WiHM 12: WiHM and Why Allies Are Important By Somer Canon
WiHM and Why Allies Are Important
By Somer Canon
It’s Women in Horror Month again. An interesting time, to be honest. It’s interesting as a fan of the horror genre and it’s interesting as a female horror creator. It’s interesting being introduced to new (to me) women creating in the horror genre, especially if I’m being introduced by their fans. There’s an enthusiasm that comes with those sorts of introductions that are intriguing and make one want to look into further that creator. This is also the best time of year to take stock of just how many people you’ve reached in your career, who remembers you and your works when asked to shine the light on a female creative. It can be nice.
Yet, we still have to have this month to make sure that we don’t creep back into the scenery and end up forgotten by many. Part of it is because there are less of us. This is a male-dominated industry and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it can make being a woman in a man’s playground difficult. We don’t tend to stand out as oddballs in this field. We tend to be overlooked, underestimated, and just plain forgotten. I don’t like it. My male contemporaries don’t like it. So how do we fix this?
I think Women in Horror Month is a great start, by highlighting women and their works and making sure our names are put out there year after year. But it’s a complicated process for many of us. We wish there was no need for a month that reminded people that women are out there creating horror that can stand toe-to-toe with the work of any man, yet we have to acknowledge that need as well. And acknowledging that need can wear on even the most gracious and patient women in our ranks. We don’t want to come off as tired or bitter or defeated, but sometimes that’s just how we feel knowing that come the first day of the month following Women in Horror Month, it’s back to business as usual and names of female creators are sometimes forgotten.
We can’t expect that the full weight of the task of highlighting women in horror rest only on the women. I have been exceptionally blessed by knowing men who are every bit as enthusiastic about women horror writers as the men and they are happy to sing our praises publicly. They recommend us for jobs, they mention us when talking about modern writers they enjoy, and they buy our books and make sure social media knows it. I am infinitely grateful for those men and their unbiased enthusiasm for the horror genre. We’re asking for equality with Women in Horror Month, not special treatment. And what we need in gaining that equality is more men like those that I mentioned above. Having allies with a more privileged standing than yourself is a huge aspect of ALL battles for equality.
Personally, I have complicated feelings about writing this because I know how hard all horror creatives work to get recognized and appreciated. Much of horror writing operates in an underground/small press capacity, nowhere near the recognition that the New York publishers would afford us. At least twice a year I’m tagged in a social media thread that starts with an enthusiastic reader announcing that they want to read more horror, but are only familiar with Stephen King and don’t know where to start. In a world that still relies on physical stores to legitimize a written work, a lot of us working with small presses remain invisible. In short, it’s hard for everybody to get eyes on their works. But it’s important to remember that it’s a much steeper climb for some. Readers have deep-rooted biases sometimes, and a bias against women creating horror is definitely a prevalent one. This is where having allies is really helpful. If you’re confronted with one of those biases against a group of creators, speak up. You don’t have to deliver a thesis on why that disparaged group is just as good, but a simple, “You’re only saying that because you haven’t read him/her/them.” A small comment, a little act of going against those opinions can contribute miles worth of progress.
You see, as a woman, when I speak out about the disparity of women in horror, there are people out there who will tune me out because of some of their biases. My words are lost because of how personal they are to me. But when a man assures a person that a work by a woman is every bit as good as that of a man, because things are not yet equal, his words are taken a little more seriously. I know this isn’t a fun topic and it isn’t fun to point it out, especially since there is inequality in so many categories, social and otherwise. My point is, every little bit helps from those of you in a more privileged standing, even if you yourself are struggling.
In the horror community, I’ve always had a feeling of togetherness with my fellow creatives. Those few men who reach out and speak up for those of us who need their voices are immensely helpful, but we need more of them. Every ally that stands up and makes a case for a disparaged class does more good than they realize.
To close, I’d like to reiterate that I always enjoy the new names, faces, and works that Women in Horror Month brings to my attention. I make a few new social media follows, buy a few books, and I am reminded anew of how wonderful the horror genre is because of how diverse we are. We need to be reminded to look a little closer, dig a little deeper. I am a firm believer that horror is a unifying genre and I have faith in my fellow creatives that, together, we can dispel those biases against our own and make this a genre where success and opportunity are afforded in equal measure.
SOMER CANON IS A MINIVAN REVVING SUBURBAN MOTHER WHO AVOIDS HER NEIGHBORS FOR FEAR OF BEING FOUND OUT AS A WEIRDO. WHEN SHE’S NOT PEERING OUT OF HER WINDOWS, SHE’S CONSUMING BOOKS, MOVIES, AND VIDEO GAMES THAT SATE HER NEED FOR BLOOD, GORE, AND THINGS THAT DISTURB HER MOTHER.
Okay, you’ve seen the bio that will appear in the backs of my books and novellas, so allow me to expand. I’m a lifelong fan of books and horror and it is my extreme pleasure to be able to count myself among the amazing horror writers working today. I may not be on their level, but I’m sort of on the same planet and that makes me happy.
I’m married to the guy that I took to my Senior prom and together we have two sons who regularly teach us the true meaning of “horror.” I really do abuse the V6 in my minivan on the roads of Eastern Pennsylvania and I really do try to disturb my mother, even though it was she who taught me to love the horror genre.
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Born with a love of scary stories and folklore, Amanda Headlee has spent her entire life crafting works of dark fiction. She has a fascination with the emotion of fear and believes it is the first emotion humans feel at the moment they are born. Most of her work focuses on horror associated with folklore as well as writing that would fall into the category of “cosmic horror” — the fear of humanity’s insignificance in the vastness of the universe.
By day Amanda is an Information Services Program Manager; by night she is a wandering wonderer. When she isn’t writing or working, she can be found logging insane miles on her bike or running the back country of Pennsylvania. She’s one of those crazy people who competes in long distance endurance races. She is inspired by the works of Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor, Margaret Atwood, H.P. Lovecraft, and Joyce Carol Oates — all who write terrifying tales of their own.
Amanda keeps a blog of her writing, wondering, and wandering experiences at www.amandaheadlee.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.