Why women lose the he said-she said debate

High profile sexual harassment cases have caught public attention, but the mood shifts once a man jumps in to defend the victim. Here’s how the he said-she said debate hurts women who speak up and out.

Sexual harassment is always shrouded in the he said-she said debate. Whether the cases are high-profile TV celebrities, politicians or other public figures, not just the office supervisor or letch, women’s complaints are generally not treated seriously enough. When women whistle-blowers do speak up, their concerns and grievances are treated with mistrust. Their motivation is examined with forensic intensity and their stories scrutinized from every angle. They are tested to see if they are emotional, over reacting, attention deprived or have some other deeply hidden, ulterior motive. They are frequently advised to let something go and move on or told there has been a misunderstanding. They leave jobs and relationships and experience backlash (….bitch, flirt, tramp)  and even full-on smear campaigns, if they do have the temerity to speak out. Their reactions are minimised by people in authority, sometimes other women.


However, it’s clear that the he said-she said debate changes gear when a man steps in to support the woman involved, more than if the back-up comes from other women. I was fascinated by a post regarding Amber Heard who had reported that she had suffered abuse at the hands of her ex-husband Johnny Depp, which was posted on Twitter by 3Plus.  This accusation was eventually supported by Depp’s ex-manager (male). The post written by Zoe Beaty writes:

A man said Johnny Depp physically abused Amber Heard, so finally she is believed

It does seem that a woman’s experience is only validated if it is corroborated by a man. In the meantime Heard has even been described as a “gold-digger.” Susan Fowler, the Uber whistle blower experienced the same backlash when she published a post reflecting on her very “strange year” in Uber.

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