Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Get that Vagina-Shaped Chip Off Your Shoulder, Or Why I Dislike Women in Horror Month

In the last few years, February has come to be known as Women in Horror Month to a relatively small group of horror fans and cinephiles. For this, I blame the internet. The internet is a great and wonderful place where I can find out of print or unavailable films with just a brief search and a few simple clicks. It is also a place where whiners can come together and encourage each other to believe that their lives are  difficult. 

To clarify, I am a woman. I am also a horror fan. These two things are neither related nor unrelated, they’re just parts of who I am. The world is full of lots of great female horror fans, filmmakers, magazine editors, writers, festival organizers, film programmers, etc. I think all of these women deserve attention, NOT because they are women, but because they are talented, smart, interesting, inspirational (I think anyone who makes a decision to do/celebrate what they love is inspiring) and good at what they do. I could make a list of some of these women, but that will be all over the internet this month. And as I said, they deserve the recognition and the celebration. 

But not specifically because they are women.

Do you know why Black History Month and Women’s History Month exist? To celebrate and recognize people who have been historically abused, forced into slavery, denied basic human rights, ignored, silenced, murdered, raped, etc. Anyone who has suffered this way deserves far more than just a month of recognition and respect, but female horror fans have not suffered any of these things simply because they are female horror fans. 

Maybe there are women out there who have been bullied, ignored, and prevented from celebrating their love of horror or desire to, say, make a horror film. If this has happened to you, I’m sorry. Email me and I will gladly tear whomever has been doing this to you a new one. I will also give you some empowering advice and help you celebrate your love of horror in any way I can. But this has not been my experience. I will go so far as to say that I have never had a truly bad experience with a male horror fan. My dad and uncles fostered an early love of sci-fi, horror, action films, and Westerns in me. I have been a horror fan as long as I can remember and it is simply part of my identity. And the many male horror fans I have encountered over the years - as family members, friends, romantic partners, actors/directors/authors at conventions or film screenings - have done nothing but enforce the love I have for the horror genre and the loose scene that surrounds it.

As someone of average attractiveness, sometimes I get hit on. There is a very small female to male ratio within the scene. It happens. To me it has usually happened in a respectful, flattering way. Assholes are assholes and they are out there, but at some point every woman has to learn how to deal with this. Which is terrible -- hello, Women’s History Month -- but this has nothing to do with the horror genre specifically. 

To be honest, the only repeat difficulty I have had within the horror scene is from other women. I have a number of amazing female friends who like horror films (and a few non-horror fan friends who will bravely attempt to sit through things on my account), so I’m not trying to suggest that awful women in horror is the norm. I am simply not interested in jealousy, professional, sexual or otherwise. 

A few examples of the negative behavior I've witnessed:
  1. I am not trying to have sex with your boyfriend. Just because I am involved in a healthy, if somewhat boisterous debate with him about how much I hate a certain movie that he loves, there is no sexual element. We are two adult, educated film fans engaging in debate because it’s fun.
  2. Stop trying to one up me. I love horror movies, you love horror movies. This is not a competition that anyone can win, it is something that should bring us together and make us friends. 
  3. If you want people to take you seriously when writing about or debating horror films, novels, and so on, educate yourself. With the existence of Netflix and the internet, it is incredibly easy. If someone brings up something you have never heard of, don’t get angry and assume they are trying to out do you or shut you out, simply go out and educate yourself. You will probably discover lots of new things you love. 
The examples could go on. What I am trying to say is that I disagree with the fundamental concepts that:
Women in horror need recognition because they are being actively shut out of the community. This is simply not true. Regardless of your gender, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become a successful blogger, writer, filmmaker, etc. There is no way around this. Being a fan, on the other hand, is incredibly easy. Just enjoy what you love.
“I’m female therefore you should pay special attention to my work.” If your work is bad, I want nothing to do with it regardless of your gender. I am especially skeptical of advertising -- whether it is for a film or a blog -- where half the advertising is centered on your gender and/or appearance. I just want the work to be interesting, inspired, and intelligent. If your work is bad, your opinions are uneducated, or you act like an asshole, I can assure you that 95% of the time, people ignoring you or trash-talking you has nothing to do with you being female. 

Women in Horror Month is fundamentally oxymoronic. It says, “we should be treated equally as horror fans/artists, but for this month we should also be special and more important just because we have vaginas.” What?

I am not alone in my frustrations with Women in Horror month. Read what these very intelligent ladies over at Brutal as Hell have to say about it. 

And if you have really had bad experiences being a female horror fan, please share them. 


  1. You do! I can't wait to read the second part of your article!

  2. You are absolutely not alone, great article! If you ever wanna check out my similar thoughts of the month:


  3. Thanks to both of you! I just read your article, Heather. Glad to see this is an ongoing discussion.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Absolutely brilliant! And so, so true!!!! I am guilty of celebrating Women in Horror on my site for one reason, I did two posts, one on Lina Romay the other on Daria Nicolodi; mainly out of protest because I was sick of the same old, same old rubbish being flaunted by almost every other horror site out there. But thank-you, this needed to be said.

  6. Thanks so much! There's nothing wrong with celebrating actual women in horror (like Nicolodi or Romay), I just think it should be done all year round and avoid the trappings of the Women In Horror month group.