woensdag 18 februari 2015

A message from a hag.

*deep breath*

I was almost fooled into thinking that this year would be a peaceful Women in Horror Month… but hurray… of course someone had to ‘shake things up a little.’

By now anyone who has anything to do with the Indie / Small Press / Self Published writing world must have heard about ‘Haggate’ or ‘Hagapalooza’. For those of you who don’t, here’s an update in a nutshell. An author (I shan’t name them, that’s not my place) got very upset with the horror community and he pointed out that all female horror writers look like hags.

This is the actual quote (though a lot more was said): “They do library readings, sign their novels on people’s lawns, pose for pictures as ghouls and monsters (the women are especially guilty of this; most of them look like hags anyway), and self-publish their work.”

My first reaction was to give myself a painful facepalm, mumble something about stupidity, and sigh,… but now, in hindsight… I actually want to thank the author who said this. Why? Because his dumb remark was a spark that ignited the flame. What he said created drama… but also awareness.

Let’s be honest, it’s nice that we get interviewed for Women of Horror month, but without the ‘drama’ it’s just that. People dutifully share the interviews, and the occasional person will point out it’s Women in Horror month. This doesn’t always create a lot of awareness, and not a lot of people really care.
There are a few people who always get their ‘knickers in a twist’ over the Women in Horror Month, and they’re quite verbal about it. For some reason women getting attention, when men don’t, doesn’t sit well with these individuals, and they can get very rude and very mean about it.

To those of you who are so jealous that we have this month… don’t be. It does NOTHING for sales (at least, not from my experience, February tends to be a crappy month in sales for me), and so far most of us just have to deal with a  lot of surly misogynists, who are suddenly reminded that women actually exist in the horror genre, and they hate us so much that they will go out of their way to be hateful.

Being called a hag was actually one of the kinder experiences I’ve had. It was less patronizing than last year, when I was accused of using my sexuality to sell books. God forbid we’d actually just have talent, right?

So, what the author of that little ‘hag’ statement did, is point out something that’s very wrong in the world, something that proves that we NEED a women in horror month… We’re still being judged on
our appearance, and not our talent.

Now, I didn’t even take the comment as particularly misogynistic. It wasn’t exactly ladies friendly, but the man was so angry at everyone, that he made derogatory remarks about more than just women. But it was remarkable that he pointed out our looks.

What do my looks have to do with my writing? Unless I decide that I want to take up body painting and put my words on my naked flesh… nothing. It doesn’t matter how I look. How I dress is irrelevant. All that should matter is ‘my work’. Why are women always expected to ‘look good’?

Someone made a funny remark about Stephen King selling books with his looks. I laughed, but at the same time I felt sad too. It doesn’t matter for men how they look, but women are expected to be attractive. And we feel that pressure (at least, most of us do).

And to be really honest… it kind of sucks being called a ‘hag’. Sure, I laugh about it, because what else can you do? If someone is being mean, the best remedy is to ignore it or mock it. At the same time it did hurt a little. The way he said, this stranger, was demeaning, and the message it sends to women is that they’re of less worth.

Which, incidentally, brings me back to the point of the women in horror month. Times are changing, and I’m glad of it, but we still struggle with too many stereotypes. Too many people (I don’t want to single out men here) still treat us as if we’re not a integral part of the ‘horror writing game’, as if we’re ‘different’ somehow, and what we do isn’t as ‘valid’. It’s a man’s world, and we’re just guests in it.
I keep reading in comments that ‘women write a certain way’.

Ehm… okay? What way is that?

Last year, my good friend Malina Roos decided to challenge the people who claimed women wrote differently than men, and she put up excerpts of writing without names. It was impossible to see which was written by a man, and which was written by a woman.

Not one of the people who said they wouldn’t read anything by a female author accepted the challenge… though apparently some of them did send Malina some nasty messages and threats.

How dare a woman step out of her place, right? No wonder they got upset.

So back to why I’m thanking the author who called us hags. His statement caused outrage, and it was like a band-aid being torn off. It exposed the festering wound underneath. Sometimes these wounds heal best when they’re out in the open. Misogyny is the same way, it can only be battled if we all see it.

He started Hagapalooza, and he created a wave. We joke about it, put pictures of hags up on our profiles, and some of us (me) even wrote ourselves a haggy bio.
Are we using this incident to get attention?

Sure we are, we’re writers, we need to be seen.

But it’s more than that, we’re using it to say “Here we are. You can’t get around us, and we won’t stand for disrespect any longer.”

This is actually my drawing that I made for my story 'The Bone Witch'
That’s what the women in horror month should be about, so thank you for reminding us of that, surly author. Thank you for making us band together. Thank you for showing us the men who stick up for us, who respect us for who we are. Not just as women… but as people. Because we may be different in many ways, when it comes to writing horror… we’re exactly the same. We all want to scare our readers, we all love the genre, we all want to make good books, and we all want to sell them. What we wear, where we come from or how we look is irrelevant. It’s about what’s in the pages.
But in the meanwhile… we might as well laugh at Haggate.

I am hag… hear me cackle.