Monica Lewinsky calls out misogynistic ‘circus’ around Amber Heard: ‘We are all guilty’

Monica Lewinsky attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Monica Lewinsky has weighed in on the misogyny directed at Amber Heard during her defamation trial with Johnny Depp: “We are all guilty.”

On Wednesday (1 June), a jury sided largely with Depp in his defamation lawsuit against Heard over a 2018 op-ed in which she discussed being a victim of abuse, although the court also ruled in favour of one claim in Heard’s countersuit against Depp.

Lewinsky, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, wrote an op-ed before the jury came to their verdict, insisting that whoever won, “we are all guilty”.

She began: “Unless you’re a troglodyte, you’ve been exposed to something about the Depp v Heard trial in the past few weeks. Like many, I have averted my eyes — with guilty fascination — even as I’ve kept track of the defamation conflagration.

“As we all do nowadays, we watch or we read or we media-graze about these private turned public spectacles in bits and bytes, fearing that the sheer rancor and vulgarity might leave a kind of virtual stench — or, in my case, worrying that prolonged viewing might be triggering. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Google: 1998.)”

Lewinsky was a 22-year-old White House intern when she had an affair with then-president Bill Clinton, but after the scandal went public, she was hounded, demonised and slut-shamed by the media.

Monica Lewinsky surrounded by photographers in May 1998

Monica Lewinsky surrounded by photographers in May 1998. (Sygma via Getty/ Jeffrey Markowitz)

In her op-ed, Lewinsky discussed the misogynistic memes and social media posts about Heard that circulated online for the entirety of the seven-week trial.

“I wasn’t surprised that the memes about Amber Heard far outnumbered those about Johnny Depp,” she wrote.

“I wasn’t surprised that the cruel and vitriolic discourse was predominantly aimed at the woman.”

Monica Lewinsky thinks the reaction to the case has caused ‘cultural collateral damage’

The public obsession with the “legal spectacle” of the case not only impacted those involved, said Monica Lewinsky, but everyone.

She wrote: “[It] would be sad enough if it just impacted the personal lives of Depp, Heard, and their loved ones. It would be sad enough even if we just considered how it has impacted domestic violence survivors or those who have sought strength in the #MeToo movement.

“However, it’s the larger implications for our culture that concern me the most: the ways we have stoked the flames of misogyny and, separately, the celebrity circus.

“It’s not just the two individuals and how you feel about them or this situation; it’s the cultural collateral damage.”

She said that society was “drenched in the taint of the dirt and aggression of the social media wars”, and that the Depp v Heard defamation case was an example of “the ever-expanding, ever-demanding search for schadenfreude and titillation”. 

Lewinsky added: “No matter whom the jury’s verdict favours… we are guilty.