I’m at a picnic at Gleisdreieck for single mums and everyone is being super feminist about raising daughters who think they can, like, run for Kanzlerin and sons who love to wash up. I am kind of silent and morose.
Officially, on paper, I am a feminist single mum, but in actual fact, I find the whole getting the boys to help you with the housework stuff exhausting and demoralizing. I find it easier to plonk my little one in front of YouTube and just get on with it. I have these fantasies about modelling a healthy, loving, almost spiritual attitude towards household chores. Yes, they are boring, yes, they are exhausting, yes, they are tedious. But I love my home and I love myself and so of course I want to create a cosy, clean, hygienic space for myself. I love cleaning up! This is what I would like my relationship to housework to be like. But the reality gets in the way.
The reality is I fail at single motherhood in some ways
The reality is I fail at single motherhood in some ways. I fail at the cleaning bit, I fail at the raising feminist boys bit, and I definitely fail at the modelling a healthy, loving, almost spiritual attitude towards household chores bit.
My youngest boy came into the bathroom recently.
“I wanna help clean!” He announced proudly. I handed him a sponge. He moved it two millimetres and then screamed as if he were in actual agony.
“THIS IS BORING!” He screamed. “MY HEAD IS HURTING WITH BOREDOM! I MUST STOP DOING THIS OR I MIGHT DIE!”
And my oldest boy has just gone off to uni. This is how much I have failed as a feminist single mother hoping to raise a feminist boy: he rings me up almost every day to ask me how to cook something.
It depresses me, how much we are expected to raise these daughters who believe they deserve total respect, total equality
How long do I need to cook beans for. How long do I need to cook an egg for. How long do I need to cook bacon for. How long do I need to cook leftover pasta for. He once sent me a video of boiling water and asked me if it was “leicht kochendes.” “Leicht kochendes just means simmering,” I wrote back. “MUM, YOU HAVE LITERALLY TAUGHT ME NO COOKING SKILLS WHATSOEVER I DON’T KNOW WHAT SIMMERING MEANS EITHER.” (He also phoned me up recently to ask me how long after you open it, a packet of bacon stays edible for, but I couldn’t answer this question as I’ve never not fried an entire packet in one go).
I like all the single mums at this picnic, but the convo turns to Amber Heard and my heart sinks. It depresses me, how much we are expected to raise these daughters who believe they deserve total respect, total equality – but you marry a famous pirate and suddenly you deserve nothing? You deserve to live with someone who fantasizes about murdering you and raping your corpse afterwards, to check you are really dead, who pulls your hair out, who calls you, at fifty kilos, a fat-ass, who calls you a cunt and a whore and an over-the-hill stripper.
Our daughters are meant to be, when they grow up, like Hillary Clinton meets Beyonce meets Kleo meets Angela Merkel meets Jacinda Arden, going to business meetings in the morning and demanding respect, respect, respect, and going to dates in the evening and demanding even more respect, the world is their oyster and they deserve all the oysters and guess what? Some lobster too! But Amber Heard is public enemy number one because she got a restraining order and wrote an article referring to that publicly verifiable fact.
“Her own mother didn’t believe her,” says one of the other mums. “What does that tell you?”
What does that tell me? Well, first of all, that you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s true that Paige Heard, herself a victim of abuse, and much closer to Depp’s age than Amber was, sent him some slimy texts in her time, cosying up to him, appeasing him, trying to butter him up. This is what people are referring to when they say Heard’s mother didn’t believe her.
Texts where she calls him son, says she loves him, or blames the lawyers for Heard’s decision to get the restraining order. But she also, despite the fact that she herself had become accustomed to male violence, did believe Amber. The text messages they wrote to each other are heart-breaking, and I don’t know how anyone can read them and even, for one second, believe Depp’s ridiculous hoax theory. My favourite Paige Heard text message goes like this: “What are his bodyguards doing. You need your own.”
Where’s the lie, huh?
Society protects abusers, and punishes victims who speak out, male and female alike.
But I was in a women’s refuge, called Frauenhaus, in Berlin. So many women were not believed by their “own” families. Lots of the women in the Frauenhaus had binational relationships. One Polish woman had married a black guy, had half-black kids, at first her parents hadn’t wanted to see the kids, but you know, blood is often thicker than racism, and they’d accepted them in the end. Racist grandparents often do, don’t they.
Back in the day we still used the coin-operated phone in the foyer area, we all had mobiles, but I guess it was too expensive to use them to phone abroad or something? And we used to queue up in that shabby foyer to phone home. My mum was always on my side, and because of my mum’s fierce loyalty, my whole family was, too. But I was unusual, actually.
One time waiting to use the Münzentelefon, the Polish lady was in front of me. Her dad told her not to come home for Christmas if she wasn’t married, if she wouldn’t be bringing her husband with her. She didn’t just weep when the phone call ended, she howled. If Heard’s mother had taken Depp’s side, it would prove nothing at all – just that society protects abusers, and punishes victims who speak out, male and female alike.
I often wonder if the people who so vitriolically claim that writing an op-ed where you refer to that well-established, well-known fact that you got a restraining order is defamation would like to see me bankrupted for ever mentioning I stayed in a women’s refuge. I think if I suggested it to them, they would be surprised, maybe even shocked, maybe even horrified.
But what has happened to Heard is not so dissimilar to being silenced just for mentioning you stayed in a refuge for a while. Women have a right to leave relationships. And they have the right to talk about their experiences. I think this is what breaks my heart most of all. The op-ed wasn’t even about Depp. It wasn’t about his abuse. It was about Amber Heard, her experiences, and our future, as women, as victims, as survivors. That she has been silenced is truly, truly demoralising.
Every fourth woman in Germany will be the victim of domestic violence or intimate partner violence, perpetuated by her partner. In 2020, 139 women in Germany were killed by their partner or ex-partner. That’s one woman every three days. We do need to raise daughters who think they are capable of becoming presidents or chancellors, and we do need to raise sons who know how to use the vacuum cleaner. But we also need to normalize speaking out against male violence. Amber Heard spoke up against sexual violence – and domestic violence too. For that, she faced our culture’s wrath.
This needs to change.
Victims need to talk more, not less. And we – you – we – need to listen.
Love Amok Mama? Check out her take on Germany’s resistance to free tap water in restaurants. Or this one about WTF even is love anyway?