Obsolete Gender Roles

Jessica Wu
8 min readJul 5, 2021

In the past, women were often considered “weak,” “vulnerable,” “sentimental,” and these stereotypes confined women in different realms. For example, it was thought that women should be graceful, considerate. The expectation coming from the traditional society was actually an invisible chain to women, making them hard to breathe.

In many aspects, women have long been oppressed by this society. In politics, women weren’t allowed to vote until the 20th century. What’s more, as the Chinese saying goes, “Innocence is a virtue for women.” (女子無才便是德。)That’s why in the past, many Chinese believed that women should stay home and be in charge of house chores and taking care of children. The above-mentioned examples show that women have long been in a weak position, so in recent years, people have been prone to put women in the position of victims. Many feminists think that modern society is built on a patriarchal basis; however, I think gender roles make people pity women, making women somewhat get the upper hand in some aspects.

So many excellent predecessors have worked hard to eliminate inequality and gender roles in so many areas; what’s more, their hard work has made a huge progression. However, there are voices that gender roles are being abused nowadays, serving as the weapon which some women use to expand their unreasonable behavior. The people who argue this think that some women take advantage of their weak position to express what they want and reach their goals. Because women have traditionally been in the weaker status, most people don’t fight back on account of the trend of feminism, for no one wants to be tagged as an “anti-feminist”. Therefore, some women are cleverly utilizing traditional gender roles as their shield against unfavorable conditions.

There are two realms that people project stereotypes on gender roles. The two examples that I would like to talk about in this article are domestic violence and sexual harassment. Physically, women are weaker than men; therefore, they are more easily to fall victim in the above-mentioned two realms. In other words, when the truth is not clear, most people tend to perceive women as victims. There are two striking news stories representing the two realms I mentioned above, and they both also incurred plenty of criticism. Although these two incidents still remain controversial as to whether they are the embodiment of the abuse of gender roles, I think they can serve as great material when talking about this notion.

In May 2016, Amber Heard, who is a 35-year-old actress, officially filed for divorce with Johnny Depp and accused him of physical and verbal violence under the influence of drugs and alcohol. That struck the career and reputation of Depp undoubtedly, forcing him to declare that the accusation was false. Depp and Heard both issued a statement in 2017, saying that their love was “intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” and declaring their divorce was finalized. In 2018, Depp pressed charges against the Sun, a British newspaper published by the News Group Newspaper, for the Sun called Depp a “wife-beater,” but later the court declared that the Sun was not guilty since “that 12 of the 14 incidents of violence claimed by Heard were substantially true,” and Depp had to pay £630,000 to the Sun.

In December 2018, Heard wrote an op-ed “I Spoke Up against Sexual Violence- and Faced Our Culture’s Wrath. That Has to Change,” and claimed that she was the one being abused; however, Depp fought back by claiming Heard was actually the one who did the physical abuse. Later, Depp presented a recording as evidence, in which Heard admitted that “I did start a physical fight.” After the reveal of the recording, the spin control led by Depp turned the result upside down; moreover, more evidence popping up showed that the time and the place didn’t match what Heard claimed, which made her more untrustworthy. The hashtag #justiceforjohnnydepp went viral rapidly, and millions of people asked that Heard quit starring in “Aquaman 2”.

Johnny Depp (right) and Amber Heard at the 27th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala in Palm Springs, California, on 2 Jan 2016. (Source)

To this today, the lawsuit between Depp and Heard still isn’t finished. While they’re arguing, some people think that Heard cleverly took advantage of the “Me too” trend, making herself a victim of domestic violence. At the same time, Johnny Depp is being sacrificed under the abuse of not only gender roles but also feminism.

The other case that interests me involves Chia-Chun Cheng (鄭家純), who claimed in her Facebook post on 30 January 2021 that she was sexually harassed by another entertainer during a corporate year-end party. Due to her fame, the post immediately led to a huge discussion on social media and news outlets. Later, it was disclosed that the one who allegedly harassed Ms. Cheng was a well-known singer, Li-Yu Weng. As soon as the news broke out, it ignited a heated debate rapidly, forcing Weng to declare that the harassment didn’t happen and also that there was no improper physical contact. The event soon became a he said, she said story, and the spin control was turned upside down over and over.

Chia-Chun Cheng (left) accusess Li-Yu Weng (right) of sexual harassment, while Weng denies having done anything inappropriate. (Source: Liberty Times)

On 4 February 2021, Cheng disclosed years ago she had once been harassed by another famous host, Kuo-Cheng Tseng. Tseng claimed that the event might be just a mistake, and if there was anything that made her unpleasant, he was sorry for that. On 5 February 2021, Cheng said on Clubhouse that being harassed by Weng was her first time encountering sexual harassment. The thing Cheng said immediately raised discussion since what she said on Clubhouse didn’t correspond with what she had previously declared.

The reason why this event caught wide public attention is that neither Cheng and Weng sued each other. Cheng kept saying Weng was a sexual offender; however, she couldn’t present any evidence. On the other hand, Weng hosted a press conference, claiming that he didn’t do anything inappropriate, but he didn’t hold any proof to fight back, either. Some people think that it’s hard to obtain evidence of sexual harassment, and we shouldn’t blame the victim; while others think that we shouldn’t accuse others of any crime without proof, and the principle of presumption of innocence should be applied to this case.

When asked what his opinion is towards the news of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, Mr. H, who’s 20 years old and from DFLL in NTU, who often reads the news, said “It’s all about the influence of social media and the press, since so many people nowadays only read the title and then jump to the conclusion.” H thinks that in this case, whoever utilizes spin control well wins the war, and Amber Heard cleverly takes advantage of the “Me too” trend and gender roles and feminism, making herself a victim. H added, “Under the circumstance that you are one of the jury, if you can’t decide which one of them is innocent, would you find Heard guilty? I think no, because I don’t want to be criticized as an anti-feminist. ”

Mr. H’s words did enlighten me, for I ignored the importance of social media and the press. I thought that “Me too,” traditional expectation and feminism could serve as someone’s weapon; however, due to the advancement of modern technology and mass communication, it’s easier for the audience to receive different news from various sources. Therefore, for someone who manipulates the spin control, the “truth” is often guided to what s/he wants.

As for the cases of Chia-Chun Cheng, I interviewed Ms. E, who’s 20 years old. Ms. E is an undergraduate, and she loves to read entertainment news, so she clearly knows the entanglements between Cheng and Weng. E expressed uncertainty. “The definition of sexual harassment is very vague, and it’s hard to offer evidence.” During the interview, she didn’t explicitly tell me which one she supported, but she offered me a new perspective.” How should someone collect evidence when s/he’s being harassed? I think this question is pretty hard to answer.” Moreover, she said, “Maybe Cheng was desperate, but could she accuse Weng without any proof?”

Before interviewing Ms. E, I never thought of the importance of offering evidence. In my opinion, evidence is the crucial thing in a crime. Without it, there would be no case at all. Others may ask me, “what if Weng did harass Cheng?” There’s no right answer, but I still believe in the principle of presumption of innocence. If we don’t have to abide by the law, we can accuse anyone, and there would be no order in society. I think what Ms. Cheng did went too far, for sexual harassment is a sensitive subject in the entertainment industry, and she shouldn’t malign Weng without presenting any strong proof.

Traditionally, women are more likely to fall victim to domestic violence and sexual harassment; therefore, along with the trend of feminism, people are prone to empathize with them. The two above-mentioned incidents went viral because some people thought that Heard and Cheng drew on feminism and gender roles to attain their goal, in other words, making themselves victims.

In my own view, both of them did take advantage of gender roles. I’m not saying that they didn’t encounter those things they claim, but I think they both did the same thing, that is to vilify their assaulter before the truth came out. It’s so sad that this case hasn’t been solved, and we still can’t know the truth behind it.

Traditional gender roles, which imply the expectation that the society holds towards all genders, seem to be out of date nowadays. Also, the existence of feminism was initially meant for eliminating the unfairness that women encountered. Seeing someone twist the two notions and take advantage of them shock me, but the two events above do serve as materials that guide us to the right path.

Works Cited

“A Complete Timeline of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s tumultuous relationship.” Insider, 2021,

www.insider.com/johnny-depp-amber-heard-relationship-timeline-2020-7 Accessed 21 June. 2021.

“Amber Heard.” Wikipedia, 2021,

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber_Heard Accessed 21 June. 2021.

“Johnny Depp.” Wikipedia, 2021,

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Depp Accessed 21 June. 2021.

“鄭家純.” Facebook,

www.facebook.com/ili.cheng Accessed 22 June. 2021.

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