Women in Horror Recognition Month 2011

women in horror recognition month 2011

February this year saw the inaugural Women in Horror Recognition Month, which was an initiative started by Hannah Nuerotica out of frustration because of a perceived lack of women working in the horror industry (literature, cinema, television, comics, etc.). Of course, there are a lot of women working in the industry, but there has been a historic visibility problem: women haven’t always enjoyed equal critical attention or promotion as their male colleagues.

Hannah started Women in Horror Recognition Month so that women writers, directors, actors, etc. would get a visibility boost at least for the month of February. It was an excellent idea and via the blog and Facebook page a community of women and men banded together to promote and celebrate creative women in the horror industry.

I think genre markets are becoming more aware of this issue since so many women and men have raised the subject, and I can see signs of change.

Still, we’re hardly at parity yet, especially since this is a wider cultural problem. Just consider the ‘Franzenfreude’ debacle that broke out in September (concisely summarised on ‘The Opinioness of the World‘), which lead to an examination of review practices of the New York Times by Slate.

Here were the results:

Of the 545 books reviewed between June 29, 2008 and Aug. 27, 2010:
—338 were written by men (62 percent of the total)
—207 were written by women (38 percent of the total)

Of the 101 books that received two reviews in that period:
—72 were written by men (71 percent)
—29 were written by women (29 percent)

The difficulty is comparing it to the percentage of all books published by men and women to see how far the bias goes, but men are getting over twice as much attention in relation to multiple reviews.

The Slate article poses a very interesting question which is pertinent to genre writing:

Is pop fiction written by men more likely to be lifted out of the “disposable” pile, becoming the kind of cultural objects august institutions like the New York Times feel compelled to pay attention to? And are the commercial genres most commonly associated with male writers and readers—science fiction, legal thriller—more likely to be taken seriously than their female equivalents (chick lit, romance novel)? Or as Weiner puts it, would certain male writers—Nick Hornby, Jonathan Tropper, Carl Hiaasen, or David Nicholls—”be considered chick lit writers if they were girls?”

At least social media allows women in the horror industry – and their female and male fans – to mobilise and ensure that talented women get the attention their work deserves.

Hannah is running Women in Horror Recognition Month in February 2011, and is using the battle cry ‘REVOLUTION HORROR GRRRL STYLE, NOW!’, which is a nod to the Riot Grrrl music scene in the 1990s.

Last year, when Hannah asked why WiH Month was necessary Canadian filmmaker Maude Michaud (Bloody Breasts: Women, Feminism, and Horror) replied with the following:

BECAUSE we (women) have a right to tell sick & twisted stories!

BECAUSE: I want girls to be able to be loud and proud about being a chick who enjoys horror.

BECAUSE: I think women who work hard to devote their body of work to the genre should be celebrated.

BECAUSE: without women, the horror genre would be severely weakened. Could you imagine a horror film without a strong final girl or a bad ass vixen?

BECAUSE: after the countless trends the genre went through trying to revamp itself, femme-made horror (or horror with feminist sensibilities) represents THE unexplored sub genre that may once and for all help horror by injecting fresh blood that will help rejuvenate a genre in need of actualization.

Signed a woman who likes her films dark, raw and bloody”- Maude

Well said Maude!


    • Maura

      It’s not really that far off at this point, and Hannah announced this year’s one around this time last year.

      It’s good to give the campaign bit of early promotion.

    • Hannah Neurotica

      Thanks for writing this!!!

      Sam- the reason we begin posting about it early is bc it takes a while to plan a festival or convention. people need to have time to review films that get submitted, secure a location, etc. in fact i should have began this in september ! =)

  • Opinioness of the World

    Maura, thank you SO much for the shout-out to my blog! I truly appreciate it. Also, one of my close friends is a huge horror film fan (she wrote her master’s thesis on George Romero) so she was delighted to hear about the “Women in Horror Recognition Month 2011.” Great post!

    • Maura

      No problem – you gave a concise summary of the Franzenfreude debate, and I enjoyed reading the back-and-forth about the issue in the comments. These discussions are really useful.

      The other thing that not a lot of people picked up on is that via social media Picoult and Weiner were able to highlight what they felt was a bias in the industry, and have their opinions picked up by larger media sources and investigated. It resulted in Slate doing a review that confirmed what Picoult and Weiner suspected.

      It highlights to me that women have a huge opportunity via social media to make their voices heard and to have an impact. I know that many of us know this already, but we should keep standing up and voicing our opinion, which is traditionally more difficult for women — doing this via text is easier for many.

      You might want to check out my entries in February during the first Women in Horror Recognition Month, in which I drew attention to the glaring lack of women in a special ‘horror edition’ of SFX magazine, and the response I received from the editor about the matter. It wasn’t the first time I’d pointed out a silencing of women via omission in the horror industry, alas (although there was a better response that time).

      That’s why I know Women in Horror Recognition Month is needed.

      I hope your friend gets involved in some fashion during WiH month. We need to stand up and be seen and heard.

      • Opinioness of the World

        Hi Maura, I apologize for my tardy reply to your thoughtful comments. I’m definitely going to check out your earlier blog posts…I often think and write about the importance of women’s voice, whether in film, books, media, society, etc. Too often, society tells us (implicitly and explicitly) that women should be silent, that our voices are not as important, authoritative as men’s. So I’m thrilled to see that you write about this as well. I agree with you that social media is a powerful tool for women to utilize in enacting social change.

        OH and my friend already signed up to participate in a Women in Horror Recognition Month event in our city of Boston!

      • Maura

        I think you’ll be annoyed by SFX‘s response, partly because it is quite typical in how some people react to being challenged by a lack of input by women (but they aren’t doing enough, they’re not what I’m looking for, I can’t find them, etc.). It’s almost funny how often you see this kind of reply.

        I’m delighted to hear your friend is getting involved. I’m already pondering what I’ll do.

  • Harmsden

    Just caught this one. I’m a library assistant for South Dublin Libraries. We’re pretty good at organizing talks and events for different festivals such as the Children’s Book Festival, etc. I’d love to organize some events for February around Women in Horror Month, either across all the branches (hard sell) or in my own branch (easier sell).

    Of a wish-list of events, I’d love to find someone willing to talk about people like Ann Radcliffe, a writer who did much for the popularity of the gothic novel. It also strikes me as a way of reminding people that horror has its roots in romance, that urban fantasy and paranormal writers are as deserving of respect as those who write the harder stuff.

    Anyway, I’d love to find people interested in giving reads/talks. I know there’s people in Dublin City Libraries who’d have an interest as well. Marino Library has a great Gothic collection, so they’d be worth talking to.


    • Maura

      Sorry for the delay, but your reply came in while I was away and it then slipped my mind.

      I’d suggest you get in touch with the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies in TCD, where there are many people studying in this area, including some delightful ladies.

      If you come up short there just drop me an email – you can use the contact form on this site – and I’ll get in touch with you.