When it comes to celebrating or honoring one gender over the other, I generally come down on the side of neutrality. Being a woman in the horror publishing industry doesn’t make me special; it doesn’t place me above or below anyone else regardless of my chromosomal make-up. In the past, that wasn’t necessarily true. In days gone by, a woman who wanted to be recognized for her work as an author, an editor, or a publisher might have assumed a male pseudonym out of necessity, or simply not disclosed her gender by choosing a non-gender affiliated name to function under. Those were sad times, but they were in keeping with their place in history. That’s not an endorsement for inequality, but a realistic, informed view of how things transpired.
One of the key reasons we need Women in Horror Month is to remind ourselves that a prejudice solely without merit existed, and that as intelligent, productive members of society, we can’t allow those circumstances to resurface. I always find it shocking to run into gender bias in any creative community. Besides being a writer, an editor, and a publisher, I also work in graphic design, internet environment development, and as a professional photographer. In many ways, some of those communities haven’t caught up with the wave of appreciating a woman as much as a man. Photography, for example, is still one field where women have to fight to be recognized. The general consensus when I tell people I’m a photographer is ‘so you like taking pictures’ – that’s a highly offensive and extremely ignorant point of view, but it is also the prevailing notion. Artistic photography, or even product photography, is not simply ‘taking pictures’. It requires a degree of talent, the know-how to set a shot properly, and most importantly, the experience and ability to recognize good subject matter from what may not be as aesthetically pleasing. It’s about understanding angles, light, shadow, the interaction between objects, and many other factors. If a man states he’s a photographer, it is somewhat assumed that he already understands these things and has established himself within the craft. Yet when a woman states the same, the bias bubbles up and the general assumption is ‘they like to take pictures’. I don’t believe it’s an intended bias, but it exists nonetheless.
Why the diatribe about photography in an article about the horror writing/publishing realm? Because it’s another part of who I am (and I am certainly a woman working in horror); it’s a subject I can speak about with a fair degree of authority, and one I can draw a clean, concise comparison to. It’s an artistic field that has not yet evolved as far as the writing world’s independent and small press mentality has toward women is general. It is exactly why Women in Horror Month is relevant and necessary. We, as a whole, need the reminder that a woman’s efforts were at one time considered unequal to that of a man’s, and we need a check point to keep from sliding backward toward that misnomer. Why women specifically and not simply equality? Because this newly adopted perception is only pervasive in the small-press publishing world. Traditional or larger publishing houses still hold the general bias that unless a woman is writing romance, her work will most likely be inferior to that of a man’s. It’s an ugly truth, and I’m not saying it can’t or won’t slowly shift, or that it applies unilaterally to all large publishers, but I am stating that from the evidence I’ve see, we aren’t anywhere near eliminated it and gaining full gender equality – not yet anyway. So, to reiterate the title, why is it worth standing on a soapbox for Women in Horror Month? Because women and men working in the horror industry are equally capable, and we need to remember that fact.
Thank you, Stuart, for allowing me to voice my opinion on Horror Tree for Women in Horror Month. I’m honored to be considered and included!
Nina D’Arcangela is a quirky horror writer who likes to spin soul rending snippets of despair. She reads anything from splatter matter to dark matter. She’s an UrbEx adventurer who suffers from unquenchable wanderlust. She loves to photograph abandoned places, bits of decay and old graveyards. Nina is co-owner of Sirens Call Publications, co-founder of the horror writer’s group ‘Pen of the Damned’, and if that isn’t enough, put a check mark in the box next to owner and resident anarchist of Dark Angel Photography.
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