I don’t know why I write these things. I’m sure it’s just an earnest need to scratch an itch and make an argument I think is being overlooked, but some part of me suspects that I might just have a fetish for being beaten up by women.
Either way, why don’t you womanfolk adjust your bras, take five minutes off from hitting punch bags while flicking your immaculate hair, and send your comically inept husband out of the room (did he walk into the door frame again? Ha! Idiot.)
It’s time for me to do what men do best, and explain things to you that you’re already fully aware of. So: Women in Horror Month, a time to focus on the great names in horror fiction who don’t have a dick.
I personally like the idea of Women in Horror Month. But many don’t. And no, not all those people are neck beard misogynists or women who have internalised the patriarchy, some of them are actual real people who have a justified opinion. Some might say; “Why do we need a special month? Shouldn’t we be supporting women writers all year round?” Other may say; “If women are the equal of men, and I believe they are, then why do they need special consideration?”
Fair questions both.
Here’s my take, just to clarify.
I’ve never looked at a movie poster and scanned the credits to see if the director is a woman. I don’t really care about the gender of the author of a book. I honestly think that most people don’t even consider it. Not consciously. But then… is it entirely coincidence that most of my favourite writers and directors are men?
There are proven gender conceptions in the genres. Is this because of the da man keeping the ladies down? It’s a little more complicated than that. For instance, a disproportionate amount of literary agents are women, yet women writers still find more acceptance when they use a male or gender anonymous name. Also, men find it easier to be accepted in romance and crime fiction when using a female pseudonym. The evidence is clear that, while no one is actively keeping women down in this instance, there are ingrained, perhaps audience driven, gender biases within the genres.
So why not have a Woman in Horror month? The status quo is a big, heavy, slow motherfucker and it needs a severe nudge now and then. If the evidence is there that the playing field isn’t level, then take some steps to level the playing field. That’s how you get quality of opportunity, which I don’t think any sane person is against.
It is, of course, not that simple. Nothing is. An acquaintance of mine who runs a much loved horror fan site in his spare time is not observing Woman in Horror month this year. The amount of abuse he got (from women) for observing it last year was too much for him. Predictably, he is already getting abuse for not observing it this year.
Deviant Dolls own Renee Miller recently blogged about her experiences of having a story accepted by a publisher, only to be told she was part of a conscious drive to recruit more women writers in the horror genre. Her response was predictably Renee, and I heard they never found the guy’s head. (I’m kidding of course. They found it eventually.)
It’s not simple and it doesn’t need to be. It’s an ongoing discussion and what is most important is that the discussion happens. I’ll put up with a lot of silliness in the name of equality of opportunity.
But what of equality of outcome? Here’s where things get a little fuzzy for me.
‘Thin-end-of-the-wedge’ is one of those conversational hand grenades, often used to take a hypothetical scenario to its most thrilling extreme. We say, “Sure we have Woman in Horror Month now, but what about when it becomes Woman in Horror DECADE? What if men aren’t giving a fair shake because publishers only want women? How is that fair?”
One might argue that there is room enough for all, and men will never be specifically overlooked in favour of women. I hope so, for my sake. One might also argue that straight white men have had it too good for too long, and taking opportunity from them is justified. Well, I believe in inherited advantages, but I also think that promoting punishment for original sin is darkly psychotic.
Maybe there is a thin-end-of-the-wedge. Maybe it compromises a lot of people’s ideals of fairness. Or maybe those people’s over reactions are holding back progress to a new and better kind of fairness.
I have to confess, I’m not entirely against thin-end-of-the-wedge arguers. I used to be, but then I saw what they did with Ghostbusters 2016. There is a real possibility that we’ll take any old shit just because it lives up to a political ideal, and when you start saying you have to like a soul-less, lazy, cynical piece of shit like Ghostbusters 2016 because it has women in it, you’ve stopped focusing on equality of opportunity and started focusing on equality of outcome- you’ve stopped believing that something should stand on its merits. I can’t go down that path with you, and I like to believe that most writers wouldn’t either, male or female.
But I get that there’s a struggle, I do. I’m a straight, white male, and probably Hitler, but if someone told me they’d only signed up my work because they needed a token fat guy I might just be outraged enough to spit out my flapjacks. I believe artists want to be judged on their quality, not their race, religion, gender or size.
However, I am of a certain generation, sandwiched between Xers and Millennials, and my beliefs may be old hat, deemed an unnecessary speed bump on the road to utopia. Maybe the youngers really do believe that artists should warrant special consideration purely for not being male or white.
Maybe it’s time for people like me to just back away and shut our mouths, while the old ideas of excellence are torn down and rebuilt into a colourful rainbow.
I won’t, though. That’s not how writers work.