The Final Girl: Being A Woman In Horror

Hello, my name is Christy and I’m a horror writer and a woman. I know, HUGE SHOCK. We don’t exist! Women can’t write horror. If we try, it’s watered down. There MUST be romance in any book we write because that’s what women write. Those are the only female writers to exist!

The amazing truth is that, guess what, we do exist! Quite a few of us actually, and yet, we still have to have a month dedicated to letting people know we exist. If not for organizations like Women in Horror Month or pages like Ladies of Horror Fiction, people would still live under the guise that there are only a handful of women out in the world writing horror.

The truth is, we’ve been here forever. Writing just as good as our male counterparts and doing it consistently. So why is that when people list their favorite writers, there’s usually no more than one female on that list?

I never see any women in the horror genre.

Except, you’re wrong. We’re there watered down beneath a bunch of other male names or hidden within them. The sad fact is that people are more likely to pick a horror book by a male than they are a female. Not only readers, but publishers, agents, magazines, the literary field is enamored with the idea that only men can be scary.

That’s simply not true.

Women are viewed as romantic writers. Romance is where we flourish in the writing world and are widely accepted. In the romance genre, the roles are reversed. Men use female pen names to be taken seriously within the genre or face criticism that they’re not as good as their female counterparts. In horror, women are often viewed as safe and not twisted enough to write in a genre known for its blood splatter and carnage. And GOD FORBID any type of romance be included in a horror book written by a woman! No one wants that type of fluff.

Yet, Stephen King is a hopeless romantic and that comes across quite a bit in his work. Books like Bag of Bones are also love stories in my opinion, yet no one accuses King of not being scary enough. King has managed to give me those tingling feelings in my toes just as much as Sandra Brown has.

Well, women just aren’t as scary as men.

Except, you’re still wrong. Shirley Jackson penned one of the best ghost novels of our time, and in that novel, wrote the best opening paragraph that I have ever read in a book. Guess what, King agrees with me on that statement. Mary Shelley created one of the iconic classic monsters. Frankenstein is still being read today with as much fear and anguish as it was back then. Anne Rice has managed to turn creatures like vampires into a scary being, while also keeping in touch with her feminine side. Ania Ahlborn has written some of the most disturbing books that I’ve ever read, with Seed hitting me at my core. Women like Dicey Grenor, Amy Cross, Faith Marlow, Mae MacCallum, and so many others are out here killing the genre with blood, guts, gore, and even managing to do what horror is supposed to do in the first place: TERRIFY.

These women, and so many more are being just as scary, just as bloody, just as terrifying as any male, but they’re still looked at as the exception and not the rule. There are still people that will read their books and say, “Eh, not bloody enough.” Those same people will often read a book like Dracula and Dorian Gray and say they’re perfect, despite the lack of blood-fest in either book.

And there’s this idea that I think a lot of us have to get through as women. I know for myself, I often overthink what I’m writing when I begin to think of how it’ll be perceived. Am I holding back? Should I add a severed arm to this part so it’s more disgusting? Should I decapitate this baby, so people know I’m willing to go there? Maybe I should gut this rapist alive, so everyone knows I’m not afraid to really get messy, whether my plot needs it or not.

There’s this constant cycle in my mind of whether I’m being scary enough to be respected, but it’s not scary to kill. When we look back at the books that most people consider to be terrifying, books that keep you awake at night and get under your skin, often the gore in those books is next to nothing. Is it the killing in Tell-Tale Heart that’s scary or is it the psychological break down and the slow eating away of guilt that Poe pens so well? Did Patrick Bateman scare you more when he was attacking the prostitutes or were you more terrified by the way Patrick thought and reacted to everything? That cold, robotic demeanor?

Women writers just don’t publish as often as men.

Wrong. We’re out here, publishing work. We’re just having a harder time being respected, which brings me to my next point.

When speaking to a female writer, before you send your message, think to yourself, “Would I say this to a male writer?”

I am a woman first and foremost. But when you are talking to me in a professional setting, it is not okay to remark on my looks, my dating life, my body, or to say inappropriate things and pass them off as jokes. You’re looking forward to reading my book? That’s amazing! You sure I hear I’m pretty a lot? Not relevant. Am I dating? None of your business. Will I show you my tits? Not in this lifetime.

Buying our books or even speaking to us about our careers is not a way to break the ice in order to score with a woman in any field. I’ve bought nearly every Stephen King book in existence. I’m not waiting for him to send me nudes or speak to me.

Now, this isn’t a very high occurrence with me. Most men do not use my work as a way to get with me, but there are quite a few men in our genre who would like to think that any success I have in the genre must be because of the fact that I’m female.

People are more likely to read your book because you’re pretty.

Go suck a donkey dick.

Never in the 10+ years I’ve been writing has a man ever read my book as a way to get in my pants. To my knowledge, no one has ever bought one in order to do so either. That would be a horrible investment. The reviews on my books, they’re there because someone read my book and enjoyed (or didn’t) the work that I had done. I’m sorry that no one has given you a positive review, but my vagina didn’t stop them from doing so. My tits, or lack thereof, did not give people a reason to enjoy my work. I did that on my own, by working hard at something I’m good at, by investing time and energy and money into pushing my book at people and asking for them to give me a chance to do what the boys have done.

Because that’s what women have been begging for from people for years.

A chance.

The horror genre is a boy’s club and it’s not the writers’ fault. The truth is that for every misogynistic dickwad I’ve come across, there have been two more genuinely supportive and nice male writers to cover them. I look around me in my genre and I am surrounded by male writers that recommend my work as often as they do anyone else’s. Men that list me as soon as someone asks for good horror writers and that is one way that we change things.

We’re all out here doing what we love. We’re all trying to have people see our work and decide they won’t watch a movie tonight. They’ll give this writer a chance instead. Within my genre, the writers I have met, both male and female, have been some of the most supportive people I have ever met. In horror, we’re all weirdos and freaks, and there’s a sense of community here. There’s a love for the genre that extends beyond gender and I love that. I freaking love that so much and I am so proud to be a horror writer.

But I still look up and see mostly males in my presence. I still search Bookstagram and struggle to see more than one or two female writers mentioned in the genre.

We are here.

We are loud.

We are bloody.

If you look at your shelf right now and turned every book by a male author around, how many pages would you see? I can almost guarantee that your shelves would be pretty bare of female writers. Most of your books would be turned around. And if you searched your books for black female authors or LGBTQ writers? Would you even be able to find one?

February is Women in Horror Month. Has been for ten years now. For this month, this month of love, the shortest month of the year, maybe you could try the first female book you come across. Give the girl a chance to scare you rather than writing her off as not scary. And if she doesn’t cut it, try another woman. We are writers. Male or female or any other label, we are writers and we are each unique. Men are not better writers because of the dick in their pants. That dick didn’t write the book. The person did. The same applies with women.

But you have to give us a chance.

Because we’re not going anywhere.

After all, we’re women. We usually make it to the sequel.

Christy

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7 thoughts on “The Final Girl: Being A Woman In Horror

  1. This is a great post. As one of the LOHF crew, I whole-heartedly agree wity everything you have said.

    Also, I love your writing style that I have witnessed here and will be picking up one of your books now.

    Like

  2. If blood spill and gratuitous gore is what differentiates the women horror writers from the men, than I think we’re good, right? Women’s writing will inherently be somewhat distinctive due to our different experience of the world, and we should hold on to that. It might be held against us at times, but it is our edge, and I think it’s important to keep writing like a girl 😊

    Like

    1. Honestly, I think most people just use the lack of to justify their sexism or judgement. Writers like Poe, King, or the classics rarely use such tactics and are still hailed as masters of horror. The blood and gore aspect is often just another way for people to justify the prejudice.
      But you are completely write, and it’s a learning curve for a lot of us. We should hold onto the experience we have that comes from being female. It makes our voices unique and offers a different perspective from the usual horror books. The entire goal of horror is to scare, not disgust, and personally, I think we as women do that better in most instances.
      So yeah, I’d rather write like a girl. 🖤🔪

      Liked by 1 person

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