“Romantic relationships are a lifestyle choice”

Feminist authors Jacinta Nandi and Nadia Shehadeh discuss relationships, girlboss feminism and #metoo2.0


Jacinta: When I decided I wanted to write this book, I had a totally different book in mind, than the book I ended up writing. A more positive book, easier to read, wth a really simple message: Just doit: leave your husband, like a girl-boss. Total dump him feminism.

Nadia: And then…

Jacinta: Well, there are parts of the book that are still clearly Dump Him feminism. Because I think women should just leave their husbands! If they’re violent, but also if they’re lazy. Or even just because they’ve fallen out of love. They should leave. But what I found out writing this book is that there’s no “just” about it. It’s hard. Society – institutions like the tax office, the job center – society makes it hard to leave.

Nadia: Yep. I think the most important message Dump Him feminism gives us is that you should, or can, go at any time. For any reason. You know, realized at an embarrassingly late point in my life – that I don’t need a reason to leave a man. I can just go. That was an epiphany.

Jacinta: Life IS easier without men. Sometimes I think instead of 50 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR EHEMANN I should’ve written 50 REASONS TO NEVER GET INVOLVED WITH A HETEROSEXUAL MAN IN THE FIRST PLACE!

Nadia: I’ve been saying for years: life without a partner is the easiest life you can have. At least if you’re single.

Jacinta: Once kids are involved, it’s hard. Life as a single mother isn’t easy

Nadia: Yep. I don`t understand how mothers, parents in general, are able to raise kids. Do you guys have superpowers? It’s a mystery to me.

Jacinta: Nadia, we’re both over forty now. And I remember, when I was 33, my ex left me. I have a friend, Nellie, about seven years older than me. And Nellie told me she’d given up on romance. “Friendship is more important to me than romantic love now. I actually live for you guys, and your children now!” My boyfriend had just left me, I was really broken. And I remember thinking, God, that’s tragic. But I don’t anymore

Nadia: I think what Nellie said is so important. Romantic relationships don’t contribute much to life. They’re a lifestyle choice. And hard work. You have to put a lot of effort in. You know I married super young? My ex-husband, he was a nice guy, all my girlfriends used to ask if he had a brother they could date But, even with this nice guy, the amount of effort I had to put in to keep our everyday heterosexual life going – it was such hard work, at a certain point I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Jacinta: Well, men never put any effort in!

Nadia: You know, every day I’d be thinking: life could be so easy if I was on my own. I was so young and I’d ask myself: Do people enjoy living like this? The whole time, I was thinking: Even if this love is beautiful… I want more from life than this. It was as if there was a ghost living in me, whispering: You’d have a much easier life if you were alone. And I was ashamed of these thoughts.

Jacinta: I feel like none of my exes actually wanted to make a home with me. They didn’t want to hang nice curtains up. You know I never had a workroom? My first boyfriend was a student, he got the workroom, the next ex was a writer, got the workroom. I never got a workroom. And I wonder. Why didn’t I ever ask if I could have a workroom? It was a bit fucked-up. But I also think it’s unfair, how we talk about this stuff. Always asking the women why they didn’t do things differently. Oh, you wanted a partner so much, so you had low standards, it’s your fault these men were shit, because you wanted a partner. Why didn’t you leave sooner, why didn’t you communicate your needs? I don’t think anyone ever says to my exes why didn’t you put nice curtains up and be more supportive!

Nadia: You know what? I open TikTok, and these clips from young straight women flood my timeline, always complaining about the same things. Guys not doing the bare minimum. Guys leaving you on read. Ghosting. Cheating. The full repertoire! I watch the clips and I think: “Wow”. They know how it’s going to be. But they’ll never stop trying.

Jacinta: There’s a chapter on the Heard/Depp case at the end of my book. In their relationship, their short marriage, Depp was a human being. She was meant to be there to support him. And he was meant to be fully human. And that’s why people are angry at her, right? Because she thought she was his partner, thought they were a team. How dare she?

Nadia: Oh, absolutely. He’s this dreamy gifted artist-type. She’s this annoying bitch who thought she was human, had autonomy, dared to think she didn’t deserve to be abused?

Jacinta: You know recently on Twitter they were talking about what a shit sugar daddy he was? You know, Heard’s a gold-digger because apparently if you marry someone for their money – like he didn’t marry her for her looks – they’re legally allowed to beat and rape you? Right? You’ll have to show me that paragraph in the Gesetzbuch! But even in this fantasy world where she’s this calculating bitch who married him for his money – he’s stingy! He’s worth 650 million, but her engagement ring was only 100k. That isn’t three months wages. You know if he’d spent three months wages on her ring, she could sell that and pay the ten million!

Nadia: The thing I can’t get over is the fact that when women ask for the bare minimum – I don’t want to be humiliated, I don`t want to do all the work alone, it would be great if we could be real partners actually – the world turns on them. The absolute BARE MINIMUM is still too much. I mean, when even Taylor Swift has to write lyrics like “A never-needy, ever-lovely jewel, whose shine reflects on you” – you know what’s going on.

Jacinta: It makes me angry that girlboss feminists who are all like, why are your standards so low, that’s why men treat you badly…turned around and said it was funny that Depp wanted to rape Heard’s corpse. So, we should have higher standards but if your husband is a famous pirate, you should have no standards at all?

Nadia: Look at what happened with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. On that flight. We’ve known all along that Pitt did something bad on that plane.. Let’s be honest. Everyone knows that Johnny Depp was an asshole to Amber Heard. We know this.

Jacinta: Yeah.

Nadia: The rule is: as a female ex-partner, you mustn’t share any details. You’re not allowed to ruin a man’s honour by telling everyone what your guy was like.

Jacinta: Amber Heard broke a taboo?

Nadia: Yes. And the joke: for years, it was kind of okay, for the public, that Amber Heard existed. She’d been in a shitty marriage with Depp. That marriage ended. She’d made a few films. Okay. Nobody cared.

Jacinta: And then he sued her, and the world turned on her.

Nadia: I’ve thought about it a lot. I think our culture is shifting right now – we’ve come to a new point. Where women talk about their lives. Where famous women reveal how shitty their famous partners were. Amber Heard became a symbol of this. I think this Amber Heard-moment is somehow a #metoo2.0. A taboo is being broken right now, in front of our eyes. People don’t understand what’s really going on, but actually the Amber Heard story is a new #metoo.

Jacinta: I can’t understand what’s happening. Feminists, mothers, mothers who are raising their girls to be feminists, they write to me telling me to stop talking about this? It’s not enough that they’re silent, they want everyone to be silent?

Nadia: I don’t understand why the resistance to Amber’s story is so strong. In May, I thought, why are people being like this? Why do they care so much about Depp, as if he’s a close relative? Why don’t they read the facts?

Jacinta: You can read the UK trial statements online. It’s really clear. She didn’t defame him.

Nadia: But it’s an attractive story, right? Crazy Ex Girlfriend aka wife comes out, with all this dirty laundry years later. OMG. Doesn’t she know she should keep her mouth shut? And that was the worst. That it was really entertainment for people. And some pro-Depp-feminists, instead of shutting up, gave their shitty comments in this whole misogynistic circus.

Jacinta: Well, it’s more interesting that the depressing boring reality: rich guy with a history of violent behaviour beat and raped his wife.

Nadia: Right.

Jacinta: I get so confused because I tell myself all these feminists who supported Depp are just dumb, and not evil. Right? They just fell for propaganda?

Nadia: The thing is, men have always been able to rely upon heterosexual women’s discretion. Women have learnt to keep their mouths shut. They have to be loyal, in the relationship, and once the relationship is over. And it’s embarrassing for women to admit they were involved with an asshole. They don’t want to seem being stupid or desperate. So you might tell your friends about the horrors of the relationship. But if you go public – even if, like Heard, you’re forced to go public – people can’t take it. They lose their fucking minds!

Jacinta: So women remain silent?

Nadia: Well, it works, doesn’t it? You might complain to your friends, but that’s it.

Jacinta: I can’t bear it, that even feminists pretended these three sentences were malicious.

Nadia: Amber Heard expected the bare minimum. For her safety, her dignity. She got a restraining order and then she wrote an op-ed.

Jacinta: You know fake feminists who ask did you even watch the trial? I wonder if they read the op-ed. It’s so innocuous: I read it half-way through the trial, I couldn’t believe it. You’d have to be misogynist to be offended by that?

Nadia: And Depp was never cancelled! Never! I saw him in 2018. Accidentally at a big festival in Belgium. An old loser playing with Hollywood Vampires. Someone who is cancelled doesn’t play at festivals.

Nadia: Let´s face it: there was never a famous guy who got cancelled because of his problematic behaviour towards his partner. William S. Burroughs killed his wife. J. D Salinger started a very disturbing “relationship” with the 18-year-old Joyce Maynard when he was in his 50s. There’s a video of Charles Bukowski kicking his partner off the sofa. It’s on YouTube, it’s super disturbing. Was he cancelled? Nope. People don’t care about it. A legend will always be a legend.

Jacinta: Johnny Depp, legend. Johnny Depp keeps winning. Johnny Depp will win again. Like yeah, he will. Abusers win. That’s what the op-ed was about.

Nadia: I keep on asking myself why was it so attractive, back in May and June, for people to show solidarity with Depp? I mean, they could’ve kept silent? But no. They really wanted to show they were on his side? And now we see the first English-speaking feminists trying to back-pedal somewhat. They say, oh we fell for disinformation. For a disinformation campaign.

Jacinta: Yeah, I don’t know. There were a lot of clickbait YouTube videos – there still are. But it was easy enough to do your research and realize there’s no way she defamed him.

Nadia: Well, I can’t help thinking: being a feminist in the public sphere, it’s your duty to get informed. Don’t get all your information from TikTok. And I say that as someone who watches TikTok all day long.

Jacinta: People WANTED to fall for it. sued her for getting a restraining order and writing an article saying we should protect victims more. And all the “did you watch the trial” people, knew these basic facts, knew she was being sued for stating publicly that she was a feminist and thought victims should be protected more. If Depp truly were a victim – which I don’t think anyone really believes? Johnny Depp will win again – memes of her crying, him laughing – the way people supported him was always the way you support a winner, support an abuser – but okay, let’s pretend for a moment we think Depp was a victim, he was scared of Heard, he was living his life in fear of her beating him up. How, exactly, does him suing her for defamation bring him any closure? If he really was a victim, this court case would have retraumatized him. Wouldn’t have made him any safer.

Nadia: It’s fascinating. People ignored the basic legal facts of the case! Acted like this trial proved he was the victim of domestic violence. This is what has made the case such a fucking disaster in terms of media and public reception.

Jacinta: People say they think he’s a victim, then next second they mention Heard’s mental health diagnosis. This rent-a-diagnosis from Shannon Curry. If you think Depp’s a victim, why does it matter if Heard has borderline personality disorder? If anything, if she’s mentally ill and Depp’s her victim, that could mean she DIDN’T defame him maliciously? But what they really mean is it’s okay if he beat her and raped her if she’s borderline, because then she’s unworthy. She’s less human than a mentally stable woman.

Nadia: All he wanted was to destroy Heard’s integrity, publicly humiliate her. He announced his intentions clearly. And then he did it.

Jacinta: And feminists say things like you know, in German, Schlammschlacht or Rosenkrieg or Promiklatsch or Promiehe. As if it was a fair fight. Two rich people, suing each other. Both as bad as each other. He was worth 650 million, he stopped her working while they were together, she’s now not just bankrupted but owes him millions.

Nadia: 650 million!

Jacinta: Well, I reckon 645 million now because he must have spent 5 million on bots! And feminists tell you to stop caring. Amber Heard’s rich, so it’s fine he raped her. Or it’s fine he sued her, bankrupted her for being feminist because she’s white and famous. You know, I think it’s important because so many non-famous women are being sued for defamation now? Depp’s an MRA and everything he did is an abusive man’s text book. There’s this fucked-up stuff happening. Women losing custody because the dad was abusive and if they talk about it, they lose their kid. The Heard/Depp is important because Depp will inspire abusers and Heard will make victims scared to get to safety. All the copy-cat rapes there’ll be. Because of all the nurses who say she must be a liar because she didn’t go to the doctor straight away, all the teenage girls’ mums who encourage their daughters to laugh at Amber. But also, it’s important because Amber Heard’s a human being who dared to leave a rich, famous guy and whose life has been destroyed. How can people say it’s unimportant?

Nadia: She DARED to stick to her version of the story.

Jacinta: Yeah. I’ll never get over the fact that he was the one who broke their agreement in the first place!

Nadia: You know the worst part?

Jacinta: What?

Nadia: Amber could have just been living her life. And Johnny too. The story was over.

Jacinta: Yeah, he wasn’t cancelled and the story was over. But he was searching for reasons to sue her. And you know, he fucked his own career up in the process. But I think he hates her so much that it was worth it for him.

Nadia: Instead of just letting her go, he drags her to court, years after the relationship’s over. Because it isn’t over for him. Says it all, really.

Jacinta: I’ll never forget that Lidl joined in! With the bullying. Like I dunno, Lidl, cheapo veggies but I reckon the people who work there are intelligent people`? They know full well that he probably raped her with a bottle. Did a cavity check. Even the biggest Deppheads believe the cavity search story! And Lidl, a German supermarket chain, who knew full well Depp had probably raped her, they were so certain that it was morally okay to bully a rape victim if the whole world is, that they brought that ad out? What’s wrong with them?

Nadia: I think the reason so many white women defend Depp is they felt triggered. This case means that reality and romance don’t mix. We pretend: If you do the work, have all the privileges, if you’re beautiful, and you behave good, you, as a white woman, you’ll get a good guy. Because you deserve it. But the truth is, you can meet someone who seems to have it all. Like a talented, famous actor like Depp, who was able to maintain the illusion of being sensitive and soft for many years. But you’ll get the same old crap, because these fancy little love stories are taking place in the patriarchy. And they couldn’t take it.

Jacinta: See, my theory was that because of her queerness and mental health issues, they saw her as flawed and unworthy, almost not white. But I think your theory’s true, too. Because it’s always white women writing she could have been so happy, she threw it all away.

Nadia: It’s a relationship myth.

Jacinta: They hate her because they know it’s not true?

Nadia: Depp versus Heard and Jolie versus Pitt: these stories prove that instead of romance people taste the terror of heteronormativity. And in a heavy dosage.

Jacinta: It’s so weird isn’t it. People accuse her of marrying him for his money, but deep down they think because of his money she should have kept her mouth shut about the rape.

Nadia: It hurts women to see that hetero romances are a scam that in many cases just don`t work. I mean, it’s in the statistics. There’s literally data.

Jacinta: It’s interesting that Jolie and Heard, both bisexual, are considered homewreckers. Paradis and Aniston, the nice girls. I always imagine Paradis barefoot in some country house in France. And then the men left these perfect women for these dangerous-looking, cold-looking, exotic-looking beauties? Intelligent, bisexual women? Maybe romance was dead already when they left.

Nadia: The thing is with Jolie/Pitt is there’s also a racist side. We all know he attacked Maddox. And nobody cared. Like: he’s the Cambodian adoptee. And Pitt lost his temper a bit – come on. Who cares?

Jacinta: Oh God, yeah, the way people talk about it, they sound like Agatha Christie.

Nadia: We always think we’ve come so far. But we haven’t made much progress at all.

Jacinta: We haven’t made any progress at all. Camille can put on a nice suit and earn money asking Amber why she didn’t take photos of her bleeding vagina. That’s all feminism has really achieved? Women aren’t human. Everything that has been done to Amber would be done to Camille tomorrow, if she said she’d been raped. Women aren’t seen as human.

Nadia: You know 15 years ago, I thought we were living in a freer, more modern world. But then I watched series like Girls of the Playboy Mansion on MTV. And I watched the way the tabloids destroyed Amy Winehouse and Britney.

Jacinta: I have a fan in India, and what I am about to say is provocative. She wrote me the other night. She said Western feminism is over. Because feminists in the West want to appease incels. So, they sacrifice Heard, make Heard a scapegoat. They think they can appease incels. Isn’t that what’s happening? We call Vasquez a girlboss feminist, in fact she’s a girlrapist? And my fan said Iran is the future. If they manage it. They’re gonna lead the way.

Nadia: Oh, that’s interesting. I was talking to an Iranian friend yesterday and I said, being controversial, that we’d never have the kind of feminist uprising they have in Iran over here.

Jacinta: No, how can we? It’s feminist to fight for Depp’s right to rape and beat Amber Heard.

Nadia: The thing is, feminism over here, in the West, is so easy to consume. Especially if you’re white, straight and privileged.

Jacinta: “I am sooooooo feminist, I know loads of women are abusers! Men and women are equal now, and women are the real abusers! Stop boring me with statistics about dead women and women’s refuges, I looked into Amber Heard’s eyes, I know she’s lying.” Heard’s our scapegoat, but also a warning.

Nadia: Because women who speak out about men’s bad behaviour have to be punished. And this is what makes it hard to leave men. Back to the topic of your book! If you’re a good woman, a good wife, you won’t leave your husband. Not for any reason. You stay, because of your love for him. And if you do leave, be loyal, loving – the well-behaved ex.

Jacinta: OH MY GOD! I just realized! That’s why Moss and Paradis are praised so much for their loyalty, right? If people thought he hadn’t abused them, there’d be nothing to praise? They’re being praised for keeping his secrets?

Nadia: Well, people want to think that when male violence exists, it’s in a serial killer kind of way. People still think that some women deserve the bad treatment. Like, sexworkers. Trans women. Poor women. Black and brown women. But when a white privileged cis man is violent, when the victim’s a privileged woman, or famous, or beautiful: that’s when they think something is going on. Something’s up.

Jacinta: Not as if it’s just normal.

Nadia: You know, the first time I wanted to leave a man. It was exhausting. We were living together. And there is so much mental load, mental exhaustion when you separate from someone. The comforting conversations. Dividing up the stuff. It was emotionally exhausting, although we were on very good terms during that process. And I often wonder: how do women with kids manage it at all? Or women who experienced bad things from their partner? Or women who are poor?

Jacinta: Yeah, the mental load after an abusive relationship is even worse, I think. This is why Heard should have taken every penny she could off that abusive prick! You know what her only mistake was in all of this? She always underestimated how much he hated her. Even in court. She underestimated his hate.

Nadia: She should’ve taken every penny. She took less than she was entitled to. Much less than the bare minimum. When people call her a gold-digger, they’re just trying to show contempt.

Jacinta: I genuinely don’t understand the gold-digger stuff. Like okay, she married him for his money, because she loves money. Then she tried to confuse us all by pledging the money to charity, changed her mind because she’s greedy and selfish. Only donated 1.3 million, kept the rest for herself. Okay, then what? Like what? Then he’s allowed to rape her, retroactively allowed to rape her, because he paid 6 million for the privilege. It’s so fucked up. If I was pretending I thought he hadn’t raped her, if I officially thought she was lying about the rape, I’d never bring up the pledge/donate stuff?

Nadia: I hope she will win the appeal. Just the fact that she stands up for herself after all those horrible experiences she had to go through – it shows how strong she is. And I hope when people look back at this tiktok trial and the ramifications it has – I really hope they will be ashamed that they participated in a mess like that.

Jacinta: God, yeah. I hope so, too.

Jacinta’s new book 50 ways to leave your Ehemann is now available and can be ordered from Nautilus press. Nadias Ost gut jetzt can be ordered from edition assemblageNOTE: the books are in German, Jacinta’s recent English-language book WTF Berlin. Expatsplaining the German Capital has just gone into its second edition