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!