february is women in horror month

I’ve been terribly remiss. It’s Women in Horror month and I haven’t done a thing for it. Last year I wrote an appreciation of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s The Red Tree for Peter Tennant’s Case Notes blog over at TTA Press. The year before that, I wrote about attending a festival of shorts by women at Athens Cine. This year, for what remains of February, I’d like to try to complete a series of blog posts on women horror writers who have been especially important to me personally.

As I say every year at this time, I have mixed feelings about this month. I don’t particularly want to be known as a Woman in Horror. I want to be known as a horror writer, full stop. (Come to think of it, I’d like to just be a writer–I am not that crazy about hairsplitting genre labels and categories either, but that’s another post for another day.) And yet I’ve heard enough stories that I do see a need to raise awareness that there are a lot of women who work in the genre and a lot of women fans of the genre.

The fact is, my personal experience with male editors has been nothing but positive. My personal experience with fellow writers/aspiring horror writers and fans has been mostly positive, and aside from having to occasionally dissuade people of the assumption that I must write paranormal romance or urban fantasy because I am a woman (not that there’s anything wrong with that! it’s just not what I happen to do!), those not-so-positives were quite a long time ago.

But women do get overlooked. I recently saw a horror 10 best of the year list for 2011, for example, and not one book on it was by a woman*. Okay, so it’s entirely possible that the compiler’s ten favorite books were all by men. But I couldn’t help thinking: really? Not one? And I can’t help wondering how much effort the compiler of the list put in seeking out horror by women last year. I’ve known quite a few guys who freely admit they don’t read books by women and others who, when pressed, have allowed as how they don’t have any particular opposition to doing such a thing, they just . . . don’t read women.

Now maybe this particular writer reads widely and just happened to not include any women writers on the list because they didn’t write any of his favorite books, and that’s cool. However, at that point, I’d have looked at the list and gone “Willya look at that! It’s a boy’s own extravaganza!” And then I’d have acknowledged that yeah, there are no women on this list. (And then maybe asked myself: really? Not one?)

Anyway, I’m going to try to write about some of my favorite women writers in the genre here over the  next week. In the meantime–I was going to send you back to the piece I assembled on women writing horror at Sinescope, but the site is temporarily down. I’ll link when it’s back up.

*I’m not linking to the list itself because the individual list is not the point–it’s part of a larger pattern of women too often being overlooked, and also because I’ve made wild assumptions about its compiler on very little evidence. (Yeah, I know that last bit is par for the internet course.)
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3 thoughts on “february is women in horror month

  1. Michael Kelly

    I’ve no problem with Women in Horror Month, especially when I still see anthologies with all male contributors. I don’t think it’s as big a problem with the larger houses, but certain small presses are still very much, imo, a boys club.

    1. I most definitely support it, and the not-so-good experiences I alluded to up there have to do with the boys’ club mentality (which occasionally allows a token woman or two across the threshold, so long as she 1. can be “one of the guys” and 2. is also reasonably hot). I think I’m just caught in a bit of cognitive dissonance about it all, because I am not different or special on account of my sex (although I certainly have had different socialization experiences from the boys, which is obviously going to shape me in some way) and I really don’t like the term “woman” anything. And yet at the same time I see the need to reinforce its use and awareness in so many cases, this one included.

      It’s sort of an ongoing thing brewing in my head. Before Feb ends I want to try to get some blog posts up here about women horror writers who’ve influenced me but once this month is over I may write a bit more about this at greater length. There are so many factors, including the fact that women don’t put themselves out there enough (I found your submission statistics for S&TT very interesting, for example).

  2. Michael Kelly

    I saw someone complaining “Do we really need Women in Horror Month?” Really?” And someone else said “We won’t need it when we won’t need it.” Which echoes my sentiments.

    Oddly, I’ve since had a spate of submissions from women writers. Still, I think the final submissions stats will look more like a 70/30 male/female split.

    I look forward to your posts.

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