For horror fans February is far less about sickly sweet Valentine’s Day and more about Women in Horror Month, a time for a celebration of women involved in both the creative and business elements of horror. Like any movement it has passionate supporters and detractors, but for me, I’ve always fallen into apathy. I’ve never hated the movement, nor particularly loved it and while there have been certain elements that have annoyed me (like the seemingly indiscriminate handing out of the title Scream Queen) I’ve retained a mostly neutral stance on the matter. Despite considering myself a feminist I’ve never incorporated my horror experiences into this, often pretty much considering myself genderless while watching, only really making the connection when presented with outwardly misogynistic texts or behaviour. It wasn’t until Nia’s fantastic article for Brutal as Hell (link here) about the month and a tweet I read afterwards that it really ‘clicked’ for me what the movement was all about.
For whatever reason, while growing up, I tended to be the only girl or one of few involved in the things I was interested in. As a result, it was always really cool for me to see another girl come along that I could talk to, not have the awkwardness of being the only girl around and have someone to talk to that maybe had the same experiences as I did. There’s always one event I think about when I consider being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated area – when I fractured my wrist during professional wrestling training (I don’t do it anymore as I’m too scared haha). It felt like an event horizon for me. Someone had fallen on my wrist from a height and I heard it crack in my ear. I’d never broken anything before but I was pretty sure I had then. I got up, was asked if I was OK, said yes and then went pale.
Thanks to my face betraying me I felt like somehow I’d failed. I was pretty sure anyone else who’d just fractured their wrist would have been quite open about how much it hurts, yet there I was running it under a cold tap then going back to try more stuff. Only when I couldn’t actually put any pressure on it anymore did I sit out. I watched one bloke in particular watch and wait for me to cry. I managed to get out of there and all the way to the diagnosis at the hospital before crying, now finally with nothing to lose. It was my status as a woman in that class that made me feel I had to be tougher and prove myself. I think this is much the case in horror (or film at large, in fact), where women are in a minority and have to work harder for opportunities and have rather more limited lengths of careers than their male counterparts.
It was the connection of this experience with Nia’s article that finally made Women in Horror Month ‘click’ for me. Women are still forced (or feel they have) to try harder and subject to far more criticism than their male counterparts, as evidenced in the article using the example of the similarity between Adam Green and the Soskas, that somehow only saw one side criticised. It soon occurred to me that WiHM wasn’t about overestimating the contribution of women in horror, but rather bringing it in line with the regular celebrations of male contribution. It was also about women engaging with how they are represented on-screen and offering a safe space in which this could be discussed without some of the more spiteful commentary that can come with female representation. It is exceptionally sad to me that women still need a safe space to express their fandom, but having read the vitriol levelled at female cosplayers and gamers by some men it is definitely necessary. In addition to this, after reading the article I went to Twitter, where BJ Colangelo had posted this tweet:
<blockquote lang=”en”><p>Just found out a "friend" has only been supportive of my writing because he hoped I'd fuck him. This isn't a humble brag, this is insulting.</p>— BJ Colangelo (@bjcolangelo) <a href=”https://twitter.com/bjcolangelo/statuses/429266808290287616″>January 31, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Now, this really brought it home to me that women need to work together and support one another in their genre ventures, as there are some male reviewers and writers that assume female writers are only worth supporting in the event that sex is on offer, despite the thoughtful and powerful writing that BJ consistently produces. Do male writers and reviewers experience this? Women in fandom are still being treated as outsiders or that they’re involved for ‘the wrong reasons’ (whatever they are). Male cosplayers as far as I’ve seen (and happy to be proven wrong) aren’t criticised for their costumes being inappropriate and male gamers aren’t told that they are only playing because they are looking to be worshipped. While slightly outside of the horror sphere, it just goes to show that there is inequality in fandom and if WiHM can even address a little of that, then I’m all for it.
In addition to this, I’ve also learned that WiHM is about education – particularly in terms of considering not only the representation of white women, but also exploring the representation of different ethnicities and LGBT issues. At first, I did consider WiHM to be a little white-centric, but thanks to a few tips directly as a result of talking about the month I’ve found that there are women involved in the movement dedicated to raising awareness of all kinds of representations – far more inclusive than I originally thought. So, with all this said, I’m more than happy to join the celebrations and be quietly ashamed of my previous apathy and might even put together a post about my favourite female influences in horror at some point.