Women in Horror Month: Tell Me I Can’t
By Stephanie M. Wytovich
My entire life—up until recently—has been about people telling me that I can’t do something. I can’t go to graduate school because I’m throwing my money away. I can’t be a writer because I should be having their babies and thinking about marriage. I shouldn’t be writing horror because I would be more attractive if I wasn’t killing people for a living. I can’t live on my own because I won’t be able to survive…
Damn! Talk about a lot of pressure on my vagina and who’s controlling it…
Needless to say, most—if not all—of those people have ‘ex’ attached to them now, whether they were friend, boyfriend, lover, etc. and oh my God did I just say lover?
Christ, maybe I am a whore?
Ladies don’t like sex!
But hey, maybe I’m not the world’s definition of a lady then? After all, ladies don’t curse and drink whiskey and speak their mind, and ask for equal pay. They don’t stand up for their beliefs, have sex because they want to, decide when they want to get married—IF they want to get married—when they want to have children--IF they want to have children—or do what makes them happy despite what society deems proper or not.
No, ladies don’t do that.
Women do that.
And strong women at that.
So I’d like to take this moment to write some notes to all the men who told me I can’t, because guess what? Despite all of you, I did.
To the man who told me I was throwing my life away on education: Hi. My name is Stephanie Wytovich and I have the initials MFA after my name now. I got my degree while simultaneously writing three books, all of which have been published, two which have been nominated for awards in my field. Also, funny story. Remember how you said I should be a nurse because then I’d actually be able to do something with my life? Well, I became one after all! Meet Hysteria. She’d like to have a word with you.
To the man who told me I should be having his children and taking his name: Hi. Remember me? Yeah, I’m certain that you do. First things first, the very fact that you said this to me despite knowing my dreams and aspirations is proof that you didn’t know my spirit or my soul, and therefore had no chance of implanting your child in me or forcing your ring on my finger. If I want to get married, I will. If I want to have children, I will. You just won’t have a part in it.
To the man who told me he would find me more attractive if I didn’t write horror: Fuck you. You don’t even get a thoughtful response.
To the man who told me I couldn’t survive on my own: Hi. Remember me? See the one thing you underestimated about me when you called me damaged, was that damaged people know how to survive. I know this because I survived you. I may have done it while I was black and blue but I didn’t have to hit a girl to make myself feel like I was in control.
It’s 2015 and we’re still fucking dealing with this.
Being a woman does not in any way, shape, or form, lessen you or your ability to do something. Strong women are nothing less than who they are and who that is just so happens to intimidate weak men. I’m not going to change my life to fit some man’s misogynistic game plan for me, nor am I going to jump just because a man says jump. If I don’t want to do something, I’m not going to do it, but for some reason, men have felt, and continue to feel, that they can do or say whatever they want in an effort to control me. This very matter has become a joke between my father and me because every time I tell him these stories, he looks at me, laughs, and goes, “What idiots. No one tells my baby girl what to do.”
And they don’t. Well, except for my Dad, but even he’ll tell you that more often than not, it doesn’t work for him either. And that’s the thing about my dad. He said he knew I was a fireball the first second he saw me and instead of trying to put out my flames, he encouraged me to use my voice and my words to empower myself and others. That’s why growing up, he taught me how to write, how to defend myself, how to push myself, and how to take no prisoners in anything and everything that I did.
He is the man that has always told me I could.
He is the man that has always told me I could.
So now that we’re talking about men who I admire and respect, this is the moment in the month that I’ve been waiting for. I want to write notes to all the men who told me I could, and supported me when I did.
To the man who took me out to dinner, gave me advice on writing and didn’t try to sleep with me after: Hi. Remember me? Of course you do because we’re still in touch and have acquired and maintained a beautiful and healthy friendship over the years. Thank you for believing in me, for encouraging me, and for not only treating me like a woman, but as a colleague as well.
To two of my convention roommates, both of who are men: Hey you guys! Ready for Atlanta? I can’t wait to see the two of you! Both you guys have seen me without makeup, have seen me full on sobbing, and have witnessed me laughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe and almost fell off a couch. You’ve shared the great moments with me, and helped me sort through the bad, whether that consisted of a trolley ride in NOLA to the middle of nowhere, or a late night cemetery walk with hard ciders and a lot of anger, you’ve both been there through the absinthe, through the awards, through graduation, and the breakups, and I love you both dearly for that.
To one of my best and dearest friends, who, yes, is a man and also an author: Hi! It seems like we just talked, but that’s probably because we just did. Thank you for always treating me with respect, love, and kindness. It’s a true comfort to know that no matter what is happening in my life, that you will always have my back, both in publishing, and outside of it. We might both be doing the same thing with our lives, but it’s beautiful that it never feels competitive and that we can go out and not talk shop and just be who we really are with each other. See you soon, and yes, I promise, I’ll read the Larson book, okay? Go drink your Gwar.
To my first editor: Hi! As if you don’t already have enough literature and email from me to read—here’s some more! Thank you for taking a chance on me and believing in me right from the start. It’s an honor to have worked, and to be working with you, and your unwavering support in both my work and in myself as an author is exactly what I wish and hope for every woman in this business.
To my mentor of eight years: Hi! What a wild and crazy few years it’s been, yeah? Thank you for everything, starting all the way back from day one when I thought I still wanted to become a lawyer. You’ve been my teacher, my mentor, my friend, and my colleague, and even when you’re not teaching me, you still are. I hope that one day I'll become half the teacher/writer that you were/are to me.
And that’s it folks! That’s my #WomenInHorrorMonth series. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it and that it touched on some topics that you either wanted to talk about but were too afraid to, or that quite frankly, just needed to be said in general. I had a blast doing this and I want to say thank you to everyone who’s commented and shared my words/pictures this month. Gender equality is a battle, but it helps when there are people like all of you who help fight for it.
- As a female horror author, I stand by this because both sides of the story need to be shown. Feminism is not an attack on men; it’s a movement for gender equality across the board.
- 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