In the horror community, the month of February is also known by another name: Women in Horror Month.
It’s a time to celebrate the women who have made a home for themselves in the horror genre. Directors, writers, actresses, editors, producers, characters, and all kinds of killer creators are given the bloody spotlight as a chance to appreciate their work in a field that is typically male-dominated.
Although horror is driven by phenomenal female roles – such as the iconic Final Girl – it’s commonly perceived as a male-oriented genre due to its violence and (often) overt sexuality. But the idea of “women in horror” is not a novelty concept. More and more, women are coming out on top as fervent fans of the horror genre.
So why do women love horror so much? How did a genre that is traditionally targeted towards a male audience find such a strong female following?
It’s pretty simple, actually. We just get it.
Horror explores the worst-case scenario: the broken-down car in the middle of nowhere; the strange phone calls when you’re alone in the house; that guy you’re pretty sure is following you home; the sudden realization that you shouldn’t have put your trust in those strangers.
It’s a cathartic release that allows us to really identify with the heroes of the story. In horror, women can be made victims, but more often than not, they’re survivors too.
Women in horror are badass. They crush, kill, and destroy the villains at every turn, and in some cases they’re extraordinarily competent villains themselves. They show strength and power in a time when we – as women – don’t often feel strong or powerful.
Also, let’s be honest, horror is basically the only genre in which female characters have real depth. Rom-coms are pandering fluff; action films are pumped full of macho flexing and women basically serve as a sex object or a prize to be won; and science fiction regularly boxes women out of lead roles, or women are put on an unreasonable pedestal.
In horror, women are real people with flaws, strengths, and character development that doesn’t revolve around ‘getting that relationship to work’.
We can see ourselves in these characters. We can connect with the brutal coming-of-rage tales of Raw, Carrie, and Ginger Snaps. We can relate to the turbulent friendships of Jennifer’s Body, The Descent, and The Craft; the anxieties of motherhood as shown through Rosemary’s Baby, Inside, and The Babadook; and the social pressures seen in Cam, American Mary, and M.F.A.
Horror has always had a place for women, and we’ve always had a soft spot for horror. Going back to photographer Diane Arbus, women have always had a fascination with the strange and unusual. We, ourselves, are strange and unusual.
In short, horror is relatable. We can understand the trauma, the terror, the heart-tearing emotion. We see ourselves in these Final Girls, just as we were meant to.
And still, it’s more than that. Women love the thrills, the chills, and especially the kills. They’re cathartic and exciting. They push the norms of what is “ladylike” and decent. And we love that.
So as I sit here, writing this, in my Texas Chain Saw Massacre t-shirt, I’m reminded of the real reason that women love horror: because dammit, we’re people, too. And we’re allowed to be into this spooky madness just as much as anyone else.