And maybe I am sensitive to it because I just want everyone to read my stuff! I don’t want my gender to automatically signal to someone I’m incapable of reaching them as a reader. I thought for a while I would just publish under an ambiguous first initial and last name. I don’t believe it’s any secret that horror is a male dominated industry and sometimes feels exclusionary to women. Here is a mild example: I have never been to one horror convention where I did not experience some weird male gate-keeping bullshit. I’m in line waiting to meet Sid Haig, stuck next to some guy who sees me in a Re-Animator t-shirt and absolutely cannot live with himself unless he asks me some non-starter, trivia question about Re-Animator instead of, maybe drumming up a conversation about what we both like about the movie itself. And if I don’t know the answer or the one after that, it must mean I don’t belong there at all. I’m not a real fan. OR even if I answer correctly, there will be an unrelated follow-up question and then another one after that. Waiting for me to be wrong. Like I’m on a fucking game show. Like I need to prove I know things. Why? After six or seven questions, I lightheartedly asked him if he would be distributing this test to everyone else in line and he chilled out and maybe didn’t even realize he was grilling me at all. It’s probably harmless the first few times and then it just feels like a strange, intrusive pattern that I continued to see each time at a different con with a different dude I had never even met before. Do I think he’s a bad guy because of it? No. I don’t know what his intention was. I can just tell you how irritating it comes off and how common that type of exchange is. I don’t keep track anymore. I’ve also had completely respectful and fun interactions with men I met for the first time at conventions too, but women can be horror fans regardless if they know a set of handpicked questions.
These types of experiences, whether they be annoying interactions like I mentioned above or instances of harassment (which I am choosing not share), help to bring about my larger point when people ask me what is the point of Women in Horror Month or why isn’t there a Men in Horror Month? It’s simple, really. This month highlights female representation within a male dominated industry, in an arguably “male space” of which women have always been part of yet must always keep proving they belong. And for successful women in horror, they don’t have to as much anymore so thank god for that. But every month of the year, men will be honored in horror spaces, will not be questioned if they are true fans, they will get jobs in the industry and be taken seriously for those jobs and be unapologetically successful. I’m glad for them! I’m also glad there is a month dedicated to women who want the same thing for themselves. It takes nothing away from men in the horror industry at all. And I do think it’s slowly starting to get much better.
Now as a writer, I don’t prefer writing female characters over male. I write both and love to read all types of stories. I do remember growing up reading comics, watching cartoons and movies, playing video games, I was more interested in the male characters. They had agency and purpose and always some enviable quest to go on. You got to know them because their characters were developed. It’s gotten a hell of a lot better today, but I couldn’t or maybe refused to relate to many of the female characters of my youth. Usually there was only one female character to pick from, if there were any at all. Otherwise, female characters did a lot of following around and getting captured/rescued. There were exceptions, of course, but the exceptions shouldn’t be the only examples among the swath of male stories that flooded my childhood. So, when I started out writing as a kid, I just assumed female stories weren’t exciting or even worth telling. I wanted to write horror, but I certainly wasn’t encouraged to do so. I remember being told girls shouldn’t write about blood and monsters. And honestly, that’s fine! I got older, made my own choices and do whatever I want now. But telling some of my experiences helps to explain why something like Women in Horror Month is important and encouraging to me and why I hope one day soon we won’t need a designated month for this at all. The opportunities will just be open to both talented men and women who love horror and want to see more of it get made :)
On a somewhat related noted, I just wanted to end this post to say if you want to celebrate Women in Horror Month by sitting and staring at your TV, everyone should be watching the BBC thriller, Killing Eve. It’s about a spy who is tracking a psychopathic assassin and they are obsessed with each other to the detriment of everyone around them. The show is created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge who also writes much of the first season and both lead characters are female with a diverse supporting cast. There is only one season. 8 episodes. You can watch it in one day. Please go do that.