not a weekend for the ladies

Some of my regular readers might remember my tangle with SFX magazine last year over its one-off special horror edition, which barely mentioned the existence of women in its pages, and its poor response.

Things must have changed, eh?

One year on the magazine just ran its multi-media conference, the Weekender 2, an event promising to offer ‘the ultimate sci-fi experience, packed with activities for fans’.

I noticed a comment on Facebook today from one of the guests who wondered about the dearth of female guests. I looked at the list: 37 guests, only 4 of them are women.

However, I spotted something else. Two of the female guests are actresses (Sally Knyvette and Keeley Hawes) and two are authors (Sarah Pinborough and Kate Griffin). Scanning through the diverse list of male guests this 50/50 split is noticeable.

The reason I raise this issue is that multi-media events and magazines like SFX tend to favour actresses (this was the case in last year’s horror edition too). Journalist and editor-in-chief of FanGirlTastic, Heidi Martinuzzi commented on this preference in horror film circles last year:

You can attend any horror convention or read any horror magazine, and chances are you’ll hear about George Romero, Wes Craven, Sean Cunningham, John Carpenter, and dozens more. But when was the last time you saw a female horror director invited to a convention as an official guest? Chances are you haven’t. I’ve only seen one; Jennifer Lynch at the 2009 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in Los Angeles.

Needless to say, it is clearly an issue of women in front of the camera being made out to be more important than the women behind the camera; even though the women do the same jobs the men do as directors and writers.

This is not to knock actresses, who are an important part of the genre – they’re just not the only part.

In comparison, only 3 of the 33 male guests are actors. The male guest list includes actors, artists, comic book writers, screenwriters and authors.

I see no reason why SFX can’t have a 30-50% representation of women on its guest list.

The paucity of female guests at events like this perpetuates the utter myth that “there aren’t any women in horror/sf/fantasy” – which occurs because women are not being represented fairly.

I’ve said it before: visibility is very important. Women deserve the exact same publicity as their male colleagues.

The overall message that women get from being excluded from guest lists (or a few of us getting a shaky toehold) is that no one is interested in hearing what women have to say. What’s more outrageous is an attitude that there are no consequences if women are excluded or poorly represented.

There seems to be an expectation that we will continue to support events like this, even if they don’t bother to treat women in an equitable fashion.

Women fans and creators deserve better treatment than this, and we should insist on it.

Don’t support events that exhibit little or no interest in women’s contribution to the genre. Instead, lend your attention and publicity to those that do.