Updated: Feb 23
Are we creating a culture of fear, rather than inclusion, for female film-makers?
February was #WomeninHorror Month which is intended to be a celebration of female filmmakers who are leading the way in the horror community. Rather than lists of great films or interviews with directors, the only article I encountered was by Nicola Skinner for the Independent. It seems the sole focus of the article is the hate and harassment faced by women in the film industry.
As a newcomer in this industry - and as a survivor of rape and sexual abuse - this article filled me with anxiety. Would breaking into this industry open me up to more hate and abuse? Would I be stalked into silence? It lead me to question what was the real message behind the article - and countless others like it.
Focusing on the abuse women in film receive in a month that is meant to celebrate their achievements is delivering the wrong message.
I am not saying that the horrific experiences of the directors mentioned in Skinner's article are to be diminished in anyway. Just like we should never play down a woman's experience of rape or harassment. I imagine that Skinner herself is horrified that women in film face threats for merely showing up and doing their job.
But this article, and others like it, seem to focus on the abuse received rather than the women themselves. It creates a victim - a statistic - out of women whose overwhelming contribution to horror is ignored by the author.
Why are showing trolls how to scare us into silence?
I have found that focusing on the negative perpetuates a culture of fear. Rather than celebrating these directors achievements, focusing on the abuse has the effect of frightening other women who would otherwise be inspired to follow in their footsteps. For me, it is the career equivalent of focusing on what a woman was wearing when she was attacked rather than placing blame where it belongs - at the feet of the men abusing them. Providing details of the rape threats received by one director and how she is now silent is giving a green light for others to do the same.
The message to women in film is loud and clear. Keep your head down. Just like in everyday life.
I am sure every horror loving girly would say a collective f**k you should that be said to our faces. But that is the message - put yourself out there and you will get abuse. So be good. Stay in Lane. Just like everyday life. Don't get drunk. Don't wear revealing clothes. You might get raped.
How about we protect women everywhere - whether in the film industry or not - and hold abusers accountable? Not by drawing attention to them in an article meant to celebrate women - but by pressing charges and shaming them. #CallThemOut
Fortunately, my own experience as a newcomer has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. The women who have blazed a trail before me are only too happy to give me advice and support so I can do the same. The men working within the genre have encouraged me to use my voice. It was a man who suggested I explore directing, rather than simply writing.
For every hater, there are a number of people wanting more women to break into the genre. We owe it to our audiences to show up and fearlessly follow our dreams.
So in celebration of #WomeninHorrorMonth - this month and every month - give me your recommendations.
What horror films have been directed by women that you absolutely love?