Domestic Abuse Is Not Your Halloween Punchline

Amber Heard, right, and her sister Whitney Heard, second left, depart the Fairfax County Courthouse on June 1, 2022, in Fairfax, Va. (Rod Lamkey / Consolidated News Pictures / Getty Images)

A few months ago, while watching the Barbie movie, I heard the line: “Everyone hates women. Men hate women and women hate women. It’s the one thing we can agree on.” It felt like a straight punch to the gut. 

I relived that moment when I saw Emily Hampshire dressed up as Johnny Depp, holding with a wine bottle, while her friend impersonated a very distressed Amber Heard—a reference to the pair’s heavily sensationalized defamation trial. I remembered when Heard broke down talking about the alleged sexual assault she endured at the hands of Depp using a wine bottle.

Upon backlash, the Schitt’s Creek star posted an apology on Instagram for her “thoughtless, insensitive and ignorant actions.” She claimed it was meant to be a light-hearted joke. On social media, people defended Hampshire and condemned the “snowflake generation’s inability to take a joke.”   

“I am a domestic abuse victim, and although I didn’t see that post I probably would’ve thought it was funny,” wrote one Instagram user. “People need to lighten up.”  This made me think: What If Amber heard saw it? Would she find it funny?  

This is merely the most recent in a long tradition of people dressing up as famous women during their lowest moments. I’ve seen several people celebrating Halloween as a bald, disheveled Britney Spears; an inebriated Amy Winehouse; a dejected but alluring Marilyn Monroe; a bloodied Sharon Tate, paired up with her murderer Charles Manson. Last Halloween, Megan Fox shared an Instagram post in which she and fiancé Machine Gun Kelly dressed up as Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. One photo shows MGK with his hand around Fox’s neck, with the caption: “But are these even costumes?” Keep in mind: Lee was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading no contest to assaulting Anderson . 

By telling others to lighten up and take a joke, women with internalized misogyny add fuel to the fire. Incels have been using this tactic to get away with blatant sexism since the dawn of the Internet. Women cannot do their dirty work for them.

Why don’t we feel the same way about men found guilty of abuse and rape? Where are the smear campaigns tarnishing their reputation, dragging them through the mud while picking apart their body language? Why do the Bill Cosbys and Chris Browns of the world get away with it, while the victims get pelted with sticks and stones?

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Arya Nanda is a student at Leeds Beckett University currently pursuing her master's degree in journalism. She is a budding journalist who wants to write pieces that advance awareness of and support for women's rights. Follow her on X (Twitter): @Arya_nanda_.