Women in Horror, by Mercedes M. Yardley
February is Women in Horror month. Did you know this? Does it surprise you? Were you aware of this at all? Forget hearts and Valentines. It’s time for guillotines and battle axes, as well as a trace of lipstick on the poison vial.
It’s interesting at the general reaction when a woman says she writes horror.
“What do you write?” Somebody asks me. “Romance? Young Adult?”
“No, I write dark fantasy and horror.”
There’s a pause, usually. Definitely a blink. Then the quick, “Oh, I don’t read horror.”
Don’t you? I bet, for the most part, that you do. Have you ever read Frankenstein? It is, arguably, the beginning of the horror genre as we know it. Horror is more than blood and gore and dark things that go bump in the night. It’s satire. It reflects society as it truly is. Every day when you read the news, you’re really reading horror.
Horror has an undeserved stigma that is brought about by the reader (and sometimes the writer) not fully comprehending what the genre is all about. That’s exactly how I started. I was challenged by a friend to write a horror story, and I came up with something that was just…yuck. Rivers of blood and an old god licking the goodness out of a young man’s skull. I was grossing out instead of hitting on the very essence of horror. I was bumbling along, writing what I thought horror was supposed to be. I was dead wrong.
There are people who write the gore and gross-out beautifully. That’s my not niche. I find that my horror tends to be more subtle. After all, as a woman, I’m faced with horrors every day.
It sounds like a cop-out. “As a woman.” As I write it, something within me wants to rail fiercely and say that we are all equal, that gender should be left out of it, rah rah sis boom bah. But when I stop and reflect, genuinely, I am forced to admit there are differences, both socially and biologically.
As a woman, I feel my body grow sick and weak as the child in utero steals my nutrition for itself.
As a woman, I feel much more vulnerable walking alone down the street than my husband does.
As a woman, I endure more comments about my body and my choice of dress than my brother does. This isn’t only by men, of course, but also other women.
This is horror. This is fear. There is an underlying concern under everything I do. Every post I make, every comment I say. The comments about my children’s unruliness that are said to me but not my husband, the catcalls as I walk down the street, the creepy, inappropriate emails that total strangers write. If a woman dresses nicely, she’s using her looks to get ahead. If she doesn’t, then she’s a slob. That double X chromosome seems to be a free invitation to tear off the filter and say whatever they want. Go ahead, don’t hold back. After all, we’re only women.
But being women, we can handle it. We’re bred for it. Biologically hardwired for it. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Mama bear protecting her cubs. Women are strong and fierce and deal with the fear beautifully.
We talk about it. We write about it. We open a vein and bleed onto the page. It’s a lovely, wonderful, powerful thing.
It’s nice to see the changes that are being made. Women in Horror month is one of them. It’s a time set aside to become aware of the brilliant women who are making contributions to the genre. We’re releasing our horror. We’re infusing the genre with our work. We’re making a difference and using our voices, and that’s simply divine.