Women in Horror Month is upon us. I think it’s kind of cool that it’s my birthday month as well. It’s also the shortest month…
But wait. This month isn’t about setting aside twenty-eight (or twenty-nine) measly days to celebrate the accomplishments we’ve made in horror, because we can do that every day. We don’t need no stinking month to tell the world how fabulous we are.
For me, Women in Horror Month is a reminder of how lucky I am to be a part of this community and it’s a way to thank the ladies who painstakingly cleared the path for the rest of us, because the women who came before us started at the bottom, literally. It’s easy to lose sight of how far we’ve come, so this month, for me, has become an opportunity to reflect and take stock of everything I have achieved and everything I want to achieve.
But if we want to keep chugging along at our current speed, ladies, we need to take ownership of some of the problem that is gender inequality in this industry.
What?! We’re not the problem!
No, we didn’t create the problem, but we really are our own worst enemies sometimes, and I’ll explain. This isn’t a blaming thing. It’s not a “go easy on the guys thing” either. I just want to give anyone who needs it a little kick in the ass, so here goes.
Part of the reason we still have reluctant readers is because a lot of us still don’t believe our work is as valuable as the guys’. Whether it’s because of bad experiences or assholes we’ve encountered doesn’t matter. We doubt ourselves. We doubt our ability. Hell, we doubt the ability of other women. We seek validation to the point of driving ourselves crazy, when what we should be doing is writing the damn story.
We’re overthinking it. Who will buy our books and love them, despite the fact they’re written by a girl? We’re thinking about what other women will think. We’re thinking about what the guys will think. We’re thinking about what’s right and what’s appropriate for our gender and we’re making sure we don’t stereotype or betray our female colleagues, while still trying to appeal to the testosterone crowd. God, it’s so tedious. I don’t know about the rest of you, but while writing other genres, this destructive thinking never happened to me. Since I’ve embraced horror writing, though, it’s become a vicious cycle I can’t seem to stop repeating now and then. Being constantly reminded that I’m a so-called “underdog” hasn’t helped, of course, but my doubt is also thanks to a mindset I’ve taken on myself that is basically saying “I must show them all!”
It takes my focus away from the story. Part of me is all “I have to write what men will read to prove I’m just as good as they are.” Another part says if I can’t be a woman writing about things women care about, then I’m a traitor. What’s the point of it all if I betray my girls? I have to force myself to remember the story is the important thing here.
Let the story play out the way it needs to play out or you’ll just sabotage yourself. For example, I have held onto a manuscript for a really long time, mostly because I’m terrified of how readers of each gender will receive it. There. I’ve admitted it. After subbing it in the early days, the feedback was… well, not great. The writing was fantastic, I was told, the story a punch to the gut, but it was “too much” for mainstream, but it wasn’t enough to label it as literary. My translation of that feedback: it sucks. Get rid of it.
I’ve rewritten this thing a million times, taken out inflammatory bits, added a thing here and there to placate certain readers, but I keep going back to the original, because that is the story that needs to be told, not the one that softens edges in order to protect feelings. It could have been subbed again, possibly published, ages ago, but my self-destructive thinking has kept it on my hard drive for more than five years. I keep coming back to it, though. This year, I finally stopped being a wimp and it’s out on submission again. It may be rejected, which is fine. It’s a huge step for me to send it out again, as it is, sharp edges and all, and that’s enough.
Write the damn story.
We have nothing to prove except that we write well. Not that we write as well as a man. Not that we write well for a girl. We just write well, because we’ve worked hard to get where we are, and we deserve every opportunity we’re given.
Don’t let gender determine what you write and what you don’t write. Don’t let it determine what you read. Isn’t that what we’re working toward? Isn’t that the whole foundation of equality? We want to be viewed as people. As writers. We don’t want what’s in our pants to play a role in any of it.
So, here’s your kick in the ass:
Stop worrying over whether you’re being true to your gender.
Stop trying to please everyone.
Stop trying to prove something that doesn’t need proving.
Write for the genre.
Write for yourself.
Just. Fucking. Write.