For a long time, I viewed Women in Horror Month as pointless. I mean, if we can’t have the same opportunities and exposure as men ALL the time, then what good was a fucking month, right? Insulting is what it is.
But then I bounced around the horror genre (and the industry in general) for a while, and I finally got it. Currently, I can say that women are embraced by the indie horror genre. I don’t often feel “left out” of anything, simply because I have a vagina, but there’s still… something. Now and then, I hear of someone (male or female) claiming they read a horror story written by a woman, didn’t enjoy it, so they no longer read female horror authors. Odd, eh? I don’t ever recall hearing about anyone who didn’t like horror written by a man and swearing off all male authors as a result.
Let’s me share a little story with you. A couple of years ago, I sold a horror story to a respected publisher. I was thrilled, of course, but then, over the course of a few email conversations, it was revealed that the publisher was looking for female writers specifically when he read my story, because their roster was seriously lacking in horror written by women.
But wait. This is what we want, right? Sure it is. We want to be taken seriously. We want readers and publishers to WANT to read stories by women. We want them to seek out female authors. To be aware of the possibility they may be sexist in their reading choices.
So, why did it deflate the little joy balloon I’d been carrying around? Why did it taint the pride I felt after working my ass off to write something good enough for a publisher to buy it? Why can’t I let go of that one sentence that I know wasn’t intended to belittle me or make me feel “less than” in any way?
A few reasons:
1. Why mention it at all? To pat himself on the back for doing a good thing? To let me know that I helped them meet a quota of some kind? It’s likely the mention was just a way of saying, “Hey, we support all writers, not just the ones with balls,” and it wasn’t meant to be patronizing or insulting. Why can’t we ladies just be happy and not pick shit like this apart? I was happy, and I am happy for the opportunities I’ve had in recent years as a result of selling that one story, but I don’t want to be told that the reason it sold may have been my gender and not the writing.
I mean, honestly, have any of you guys ever had a publisher tell you they were looking specifically for male authors when they read your work? That they realized they had almost no men in their roster?
I’m betting most (if not all of you) will say no.
2. Gender should not play a role in the slush pile. I love anonymous submissions, because not only does new talent get a fair shot, but women and men have an equal chance of selling their work. The selection is based on the story, as it should be.
That one conversation had me wondering how many submissions by male writers were ignored during that submission call? Maybe none. Maybe all. I don’t know. Problem is, it makes me angry that those men, who work just as hard as I do, were treated as women have been treated for years in many industries.
“Good,” you might say. “It’s about time.” Well, ladies, if we support that kind of behavior, even if it’s going the opposite direction, we’re hypocrites.
If there was a male author whose writing/story was better than mine, he should’ve been signed. I can’t help being bothered by the possibility that someone might have been overlooked because of their gender.
3. Women should NOT get special treatment. We should be treated equally. You shouldn’t have to seek out stories by women specifically to even out your roster. Stop looking at the gender, period, and worry about making sure your roster is full of the best authors you can find, balls or no balls.
The point of Women in Horror Month is to support and promote underrepresented work of women in the horror industries (both writing and films), in order to open up opportunities in the genre that might not be available otherwise.
I guess the story I sold because I had a vagina proves it’s working.
I get that this is sort of what happened. I was given an opportunity because the publisher was aware women were underrepresented. What bothers me is that he felt the need to tell me that.
A lot of women spend their whole lives being talked down to, patronized and belittled, simply because we’re women. We’re treated as though we’re stupid, weak, and emotional. So, when something like this occurs, even with the best intentions, it’s like we’re stepping backwards, and reliving all of those slights we worked so hard to overcome.
We need WIHM because we still have a long way to go, and we haven’t quite grasped the concept of “equality” in this genre, this industry, or this world. Women don’t want to be treated better than men. We don’t want to get something we haven’t earned. We want to be treated the same as men in our industry, which means we want to be given respect based on our work and our actions. We don’t want our successes to occur because someone had to fulfill some quota.
Does that sound like equality to you?