This week’s congressional testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, a 25-year-old former White House aide, has been hailed as explosive and game-changing by those eager to see Donald Trump held accountable for the deadly chaos of the January 6th insurrection. Skeptics, on the other hand, are less convinced that the revelations — Trump allegedly demanding to remove magnetometers at the “Stop the Steal” rally (so his supporters could remain armed), scuffling with a Secret Service agent in hopes of rejoining the mob as it arrived to sack the Capitol and having thrown his lunch at the wall in a rage over Attorney General Bill Barr telling the Associated Press that the 2020 election had not been stolen — will make much difference.
Naturally, though, the MAGA-verse looked to discredit Hutchinson, and settled on a predictably misogynist trope: You can’t trust anything a woman says. Several years ago, they might have tied her to Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who, during his confirmation hearings, credibly accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school — an account that right-wingers argued (loudly but unconvincingly) was fabricated. However, with the recent, over-publicized legal battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard concerning the facts of their disastrous marriage, Trump loyalists had a better smear to work with. They just started calling her “Amber 2.0,” piggybacking on the widespread social media campaign attacking Heard as a manipulative, gaslighting, abusive liar and opportunist.
The trend confirms fears that the muddled outcome of Depp’s defamation suit against Heard, and the intensified #MeToo backlash around it, would have damaging ripple effects for other women who come forward with stories of men’s anger and violence. But unlike the looming courtroom circus for Depp’s friend Marilyn Manson, who is likewise suing former finacée Evan Rachel Wood after she alleged a pattern of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of the rock musician, Hutchinson’s appearance before the January 6th committee has nothing to do with intimate relationships; she was there to detail Trump’s role in an attempted coup of the federal government. This false equivalence has come as quite the surprise to those who have spent remarkable energy denigrating Amber Heard but also see themselves as anti-Trump liberals.
Much as some women have found themselves in an uneasy coalition with anti-feminist extremists by pushing transphobic panic in the U.S., more than a few of Heard’s vocal critics are possibly starting to realize just who their bedfellows in that movement really were: The same reactionaries who think that at least two dozen women have made up stories of Trump’s harassment and assaults, that Ford was a political operative trying to tank Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS nomination with an untruthful account of his behavior and that false accusations of everything from sexual impropriety to rape are a common (nope) means to material gain (in fact, it’s the opposite).
That is, the zealous Depp defenders, by turning Heard into the prime example of a woman claiming victimhood who shouldn’t be believed, perhaps unwittingly cast their lot with the segment of the public that always suspect a woman describing her mistreatment by a man. They cemented her as a reference point — the disgraced figure who proves a rule.
Alas, I don’t imagine many Democrat-voting, full-time Heard haters will pause to ask themselves how they handed Republicans a convenient cudgel for bashing women whenever one stands up to say how the party operates and what they’re capable of. Were they capable of such analysis, they wouldn’t have spent years vilifying someone for undermining the reputation of that guy they love from those pirate movies. Either way, the aftermath of their efforts is unavoidable now.