While trying to figure out what to write in honor of Women In Horror Recognition Month, I decided to browse through Google Books to see what had been previously written on the subject. I was initially pleased to find numerous books on the subject, but my enthusiasm faded as it became apparent that the actual amount of books with worthwhile previews was quite low:
Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing by Isabel Cristina Pinedo
Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film by Carol J. Clover
Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Overviews by Robin Anne Reid
However, I feel that the most fascinating writing on the matter is Brigid Cherry’s “Screaming for Release: Femininity and Horror Film Fandom in Britain,” as collected in British Horror Cinema by Steve Chibnall and Julian Petley. Although the free preview isn’t complete, it’s still a very interesting and in depth look at the actual horror fans rather than how women are portrayed in the genre. Although it focuses on British horror fandom in the 90’s, much of what the article has to say also applies to US fandom as well. While some of the terms and magazines mentioned might be unfamiliar to American readers (I imagine only recognizable one would be The Dark Side, a magazine best known in the States for the infamous allegations of plagiarism surrounding the publication), the majority of the article’s content should still hold true. The popularity of vampires certainly does!
That said, there have been changes since then, the most obvious one being how the term “nerd” is now being embraced by women rather than being a label they want to avoid out of fear of being treated poorly by others. Not attending conventions due to the view of them only being for male fans is also a thing of the past. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where there are people who argue that they aren’t “real nerds” Sadly, I’m not kidding.
Getting back on topic, “Screaming for Release: Femininity and Horror Film Fandom in Britain” contains so many fascinating details that it’s hard not to link to each individual page of the article and comment on what it reveals. Although female fans’ distaste for sex scenes and gore might not surprise anyone reading this, their feelings regarding trivia (or at least, a perception of an obsession with it) came completely out of the blue to me. There is truth in what they say, as I’ve seen cases where male fans of a particular genre reach an “Alpha Male” status for knowing the most trivia and behind-the-scenes details. Though I have to wonder about the complaints about magazines focusing on trivia means that horror magazines are reflecting this or if it’s merely being used as filler to pad out articles. On the other hand, some female fans seem to enjoy the aspects of horror fandom rejected by others. The article’s information about which aspects of horror fandom are appealing to women is extremely informative. Said informative can be of great use for those whose websites/blogs/magazines/etc. seeking to appeal to a wider audience and for helping both genders understand each others’ approach to horror.
I hope this has been enough to convince you to read the portion of the article that’s freely available online (if not seek out the full version at your local bookstore or library). I also hope Brigid Cherry sees fit to revisit the subject at some point in the future.