SFX forgets women in horror

It’s ironic that during Women in Horror Recognition Month I have to draw attention yet again to another major publication that has a blind spot when it comes to women in horror.

Five months ago I was irked when the British Fantasy Society published a collection of interviews of horror writers that omitted women. A minor Internet outrage ensued, which died down with the society’s quick and honest apology. Naïvely, I thought maybe a lesson had been learned.

This month the British magazine SFX published a special edition devoted to Horror that overlooks women almost entirely.

In his opening words editor Ian Berriman says:

“You see, some people think horror is a limited one-dimensional genre, but I don’t see it that way. Horror is a broad church. It encompasses everything from the classy chillers produced by Val Lewton through to the likes of Saw and Hostel. It comes in an almost infinite variety of forms, and I love nearly every single one of them.”

Except those created by women, it seems.

There are 132 pages in the Horror edition, and a chunk of that consists of advertisements. There are a variety of features, from the usual “Top 20 Villains” (the only female is Sadako from The Ring), items about new movies, and specials like a piece on Spanish horror cinema, and an overview of the British horror anthologies: the Pan Book of Horror Stories series (at least in that article Fay Woolf’s story “Slowly” gets a nod). Belgian filmmaker Hélène Cattet gets a deserved tip of the hat in the “Amer Time!” article about Amer, the film she co-directed with Bruno Forzani.

Actress Ingrid Pitt is the only woman in the magazine with any alone-time in the spotlight: half a page in the “My Life in Horror” section.

I doubt I would have noticed a bias in the SFX horror edition if it wasn’t for the seven-page article “Horror’s Hidden Treasures” smack in the centre of the magazine. That was when I realised women did not register on SFX‘s horror criteria.

In the article the magazine asked 34 directors, screenwriters and authors to name an obscure or under-rated cult horror that deserved better recognition.

Yup, you guessed it, not a single woman was asked for her opinion.

Of the 34 men interviewed, only one of them, Toby Whithouse, suggested a woman’s work (Kit Whitfield‘s Bareback) as deserving attention.

I’m sure each of those individual men responded with his favourite, under-rated horror gem, and none of them were attempting to exclude women.

However, the overall picture presented to the reader is that women’s work in horror does not rate with men, if they are aware of it at all.

What’s embarrassing, unprofessional and shameful is that SFX – by simple oversight or thoughtlessness – did not seek women’s opinion for the article.

This does matter. SFX purports to be “The leading science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine”, and this omission is indicative of a pervasive indifference toward women in the genre.