Every year in February we celebrate “Women in Horror” and the question comes up about whether there is sexism in the horror genre. In interviews, I get asked if I feel it is harder for women in horror than it is for men. Today, I’d like to discuss this and give my thoughts, and I’d like to hear from you guys.
In order to understand the gravity of this topic, we have to do some digging. I wanted to research “Female Best Selling Horror Writers” so I might have some back pocket information on which to speak.
On Ranker’s list of “The All Time Greatest Horror Writers” (it wasn’t even all female because the search engine couldn’t pull up such a specific request), there were 100 authors. Of these 100 authors, a quick count were approximately 10 female authors. Something struck me while I stared at the list, though. It wasn’t the small number of female authors. It was the fact that in the top ranks, the female authors who were named were authors who had lived – and died – a long time ago.
Our beloved Mary Shelley, for example, who paved the way for women to not only write horror but to write intelligent, well-thought out, science fiction. Which, I might add, wasn’t too far off from real science (organ transplants save lives every day).
Of course Anne Rice is on the list, and is still writing to this day, but to this list I say … “Really? Is there no other female author who is deserving of the Best Seller title?”
There are a few other things which need addressing as well. Horror isn’t for everyone. Let’s face it. Someone women don’t want to write horror. (Gasp! I know, right? It’s crazy!) This genre is hard. Not harder than other genres in complexity, but harder because the world is already hard, and there are enough scary things going on. Why would anyone want to write about these horrible atrocities on a daily basis?
To them, I would say this …
Love is hard, too. Romance isn’t always about googly eyes, saving a silly girl from her stupid mistakes, and making her feel all warm and fuzzy. It isn’t always about lost loves finding one another again. Sometimes it’s about growing apart and learning to hold on while the winds of chaos try to pull you apart. Sometimes it’s about letting go because you’re in an unhealthy relationship. It’s not always a rush of butterflies, but years of friendship and respect. It’s not full of sex, fluffed up into rapturous orgasms wrapped up in pretty lace lingerie. Love is difficult, quiet, stormy, steadfast, fleeting, stupid, and painful. And you never read that in a romance novel.
And don’t get me started on any 50 Shade of whatever because I’m sure there were plenty of 911 calls, ER visits, Walgreen’s late night runs for salves, and bandages and rise in divorce for women (and men) who thought, “Oh this sounds so hot!”
Life is hard. Life is scary. It’s real and it sucks sometimes. Horror is psychological, and it exorcises demons living in the scars of reality for a lot of us. Some can face it, some can’t. There is no right or wrong genre to write in. Do it because you want to, and you’re doing it for the right reason. When you can’t do it anymore, stop.
With all that said, many women don’t have the stomach for horror and that’s OK. The concerning fact, as I mentioned, is the number of women who make the Best Seller List. Being an Indie Author, I don’t have grandiose expectations of turning into a Best Seller without hard work and years of putting my nose to the grind. Looking at the odds, though, I can’t help but feel a sense of doom-and-gloom when it feels I have better chances of winning the lottery than seeing the fruits of my labor paying off.
I put a lot of time and effort into helping other authors, both male and female, and it would seem unjust to watch these efforts fade into the background. Many women end up settling for the role of “editor” or “agent” because getting recognition for their written works is next to impossible.
I’m sorry but I can’t go down like that. I may be a starving artist until the day I die, but I refuse to give up because I know this is something I love to do. Who knows? Maybe after I’m long gone, my works will finally get the recognition I feel it deserves.
The truth is, there is sexism everywhere. It’s just another fact of life. I don’t feel it is holding female authors down. It’s a simple matter of statistics. There are so many male authors who write horror and of those authors, a fraction of them will make it. Of the females who write horror, only a fraction of those will make it. Take into consideration the natural order of networking, cliques, friendships, etc. Guys will bond, they will chat, go have beers, and maybe collaborate. John Doe will introduce Bob Doe to his friend Jack Doe, and so on. When you start introducing females it can be a little intimidating, especially if there are wives involved! (Note: Sorry, but it’s true. Wives are very territorial, as are men. Especially when their significant other is always on a computer, taking time away from family to pursue a dream.)
I know this article is getting long-winded but if you’re still with me, you understand this isn’t an easy answer. There is a solution, though. If you have read a book by a female author, whether it is an Indie Author or not, spread the word. Lend the book, Tweet about it, give them a shout, and most importantly … leave a review. Reviews are the reader’s way of telling the people who publish authors what you, the reader, want to read. Otherwise, it will be decided for you (and believe me it has been, years in advance).
Let me know what you think about this subject in the comments below!