(Invisible) Women in Horror

I had heard vaguely of the SFX horror screw-up, but only today (via this great summary post from [info] nwhyte) found my way to the blog of Maura McHugh, aka Splinister to read about her correspondence with the editor of that magazine, about the lack of representation of female authors in the SFX Horror special. Maura objected to a general lack of women in the entire issue, but was particularly upset by a special feature in which 34 horror “experts” were invited to recommend “hidden treasures of horror”. They were all men – and all but one of them (Doctor Who & Being Human’s Toby Whithouse!) only recommended work by men.

Maura’s long post showing her correspondence with the SFX editor is worth a read, because it shows in paragraph after paragraph, the (by now) familiar sight of a privileged person who has been called on his (undoubtedly unconscious) sexism and that by extension of his publication and the industry he belongs to, and yet is not willing to accept or acknowledge that he has done anything wrong.

You could create a bingo card from his responses: they meant to include women, they thought about it, they intended to, but one article and two email correspondences went astray, and besides, there aren’t that many women in horror anyway, and if there are any, they don’t send their books to SFX, and they don’t make enough films, and when women do make horror it’s not really horror, and look, he has two anonymous female friends who confirm it’s not his fault, he meant well…

Besides, don’t you know there aren’t any women producing or consuming horror fiction and films?

Well, there aren’t if your only source of information is SFX magazine.

I’m not a big horror reader, but I see the same arguments being used that are regularly trotted out about women in SF. I have nothing but respect for editors and other people in positions of power who, when called on the inappropriate lack of representation of women, take that accusation seriously, and make an honest effort to do something about it in the future. Falling victim to unconscious bias does not make you a bad person. There’s no need to be defensive about it. But once it’s been pointed out to you… trying to pretend that it doesn’t exist is just silly.

As Maura says here, there is no excuse now.
Not just with horror. In science fiction. In literature. In film. In awards lists. It’s been pointed out too many times. If you’re still contributing to the invisibling of women (awesome verb by the way) then ignorance is not an excuse. Unless, you know, you’re also not listening to what women say…

Hmm. That would make a lot of sense, actually.

February was Women in Horror Recognition Month (ironic, no?). I recommend you celebrate by reading a Kaaron Warren novel. Or two. Or recommend your own favourite hidden treasure of horror in the comments.

One reply

  1. Maura McHugh says:

    Dear Tansy,

    Thanks for your post pointing to my correspondence with SFX magazine. I wish this kind of thing wasn’t necessary, but it certainly won’t change without any action.

    Oh and I’m delighted you liked the “invisibiling” verb, it fit, so I used it, but I thought some people might not like it. 🙂

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