Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Take the Whore out of Horror

Part 3 of 4:
Women in Horror Month: Take the ‘Whore’ out of ‘Horror’

By Stephanie M. Wytovich

My rock n’ roll self was at a jazz concert the other night. I traded in my whiskey for a glass of Merlot and I sat there in my work clothes—I had a late night counseling and planning for residency—humming along to the soft, soothing voice of the bass as Imagine by The Beatles stroked the air. I was chatting with some people, making friends, networking in the city, and [insert random unnamed person here] asked me what I did for a living. As per usual, I told him/her that I’m a writer, all the while wincing at the inevitable response that I knew I would get in return.

Here’s the conversation, word for word—and it’s one of those conversations where if I had a nickel for every time I had it, well, let’s just say I could be in a flat in New Orleans writing for the summer.

 
Stranger: “Writer, huh. So what do you write?”

Me: “I write speculative fiction.”

Stranger: “What does that mean?”

Me: “Genre fiction. I’m a horror writer.”

Stranger: “A whore writer?” *immature giggles*

Me: “No, a horror writer? *death stare*

Stranger: “Same thing. So whore fiction, eh?

Now, because I’m a classy, well-mannered woman—and because I’ve spent too much money on my rings to see them broken—I didn’t, and don’t, hit these people, even though they’ve blatantly called me a whore straight to my face, and not only that, but they’ve laughed at me, as well. I have to sit here and wonder if something like this would ever be said to a man, and I’m willing to bet that it wouldn’t. For some reason, it seems like people have an easier time talking down to women because they think that we’re not strong enough to stand up for ourselves, or that we find it funny, and acceptable, to be spoken to as such. Well, guess what. We don’t. Say it to me again, and I’m going to very explicitly tell you where you can stick your opinion, because, guess what, I have standards and I take pride in what I do. This entire culture of slut shaming, and calling women names, i.e. bitches, whores, skanks, etc. is not only offensive, but a backwards step for gender equality and equality in general.

In addition to that, let’s talk age, because that’s the next thing that always gets brought up. I’m 25 years old yet people still call me “girl” or “kid.” So now, accordingly to the population, I’m not only a whore but a childish whore for writing what I write.

Let’s take a moment and look at the reality of this compared to the stereotypical picture that is portrayed by a young female writing horror.

The reality of this is that I’m a professional, I’m a woman, and I support myself by writing dark fiction and working in the writing industry. At 25, I have written five books, two of which have already been published, one of which is in its final editing stages, and the other two are set for  publication this year. I have two degrees, have been an editor at a small press for two years, and I’m working full-time in the fields that I received both my degrees in. Oh, and last time I checked, I pay my bills and live my life as an adult and--that's right!--without supervision.

 But yeah, I write horror so don’t take me seriously.

After all, I’m just a whore.

And apparently a childish one at that.

See the problem here?

This issue, beyond every issue that there is in publishing, and in horror, is what I have the biggest problem with. I’ve talked about stigmas and clichés a lot this month, but the notion that women in horror are nothing more than what their bodies portray them to be, is ridiculous. And it’s immature. And it’s offensive.

We are WOMEN working in HORROR and we are PROFESSIONALS.

Yes, I capitalized/bolded those specific words for emphasis—almost like I’m screaming and throwing a tantrum--because that’s what ‘kids’ do when they want to make a point and be heard.

You know, the whole point of this series is to raise awareness for how women are treated in the horror industry. I’ve experienced the above confrontation countless times, and I’ve experienced other situations that are more extreme and that I don’t care to write about, because again, I’m a classy, well-mannered woman. But it happens, and it happened when I started in this industry and it’s still happening three years later. Thankfully, my mother and my mentors raised me/taught me/ and guided me to be a strong woman and I can look past it. What I can’t look past is the culture of the genre I love celebrating women as whores. Let’s drop the whore out of horror, let’s drop the objectification of females as victims, and for the great love of Cthulu, let’s all just realize that the label of female horror writer shouldn’t even exist.

We’re all writers.

We’re all professionals.

It’s as simple and true as that.

SIDE NOTE:

I do, however, want to say that most of my experiences with this have come outside of the publishing industry. Sure, there have been a few bumps along the way, but I feel that's it's important for me to say that the men I know in the industry are some of the kindest, most caring gentleman that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. They’ve been wonderfully supportive to me as a writer, and as a friend, and I can guarantee you that if a conversation like the above happened in front of them that I wouldn’t be the only one clenching my fists. How do I know this? Because I've seen it happen. I've had men defend me at horror conferences, and I've had men stand up for me in academia. Case in point, this isn't some feminist rant. It may be a male-dominated field, but the men I work, teach, read, and write with are wonderful, and my life is better for knowing them. Truly. I raise my glass to these men in love and in thanks for always being there for me--and I feel confident that they all know who they are.
  • 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 I’m a professional and deserve to be treated and acknowledged as such.
  • As a female, I stand by this because I believe in gender equality.

--Stephanie M. Wytovich