical and logistical difference between male and female circumcision. For the most part, female circumcision in its various forms are prone to more complications, even in a medical setting. Male and female anatomy are different. There’s no getting around that.

However, the logistics are the same. They both involve cutting, altering, or outright mutilating someone’s genitals against their will. Despite these similarities, one is still capable of being funny while the other is not.

That idea matters because when something can be funny, it impacts how seriously we take it as a society. We can joke about ditzy blonde women, bone-headed men, and irresponsible teenagers because they’re not seen as dire issues. That’s also the reason why we can make jokes about the Vatican in 2018 that probably would’ve gotten people killed half-a-century ago.

The fact that male circumcision can be a joke or the premise of a sitcom says that it’s not serious enough to be on the same level as female genital mutilation. They may not be the same thing, but the implications are still there. When a woman is mutilated, it’s a travesty. When a man is mutilated, it’s comedy. That is not a trivial gap.

I doubt “Married With Children” was trying to make a statement about male circumcision when the episode first aired. The show made a lot of controversial jokes and circumcision barely cracks the top ten. Even if that episode aired today, it probably wouldn’t be that controversial, which says a lot about how little our attitudes about male circumcision have changed since the mid-90s.

In that same time, though, efforts to combat female genital mutilation have gained ground. Efforts to beautify and protect the female body are part of a larger social trend. However, those efforts are not equally prescribed to men, even when the concept is the same.

Now, I’m in no ways in favor of making jokes about male circumcision taboo. Historically speaking, making anything taboo only tends to make an issue worse. I’m also not advocating that we start joking about female genital mutilation, either. My point in citing a memorable episode from a raunchy 90s sitcom is to show the vast disparity in the circumcision debate.

When something is a joke for one group of people, but an atrocity for another, then there’s a major disconnect in the issue. Both sides can and should be discussed seriously. Both can and should be held to similar standards are humor, as well. When you start making exceptions for one over the other, then that obscures the debate for both.

3 Comments

Filed under circumcision, gender issues, political correctness, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality