Hosted by Ty Schwamberger
Written by Kelli Owen
Men are pigs.
Men are lazy.
Men love sports, fast cars and loose women.
Now, while some men may fall under the previous assumptions, not all do. And not all women who write horror want to be asked what it’s like “to be a woman writing horror.” Nor do they want it pointed out they’re a woman in the first place. Why do I bring this up? Assignment. But also because it’s a topic I know a little about, and have ranted about on convention panels and online blogs over the years.
There are rumors claiming some people actually care what’s between a writer’s legs when deciding whether or not to read their fiction. Really? Does it matter how tan they are? Whether or not they’re vegetarian? If they go to church, how often, or which one? Whether they shower in the morning or evening? The answer is simple. No, it doesn’t. None of that matters. It also doesn’t matter if the writer has a degree in English or Accounting, a full-time job, a pet, two-point-five kids, or a haunting memory of teenage acne. What matters is the work. The words. The story and characters.
The ending of every story is far more important than the bio of any author.
Stop, read that sentence again.
Do you watch movies because they look good or because a guy directed them? Sure there are cases where you love the director (or writer) and will watch (read) just because it’s them, often without seeing a preview or reading the back cover copy. But if you see a preview (cover) and it looks interesting, do you choose not to watch it (read it) because a girl was involved? Really? Doubtful. Actually, I’ll go out on a limb here and say, “No.” I don’t believe the majority of you would. You’re going to base your decision on whether or not it looks interesting and whether or not you have any previous encounters with the creator and/or their work.
It is not based on their genitalia.
It was at this point that the article started to meander and I realized I had to reel it in. I could go on fourteen different tangents on the topic, and did on the green couch rant-fest with Bob while formulating my article and argument. But let’s concentrate on one of those tangents. Let’s look at the root of this issue: the supposed belief that women write differently than men.
Somewhere in the middle of my couch rant, I said something that stuck with me. As I came back inside, it rolled around the edges of every sentence I attempted to write. So let’s go there. Let’s examine the idea that (some) people supposedly believe women can’t write horror. Why do they think that? Well, remember that thought that got stuck in my head? I have a theory…
When you were younger and you were reading a novel or a magazine, 99% of the boys out there never heard, “You’re reading horror? Why?” If society, parents, teachers, whomever thinks little girls shouldn’t read scary things, why in the hell should they grow up and write them? See, by nature, that odd little “you’re a princess and should like horses and romance novels” bizarro-land thought process of gender biased beliefs and pink versus blue codes for raising children follows us into adulthood. As adults, most female horror writers hear “You write horror? Oh my god, why?” And only a few men will hear a version of it, which often includes silly inquiries into what tragic childhood incident could have caused such an outcome.
Yet, in the adult world of fiction, there are more men writing romance (under pseudonyms) than women, and oddly enough, women do better (under their own names) in thrillers than men do. I’ve heard this, been told it, and with a little research online and a quick stop to the local store to check the bestseller rack at the checkout, I see this. So if we can cross those boundaries without question, and can share fantasy and historical fiction, why can we not share horror?
I can honestly say that I have never included “and I have boobs” in a submission letter. It doesn’t matter. Again, it’s the words that matter. The reality isn’t that it’s a boys’ club, or harder for women to succeed – it’s not. Period. You are only inhibited by your own fears. If you want to be published then learn to write, say something interesting and get yourself published. If you think it’s a boys’ club and avoid the playing field because you don’t belong, you’re only hurting yourself.
There is no secret handshake. There is no glass ceiling. The truth is, by pure industry ratios, there are just less women than men openly writing horror. Most likely, as we go back to the theory, because we write what we enjoy – we grow up to write what we read as children. I didn’t read about princesses in castles. I read about serial killers and the Old Ones. I wouldn’t have the first clue how to write a romance. But I can tell you what has and hasn’t worked for me as a reader of thrillers and horror.
To follow the idea of this lopsided ratio further, let’s compare it to other things. For example, the percentage of women in the horror genre as equated to tomboys versus girly girls, and/or tomboys versus boys. I was the lone tomboy in my gang. That made me one out of six boys, one out of four girls. Strangely enough, that’s about the same ratio as the male-to-female writers I tend to hang out with.
That doesn’t mean women write it differently, or weaker, or softer (because as a case point, I write much more brutal fiction than my male other half). It just means there are less of them. And if you’ve read only a handful of the top female writers in the last decade, you would know they can hold their own.
So why are people still asking the question? Still presuming women are somehow different than men when it comes to writing. I don’t know. But those that do can stop now. Please. Stop perpetuating a falsehood and judge the writer by their words. After all, we’re all using the same dictionary. Same language. Same tropes, tricks and internal fears to move our readers. Some of us just have boobs.
You can learn more about Kelli and her writing at: Kelli Owen
Ty is an author in the horror genre. To learn more about his work, you can visit his website at: Ty Schwamberger