Did you know that February is Women in Horror Month (WiHM)? Unless you’re in the industry, the answer to that is probably no, although awareness and participation is spreading every year. The reaction people have when they hear this is often one of confusion, amusement, or scorn.
How many female horror writers could there be? they ask. More than you think, although many of them don’t like to call themselves that. Who cares about horror? Well, I do, for one. As do thousands of other horror fans and creators — not to mention consumers who don’t even realize some of their favorite works are horror. And the one that really indicates the state of things: Why should women get special treatment? Well, they shouldn’t. They should get equal treatment, but that’s not happening yet. I look forward to the day when WiHM isn’t necessary, and instead when female horror artists are duly recognized year-round.
Of course, being a woman in the horror industry, I have opinions on these things. In this post, I use the word “feminism,” and I feel the need to clarify that feminism is not about favoring women or hating men, nor about being a certain “type” of woman. Those are unfortunate misconceptions and stereotypes. Feminists are people who support equality between the sexes. Men can be feminists too. So why is it called feminism instead of humanism? Because right now, women are the ones not being treated as equals. It really is that simple. Do I call myself a feminist? You bet your ass I do.
My Women in Horror Manifesto
We need horror in books because fear, as one of the two most primal emotions, is worthy of artistic exploration. Indeed, it is an inescapable factor of the human condition.
We need horror in books because the more we run from things we fear, the more they lay chase. We need horror in books to face our fears head-on and defeat them.
We need feminism in books because novels about boyhood are considered noble and nostalgic while novels about girlhood are considered frivolous and shallow.
We need feminism in books because teenage girls are the most scoffed at demographic of our society, and because this attitude of derision is tossed about like it’s actually acceptable.
We need feminism in books because so many people still think “strong female character” means “one of the guys,” “kicks a lot of ass,” or “has no faults.”
We need feminism in books because “strong female characters” are still a topic of discussion rather than an actual wide-spread practice of writing women and writing them well.
We need feminism in horror because women can and do triumph over evil, conquer our fears, and save those who need saving.
We need feminism in books because real issues that affect real women are relegated to the genre “women’s fiction” while issues that affect men are labeled by genre irrespective of their sex.
We need feminism in horror because the same book, written by a man is called “horror,” written by a woman is called “gothic.”
We need feminism in books because, unfortunately, we still need things like Women in Horror Month for equally talented authors to get the same recognition as their male counterparts.
We need feminism in books because people are still afraid to call themselves feminists in public – even women. Our misogyny is so widespread that it’s internalized.
We need feminism in horror because women can be the bad guys too.
We need feminism in horror because women have their own unique fears that add value to the genre, both artistically and for entertainment value.
We need feminism in books because women writers are choosing male or gender-neutral pen names to avoid discrimination.
We need feminism in books because women writers are still facing discrimination in large and small ways on a daily basis – from book covers to genres to who does their reviews and what those reviews choose to comment on.
We need feminism in horror because women are more than a goal, a victim, or a prize.
We need feminism because we need women, and women need equality.
We need books because art reflects life, but art also changes life.
And more than anything, we need change.
Convinced? You can read more about Women in Horror Month and how to get involved on the official webpage, follow the conversation on Twitter at the hashtag #WiHM, and read guest posts on the topic all month long at the Horror Writers Association blog.
I know you all have something to add! Why do you think we need feminism and/or horror in books?