I’m rolling out the red carpet for Sara Jayne Townsend who has dropped my blog today to to share a guest post. This is a good one *rubs hands together eagerly* and I can’t wait to hear your opinions! So kick back, enjoy and check out what she has to say!
by Sara Jayne Townsend
Last month was Women in Horror month. For the second year running, I participated in this by running relevant posts on my blog. Last year, I showcased women horror writers. This year, I looked at fictional kick-ass role models of horror (specifically Buffy, Alice from ‘Resident Evil’, Ripley from ‘Alien’ and Sarah Connor from the ‘Terminator’ films).
I think this is an important cause, because we need to raise the profile of women in horror. Women have been writing horror since Mary Shelley penned ‘Frankenstein’. They read horror. There are even well-respected women directing horror films. So why, in the 21st century, is there still a pervading general opinion that women don’t ‘do’ horror? As a woman horror writer I think about this question a lot.
I think part of the problem is the fact that the media will always encourage majority opinion. This is most evident when the Xmas ads get rolled out. If you buy your gifts based on the message the commercials are giving you, you’d assume that the women in your life want make-up kits and romance films, and the men in your life want computer games and science fiction films. Not that I want to rant about this, but anyone who doesn’t know me well enough to know I’d rather have a zombie PS3 game for Xmas than a make-up kit shouldn’t be buying me a gift at all.
I have lived my life in the minority. I’m left-handed, and the world is geared for right-handed people. I live in a country where the two favourite pastimes are eating curry and watching football, and I don’t like either. I am a woman who reads and writes horror. I play video games, and D&D. I don’t have, and have no desire to have, children, and I have little interest in clothes and shoes and hand bags. I am not alone in any of this. The majority of my female friends are horror and sci fi fans, and we talk with enthusiasm about the same TV shows. We also rant collectively about the image of women in the media, and lack of decent female role models.
Things are changing, slowly (hence my recent blog posts about positive fictional female role models in the media), but there’s still a long way to go. And if the media continues to cater to gender preconceptions, things will never change quickly enough.
But change is always slow, if constant. There may always be fewer women writing horror than there are men, but that doesn’t make them any less relevant. The majority opinion isn’t necessarily right – just more popular. And there is something to be said for being part of the elite minority. When your voice is smaller, you just have to shout louder. Eventually people listen.
Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror. Her latest book, SOUL SCREAMS is a collection of short horror stories and is available in e-book and print format from Stumar Press (http://stumarpress.webs.com/soulscreams.htm). Learn more about Sara and her writing by visiting her website (http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com) and her blog (http://sayssara.wordpress.com).
Great topic, Sara! Thanks for being on my blog. I could relate to so much of this. I grew up reading sci-fi, horror and fantasy and collecting anime and manga (long before most people even knew what it was). I had a rock collection and a telescope. Hardly teenage girl things. Later, I wrote horror for a time and was fondly know in my writing circle of the day as The Queen of Gore. For those of you who follow my blog, that might seem hard to believe but, yeah, that was me a good twenty years ago.
These days I still like reading sci-fi, horror and fantasy, though my genres of choice are now thrillers, mysteries and romance. And I’m even more of an enigma than I was in the past, because I definitely turned into a girlie-girl as I got older. I LOVE fashion, especially accessories like shoes and jewelry, and I fuss with hair and make-up most every morning. Still, when my friends want to go to a movie and I mention the latest sci-fi/fantasy offering as opposed to a chick flick they roll their eyes at me.
It’s true that most horror writers are men, but women can keep pace with the best of them!
Sara I *love* horror and sci-fi (as does my husband). I love make-up and girlie stuff but live in America where it’s practically expected that you have kids. We don’t want any. Our cats are enough. Our country loves Rap music but I listen to New Age and my husband, as hard of Metal as he can find. So, I understand what it feels like to feel apart from the majority. It seems you’ve overcome a lot of it and embraced your differences so kudos to you! I’ll have to check out your stories 🙂
Thanks Cadence! In general it’s not too bad being the ‘odd one out’. Just makes you feel special!
Cadence, thanks for checking out Sara’s post. I love New Age music and, of course, you know how I feel about cats 🙂 Good for you and your husband in doing what you want to do! Sometimes all you need is a soulmate – – and a few cats, LOL!
Sara, interesting post. I read something like this from a hard SF author a year or so ago. I felt so bad for her. I suspect such feelings are common in any genre dominated by male authors (horror, fantasy, SF, thriller, etc.). At the same time, I know of some male romance authors that get abuse because they’re guys, but honestly, that intrigues me more. Societies have such strong, judgmental opinions sometimes.
I do not typically read horror because I scare so easy. A lot of horror elements fascinate me though, but if I delve in too deep, I can’t sleep or I have severe nightmares. But a lot of the SF and fantasy I read has horror elements, and I enjoy them thoroughly. Urban fantasy has been a major boon for female authors having a place to insert some horror into their stories.
And then, of course, there’s the time in creative writing class in college, after I turned in my first piece filled with horror, that my female professor looked straight at me and said, “Some of you are so nice, but you right such dark stuff.” I’m a short, smiling girl. I suppose when we write anything in the horror spectrum, it’s shocking to a lot of people.
Good luck in your writing, and enjoy all the horror and geekdom.
— from a fellow gamer. 🙂
Laura – thanks for your reply. Yes, I’ve had that one too: “why does such a nice person write such dark stories?” Never seems to occur to anyone that we remain nice because we exorcise the dark stuff!
But yes, gender prejudices work both ways and we have to work harder to overcome them.
I’ve gotten that too. Comments like that make no sense to me. Do people think that Stephen King is “not a nice person” because of what he writes. If how nice we are was based on stuff we write, King would be an absolute maniac!
I used to get the dark reference too, but then I wrote some very dark stuff. I think it’s a typical reaction, especially from people who know an author personally.
I have to say I’ve never read a romance book written by a man but I have read books by male authors in first person POV when the lead character was a female. Honestly, I had a problem with that.
I think it takes a good deal of practice for a male author to successfully pull off the POV of a female and vice versa. Apparently, I have some hangups too.
Wow, I didn’t realize so many people got the “you write such dark stuff for such a nice person” line. Glad I’m not alone in that. 🙂
Mae, whenever I write POVs from a male’s perspective, and I’ve done it in 1st and 3rd, I run it by my husband and my brother and specifically ask them to point out places that the character doesn’t come off as male.
So the oddball creeps in. I don’t do horror or thriller (hubby lives for the Chiller channel *rolls eyes*), don’t like most sci-fi I love my kids and want more than the five granddaughters I currently have, have so much makeup hubby is always telling me to toss some (gasp!) and never know what to do with my hair from one day to the next (I’m thinking of going purple for shock value). I write and read romance for the girlie-girl affect and even my paranormal stories have girlie-girls as heroines. I love shoes and fashion, though I don’t claim to have fashion sense. I listen to pop and country music. But my heroines have to be tough, self-sufficient women. I don’t like sissy girls in my books. I want a kick-ass heroine who can take down the hero if necessary. LOL
This is so not the girl I was twenty years ago– and don’t ask what happened because I plainly don’t know– when movie night usually included one of the “Dead” movies, I had the entire KISS collection, even their single albums, lived for the next SK book, and wore nothing but jeans and boots and cussed a blue streak (these days I rarely use curse words). I still wore makeup. 🙂
But I have my stand-bys. I love horses and always have and I support and cheer women who stand out in the crowd, no matter what they do. Women horror writers are awesome, even if I don’t read it. You do what makes you feel good, write what speaks to you. That’s huge and something to cheer about. Congrats on your book and I wish you all the success in the world, Sara.
We are all different and we should embrace those differences. Media seems too fond of putting people into neat boxes!
I think we change as we get older. At least, I know I did. Instead of writing gore, I found myself writing romantic scenes and sentimental stuff. I wonder if 15 years from now, I will turn into a walking Hallmark card, LOL.
Thanks for sharing, Calisa, and checking out Sara’s post. As she notes in her reply below, we’re all different with different tastes. Makes for fun experiences!
I guess I never really thought about the gender of the authors in respect to what genre the book is. I mean, I’m not naive to know that most romance novels are written by women, but to me it’s all about the story. If its a good story, that’s all that matters to me and I’ll continue to pick up books by that author. Great post! Love all those awesome heroines you mentioned, by the way. Ripely is one of my all time favorite characters!
I go with the story too, L.J. If it’s well told, I’ll keep coming back to that author for more. I’d be really curious to check out a romance novel written by a man. I may just have to look into that, since it appears there are a few out there.
Thanks for checking out Sara’s post and commenting!
Nicholas Sparks is a fave of mine (of course ;))
Duh! *smacks palm to forehead* I can’t believe I didn’t think of him!
I agree with you, L.J. I’m much more interested in the story/writing than who wrote it. Great post today, Sara!
Congrats on Soul Screams, Sara. The cover is terrifying and beautiful.
Thanks for checking it out, Emma!