As a man whose balls have dropped, I’m sure the #MeToo movement must either make you irate or fill you with a bit of dread. If it’s the former, quoting the sage words of our able chief editor, “We didn’t mean to be disrespectful and we do not apologize if that’s the effect it had.” However, if you’re filled with trepidation as you circumspect your interactions with women, I slightly sympathize with you.

Why do I slightly sympathize? I do so because I believe the best way for human interaction is through caution and respect, and a certain movement should not be the driving force of decent human behaviour. However, the existence of humanity alludes to the theory that evil exists in humans irrespective of gender and morality. It manifests itself in several ways. A manifestation of human evil in the female gender, therefore, pose a clog in the wheel of the altruistic motives of the #MeToo movement.

The increase in awareness of mental illnesses has led to increased exposure of covert forms of abuse. Over a few years, the society has quickly familiarised itself with the concept of manipulation, gaslighting, et cetera as valid forms of emotional abuse. These forms of abuse have been proven to be as traumatizing as physical abuse and are found to be utilized simultaneously by abusers who also exhibit narcissistic and psychopathic behavioural tendencies. What many people always forget, however, is that these behavioural tendencies are not exclusive to a specific gender. They are not one-dimensional. Unlike physical abuse that requires power, emotional abuse wields any situation to its advantage. In this pseudo-novel territory, is a sweet blind spot for the perceived “weakling” to thrive.

The “weakling” trope thus transforms in a twist of wicked irony here – some women use this well. A case that reflects this poignantly is that of Hollywood couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard where Amber Heard filed for divorce and sued for damages for being domestically abused in 2015, one year into their marriage. A majority of the internet was livid and his cancel train went into effect immediately, from his past and upcoming movies to social alienation. For having an alternative opinion back then, one would have heard certain outbursts like:
“You should support the woman. Are you even human? What if you or your family were the one in that situation?

Or something along the lines of:

“So you’re one of those people? The ones that help men uphold the patriarchy. Always putting down their fellow women but enjoining fairness! What a shame! I hope he picks you!”

This is not about disbelieving women. We must not be hypocritical in the quest for equal treatment of both genders. The movement is and will always be for all. The men who are labelled as perpetrators of abuse are not only served justice but are also served a form of banishment from society at large. With the increasing virality of the internet and its cancel culture, inferences and judgements are made online at an alarming speed and put into immediate effect. Based on the perceived vulnerability of women, the majority of these judgements favour women regardless of what the man has to say. This leads inevitably to his social exile and consequent ruination of his life. He is tagged an abuser for life. In the case that he is later found to be innocent, the damage is already done.

Johnny Depp was left fighting for his fizzling career and respect. Amber Heard went on to play a major role in the blockbuster movie Aquaman while also garnering huge public sympathy. Johnny Depp, meanwhile, always contested her claims and denied ever being domestically abusive but the world already took sides. Two years into their lawsuit, an audio recording with Amber Heard’s voice apologizing about her physical abusive tendencies to Johnny Depp was leaked. She apparently used to hit him too!

This new information caused a huge shift in public sympathy in Johnny Depp’s favour but it was a little too late. Even with new information, the suit he filed against a British newspaper that published a lengthy article calling him a “wife-beater” was lost. The suits against his ex-wife have also been messy. As of 2021, six years later, he has not appeared in any film while there seems to be a reluctance to remove Amber Heard from her role in Aquaman, thus making the double standard of grace more apparent. Let’s not even talk about the emotional trauma he was inflicted and the helplessness he must have felt.

At this juncture, it is imperative to point out that supporting women who come out as victims is still very much relevant. It is also true that being neutral can sometimes translate to picking a side. The affirmation of a truth does not negate the credibility of another, thus there’s no backtracking here. If we agree that abuse is not limited to one gender nor is it one-dimensional, we should agree as well to follow civil behavioural modalities and rules of engagement in such cases. Online conviction, doxxing and cyberbullying are the least of the things people accused of abuse go through. These are in no way a walk in the park for anyone so, one would imagine at a point that people will put that into consideration. In summary, don’t be an A’ hole.

As much as “meninists” and their allies would love to use Johnny Depp as a scoring point in the conversation surrounding the #MeToo movement, the global reality proves different. In examining the victims of abuse, another example from the Hollywood comes to mind: In the assault case of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, over 80 victims including actresses and civilians jointly filed a suit against him. Sadly, despite this large number and bulk of evidence, his case dragged on for a while before his final conviction because of his power and influence. The #MeToo movement without any form of advertisement sprang up in many nations of the world with women finding the courage to talk about their own stories as well.

We must not forget that while several societies all around the world espouse men getting the upper hand where power dynamics are concerned thus giving them unrestricted potential to abuse a lot of vulnerable women around them; it is also possible for a man to be physically and/or emotionally abused by a woman. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to fortify systems that would allow for more people to call out the abuse of power and also protect innocent men from being scapegoats. This is invaluable towards healing and establishing a just society.

Finally, we should all imbibe an apologetic attitude. It is forgivable that you made a mistake supporting a woman who turned out to be the abuser. What is not okay is you choosing to die on the hill of your ill-informed choices. It’s okay to admit you were wrong and try your best to rectify them. In the quest for the betterment of the society, everyone must endeavour to discard their egos. Neither abuse nor allegations of abuse is a game of points. Both leave their victim battered and broken for the rest of their life. This is not about you and your ego.

As we continue to pool all resources and amplify our voices for victims of abuse, we should also ensure to tread with caution on cases that drive us into murky waters. Engaging in these cases in a civil manner while examining them carefully will go a long way in the prevention of harm to innocent persons. False accusations are also a form of abuse and they’re lethal weapons aimed more constantly at the male gender.  

Sa’eedah Hussein