Woman

4 Feb

I thought of like five hundred ways to introduce my plan to read a bunch of stuff by women in horror this month. The truth is that I’m having kind of a shitty night, so I probably shouldn’t do it right now. (ETA: I saved it as a draft and came back to it this afternoon. It’s not as dismal as the first four-hundred-and-ninety-nine versions were, as it turns out.)

So basically, my feelings on things like — well, take this month being Black History Month in the US, in the UK LGBTQ History Month — are all the same. I’ve said it loads of times, but for the record: this is good and necessary. But I’m going to go with a tiny little niche month, which for the record was created and centered around film, and is the subject of much vitriol just now, Women in Horror Month. This is how I come to “good and necessary”:

1. Yes, it would be super awesome if all viewpoints were equally represented/easy to find, and every month was “_insert underrepresented viewpoint month here_ month”. But that ain’t the way it’s working just now, so highlighting a given underrepresented one is fun times. It does not make it other, it makes it featured. Which is what you do with things that aren’t getting the attention they deserve. It is also not to the exclusion of all other viewpoints. Addition, not subtraction.

2. No, the relative dearth of women who write horror is not the fault of men who write horror. It has been my personal experience that men who write horror love women who write horror, and their company, both in a table of contents and at an actual table.

3. Yes, this is the fault of it being a genre that tends toward violence of one kind or another,  because our society (I should say “my society” since I can only speak to that one) tends to condone and even fetishize, either tacitly or outright, violence against women.

4. Yes, this does mean that historically, women in horror — as characters — very often exist only to highlight or be victims of violence and/or the saviorhood of men in horror — as characters*. Which, even in this age where any woman can as easily live by her pen as any man, likely turns a lot of women creators off the genre as early as childhood.

5. Yes, some people who like horror today still like that aspect of it, but I think more simply don’t notice it because it’s just always been there. Having it pointed out as such is oftentimes embarrassing, which can cause kneejerk denials, but these things are never called up for the sake of a guilt trip, but for the sake of progress. (“It’s not about you. Stop making it about you. Really.”)

6. No, none of these trends apply across the board by any stretch of the imagination. But these are easily provable, often proved trends that did and do exist.

7. Yes, I do believe the situation is getting better thanks to the awareness and efforts of creators of all gender identities. Anyone can write a woman with agency, and they do it all the time, beautifully refusing to slip back into outdated genre tropes. (Any human being can write any human being, one likes to hope.) This is a problem we, as in people working right now, inherited, not one we created, and there’s hope in that.

8. But yes, I do think this is helped along by the visibility and activity of women in the creator position. As this becomes more common, so too will the negative stereotypes naturally become less prevalent — and more obviously ridiculous to all.

9. And no, I do not think thinking and talking about it critically is giving it undue attention/making it worse/whatever people say when they want a “problem” to shut up and politely go away and leave them in their comfy chair. Examining assumptions, stereotypes, and alternate viewpoints is a writer’s profession.

I really don’t care who writes a book so long as it’s good**, and I don’t think most readers would. But I think every life experience has something to bring to the table, so fuck it, I’m taking the opportunity to enjoy some women authors and explore and the darkness they bring to their fiction this month.

Short Story and Poetry Collection: Linda Addison‘s How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend
Novel for Week 1: Gina Ranalli‘s House of Fallen Trees
Novel for Week 2: Zoe E. Whitten‘s Peter the Wolf
Novel for Week 3: Cate Gardner‘s Theatre of Curious Acts
Novel for Week 4: Gemma Files‘s A Rope of Thorns

Hoping I can stretch that first one out over the course of the novels… but we’ll see, right?

*Random note of interest — this was why I didn’t love The Light at the End. Which I really, really wanted to love because that vampire was awesome. But yeah. No.

**Okay, not entirely true. I don’t buy books by authors I know are straight assholes. (I’m lookin’ at you, OSC.) They don’t get my money. Screw ‘em.

7 Responses to “Woman”

  1. Bob Keenan February 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Indeed! And the more the merrier, no matter the gender of the horror story writer. That said, what exactly is a horror story?

    To be called horror must the story have specific tropes: Vampires, lycanthropes in London Town, misused supernatural abilities, unnatural things that slither in the subterranean caverns or under one’s bed, or perhaps madmen or women who prefer long-pig in their meat pies?

    The other tropes of blood and gore and torture, mistaken in the popular culture as the epitome of horror, aren’t so much “horror” stories as horrid stories. I certainly understand why most persons of the female persuasion and many if not most of their male writing colleagues would prefer to opt out of such a sub-genre.

    Perhaps, if the definition of a horror story is broadened a bit then many more women writers may be included in the ranks of published horror authors. Just for starters, Mary Shelley with her Frankenstein novel.

    If a horror story is defined as evoking a sense of foreboding and dread entwined with the wondrous – whether supernatural or otherwise – and not weighed down with tropes, then horror can cross all sorts of hard-and-fast genres, dare I say it, even Literary. These other genres include many women authors who may not be thought of as so-called horror writers.

    See what you did, Katey? You got my brain cells percolating and bubbling out my ears. Just ignore me. What do I know, having but one so-called horror story (a light-hearted one at that) under my writer’s belt.

    True, I have read about a kazillion SpecFic stories and novels over six+ decades. Often the SciFi or mystery, etc., was also horror and vice versa.

    Hell, what could be more of a horror than deciding which of your children is to die in the surreal, unbelievable environment of a Nazi death camp, a la Sophie’s Choice? Yes, I know a male author but my point is that horror permeates all genres.

    Later, alligator.

    • Katey February 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

      I think Mary Shelley is definitely horror. Frankenstein is a total horror classic!

      If a horror story is defined as evoking a sense of foreboding and dread entwined with the wondrous
      I think that’s really close to what I think of, yeah. I don’t think the wondrous element is absolutely necessary, though I do think that makes it more fun. I think it’s a story about facing/dealing with/not dealing with feelings of fear, terror, etc. I mean, technically loads of people would call the majority of my stuff “dark fantasy”. But the dark part is important to me.

      Yes, I know a male author but my point is that horror permeates all genres.
      On that second point, I totally agree — it’s more about focus, for me.
      and
      Dudes are as important in the mix, and everyone’s opinion is interesting. This doesn’t happen without everyone!

      Thanks for dropping in, Bob!

  2. Cate Gardner February 5, 2012 at 4:15 am #

    Comment number 2 – yes, yes, yes. That’s been my experience. I’ve never felt excluded from the horror world because I’m a woman.

    Thank you so much for including Theatre.

    • Katey February 5, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      That’s exactly what I mean, yeah, and indicative that this is an inherited thing. There ARE less of us. But women are NOT less likely to like the dark. That’s not a thing.

      Horror dudes are THE BEST dudes.

  3. Mercedes February 8, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    Wonderfully put.

    • Katey February 9, 2012 at 1:06 am #

      Thanks, Mercedes! You’re one of my favorite horror women <3

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  1. Bloody Bookish Bits | KV Taylor - February 23, 2012

    […] planned Women in Horror Month reading is going very well. I’ve been stretching out the Linda Addison stories and poems over the […]

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