Domestic Abuse Is Not Your Halloween Punchline

Schitt’s Creek star 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. You may recall when Heard broke down talking about the alleged sexual assault she endured at the hands of Depp using a wine bottle.

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. Why do the Bill Cosbys and Chris Browns of the world get away with it, while the victims get pelted with sticks and stones?

Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation: Women-Majority City Councils Make a Difference; Remembering ‘Frankenstein’ Author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Weekend Reading for Women’s Representation is a compilation of stories about women’s representation. In this week’s Weekend Reading, we’ll expose the “tricks” that have haunted our democracy and celebrate the “treats” that can remove these obstacles once and for all.

Here’s a preview: Women-majority city councils (like New York City’s!) make a difference; Missouri’s supreme court is one of just 11 in the country to have a female majority; will Texas’ 12th District will elect another woman to office?; and more.

The Last Salem Witch Has Been Exonerated

More than 300 years after the Salem witch trials, a class of middle schoolers helped exonerate the sole remaining woman legally classified as a witch.

Originally expected to be a simple class project, the path to clearing Elizabeth Johnson Jr.’s name took three years and the help of a Massachusetts state senator, Diana DiZoglio (D). Unwed women were viewed with suspicion at the time of the trials, and many individuals convicted were later exonerated by their own descendants. With no descendants to clear her name, Johnson’s wrongful conviction remained in place—making her the last remaining witch in Salem history—until Carrie LaPierre’s class came to her aid. 

Filmmakers Annika Hylmö and Dawn Green tell this story in their upcoming documentary, The Last Witch.

From Black Death to COVID-19, Pandemics Push People to Honor Death and Celebrate Life

Even though death is symbolically very much present in Halloween, it’s also a time to celebrate life. The holiday draws from mixed emotions that resonate even more than usual during the COVID-19 era.

Looking at the ways survivors of past pandemics tried to celebrate the triumph of life amid widespread death can add context to the present-day experience. Consider the Black Death—the mother of all pandemics.

October 2022 Reads for the Rest of Us

Each month, I provide Ms. readers with a list of new books being published by writers from historically excluded groups—to do my part in the disruption of what has been the acceptable “norm” in the book world for far too long (white, cis, heterosexual, male); and to amplify indie publishers and amazing works by writers who are women, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, APIA/AAPI, international, queer, trans, nonbinary, disabled, fat, immigrant, Muslim, neurodivergent, sex-positive or of other historically marginalized identities—you know, the rest of us.

Make some time to read one or two of these 30 new books, or whatever goes well with your pumpkin spice latte or hot apple cider.

How Whitewashing Villainized Black Women’s Magic in Louisiana

As Halloween draws near, “voodoo” costumes will undoubtedly be on the main menu. But the most popular versions of these costumes meant to scare and entertain the masses are racist depictions of a religion that encompasses African traditions and honors the innate wisdom of Black female practitioners in Louisiana. Few are aware of these issues because either they’ve never lived in Louisiana or have never met a Black woman from Louisiana who practices vodou. But I have the honor of both distinguishing factors.

Waking the Witch: The Feminist History of Spiritualism

In 1848, the adolescent sisters Kate and Margaret Fox of Hydesville, New York, made quite a commotion when they told people of the strange rapping sounds they heard throughout their house. In the ensuing months, they began to communicate with “Mr. Splitfoot,” the devilish name they gave to the spirit that they said was the source of the knocking.