Part 2 of 4
Women in Horror Month: I Am Not a Victim
By Stephanie M. Wytovich
“My nails are broken, my fingers are bleeding, my arms are covered with the welts left by the paws of your guards—but I am a queen!”- Antigone, Sophocles
I’m currently private tutoring Greek Drama—Antigone, in particular—and one of the issues that we’ve been talking about is how the play is structured around the notion that women are weak and therefore should not be looked at as a threat, not to man, and not to government. Interesting concept considering Antigone essentially throws up the middle finger and does what she believes is right, even if it means handing herself a conscious death sentence.
Antigone’s character—in particular—inspired me for this week’s portrait, “I Am Not a Victim.” I think so often in horror that we’re used to seeing the woman portrayed as the damsel in distress, and slasher movies hold a lot of responsibility for that. According to them, the female role is to have big boobs, to run away, and to get killed dramatically, and explicitly, and usually with little to no clothes on. Oh, and if we’re not being savagely murdered, then God knows we’re being sacrificed to Satan or forced to spawn the Devil himself. In that case, cue the angelic, white-dressed, virgin, and you’re good to go!
But if we look at this in a more academic sense, women take on the metaphorical (and okay, sometimes physical) representation of the womb. We are portrayed as creatures of sexual representation because we have the ability to give life, i.e. woman/womb. To some degrees, I love this, and I don’t mind the representation. As a woman, and as a horror writer, I’ll attest to the fact that birth is one of the scariest things I’ve ever witnessed—and I play with concepts of sexuality and birth in my own writing all the time. The woman as vessel is a beautiful and horrific concept…when it’s done correctly.
Note: We are a vessel for life. We are not strictly a hole for male genitalia.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that I love slasher movies. They are my absolute favorite, and growing up, I thought being a scream queen would be one of the coolest jobs ever—in fact, part of me still thinks that. However, the stigma that’s attached to females in the horror genre is simply that: we’re victims. Now, I don’t know about you ladies, but when I’m writing a kill scene, I’m not sitting at my computer desk in a push-up bra, half-naked and making bad decisions. I’m not running around my office in stilettos drafting an alibi and I’m certainly not answering emails and phone calls from creeps with an Oedipus complex who are probably wearing their grandmother’s nightgowns. Why? Because I’m smarter than that. I’m not a victim. Not in my stories and not in real life.
I think it’s important to have balance in this genre and I don’t feel like that’s quite the case, at least, not yet, but we are moving in the right direction. Having said that, I would be heartbroken if slasher movies/fiction disappeared because they are a staple and a genre all in themselves. I just don’t think that we have enough female-positive horror to combat them. Buffy was a great step in the right direction, and so was Lost Girl, but even still, these lean more towards paranormal romance than they do horror. What I want to see is more women like Nancy from Nightmare on Elm Street, like Sidney Prescott from Scream. I want my women with some fight in them and I want to see them conquer and I want to see them survive.
For what it’s worth, I don’t even like the word ‘victim’, so I certainly don’t want to see my gender being force-fed the concept that that’s who we are. And to further drive home my point and to emphasize why this is such an issue, I’ll share something personal with all of you. Technically, if we’re going to draw lines in the sand, I am a ‘victim.’ I’ve been through some stuff, I’ve seen some terrible things, and I had to grow up a hell of a lot faster than I probably should have. At 25, I’ve almost died twice, but much like our dear pal Jason, I keep coming back. Why? Because I’m a final girl type of character. My life is in my hands—not in his, not in hers, and not in the hypothetical axe-wielding maniac’s. So as an artist, I want to send the message that no one gets to tell you that you’re a victim. You can overcome, and you can conquer. As women, we’re perceived as weak, as emotional, as the caregivers and the nurturers. Well, newsflash people. Just like men can be nurturing and caring, women can be strong, kickass, ballbusters who don’t take shit and know how to defend themselves. And you can be damn sure that none of the women in my poetry or my prose will ever go down without a fight.
- As a female horror author, I stand by this because there needs to be awareness for the fact that this stereotyping and prejudice is still happening both inside the genre, and outside of it.
- As a female author, I stand by this because men and women are both writers and people, and neither of us should be pigeonholed as predator or victim.
- As a female, I stand by this because I believe in gender equality.
--Stephanie M. Wytovich