Women in Horror Month…I gotta tell you, this is the first time I heard about this. I love that it exists, and I wish I knew about it sometime in the past 11 years. But alas, even the best movements take time to grow and gain exposure. There’s more and more recognition for women in all of their fields, which is as it should be (finally, in how many years of recorded history but who’s counting?).
Now before you go thinking, Oh here she goes, she’s another one of those feminists, let me get this out of the way. Yes, I’m a feminist. And despite what certain questionable radical groups would have you believe, real feminists are champions of equality. We are not irrational bashers of everything male or priestesses in some sort of estrogen-drenched cult of female supremacy. I believe in equality and promoting diversity, but I also believe in earning praise legitimately. I don’t want special recognition because of my gender or any sort of participation trophy as a balm for my oh-so-sensitive feelings. But I damn sure refuse to be ignored, condescended to, or pushed to the back of the line because I only write “women’s stories”.
It’s fair that quality and effort should correlate with success, but that doesn’t always happen no matter who you are. For women and all diverse artists, we need an even playing field before we can even address the notion of quality. That means gate-keepers must keep an open mind and at least give diverse options a chance, assuming all reasonable prerequisites are met. Female artists have just as much to say as male artists. And if our art is different than something from a male perspective…sorry, not sorry. We can only write what inspires us, and no work of art is meant to appeal to all of humanity—and that’s ok. All any artist can say when sharing their creation is this represents me, take it or leave it.
That’s why diversity is cool. We gain an opportunity to learn by viewing the same shared world through a different lens to discover something new about ourselves and each other. In art, there’s plenty of room for every perspective; the spotlight can be infinitely widened to showcase a wealth of amazing works. This is why I love the idea of #WIHM because it’s an interactive opportunity to talk about female horror writers, share your favorites, and maybe turn horror fans on to a new or little-known artist who may offer a unique twist on something familiar. All any artist needs is a chance to reach others—let the audience decide if our message resonates and offers value to anyone but ourselves.
Hopping off my soap box—for now, can’t promise it’ll be forever.
But back to women in horror. Why a whole month for this? Has the horror genre shut out female writers, is this an issue?
As a lifelong fan, I wouldn’t say horror has been worse than any genre in focusing more on male writers. Most of our celebrated classics are by male authors; at least, that’s what we all learned in school when I was growing up. In fact, many classic women authors published their masterpieces under male pen names or abbreviated first names, otherwise no one would take a chance on them. I like to think the world has improved since then, but I would bet there’s still work to be done. In all fairness, high school literature was getting more diverse when I was a teen in the ‘90s, and hopefully it became even better for the kids that followed.
Horror itself is a difficult genre to succeed in because some readers still don’t believe it’s “real literature”. I’ve discussed this in previous blogs, the bias against horror in media. No, it’s not all big-breasted sorority girls running from a masked maniac as blood and guts spray out like party streamers. Stephen King achieved a level of crossover fame with horror, although there are other names close behind in commercial viability. But, in my opinion, it’s the names in horror you don’t hear much about in the mainstream who take the most exciting chances and pump lifeblood into the genre.
Independent horror is where it’s at when it comes to innovative content and literary merit. I would also argue independent horror is where you’ll find the bulk of those fabulous female writers. Sure, they might not all have stayed there—some found success and entered the hallowed realm of the Big Five, moving beyond their self-pub/small press origins. And good for them! But, in my opinion, their overall quality is still not being recognized enough.
Again, I am not a fan of false praise just to check boxes in a pretense of accommodation. Quality does matter, that’s a given. But, as an avid reader, I can assure you the dark fiction genre is loaded with brilliant women writing about diverse subjects—and it’s awesome! This is not “check box” material, a pat on the head for having the guts to put our little stories out there with the big boys. Hell, the entire horror genre probably wouldn’t exist today without certain pioneering female authors—thank you Mary Shelley, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Shirley Jackson, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, and many others. Did they write “women’s stories”? Something so esoteric that men couldn’t possibly understand or find something of interest? Hell no—men have been inspired for generations because of the stories these women wrote! Which is cool, because it proves that a diverse author can inspire anyone no matter their background. Their tales have a universal appeal, radiate talent, and—for all the horror haters and book snobs—these stories are also models of literary fiction writing.
So in honor of Women in Horror Month, I’m only going to read and review female dark fiction (horror & dark fantasy) authors. And for any who know me, this certainly isn’t a new thing. I think my Goodreads and personal bookshelf speaks for me! I’ll also be working on getting my own work of dark fiction, Demon in Me, ready for publishing—quite motivated to wrap everything up in this special month. I won’t call this a challenge because honestly, it’s an honor and a pleasure to promote my fellow ladies.
To all of my Sisters in Horror, this is our month. Let’s make it count and have some fun!
Cued for WIHM
The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Experimental Film by Gemma Files
The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste
…and more (time permitting)
*Do you have any suggestions? Let me know your favorites in the comment section. Maybe I’ve already read and reviewed it, but maybe it’s something I need in my life.