5 February 2013

A few thoughts on HOLLYWOOD SKIN, WiHM, feminism and horror movies

First off, HAPPY WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH everyone!

As I’m slowly settling back into my old routine (and waiting for hours of footage to be transcoded so I can start editing Dys-), I’m taking some time to reflect on the past few years and how they’ve had an influence on who I am as a person and what I do. 

When I first thought of the idea for what would become the Bloody Breasts documentary webseries, I didn’t see myself as being political or feminist; I was simply making the films I wanted to make. However, I was fascinated by the work of women horror filmmakers and I did want to fight for equality and for women to have more recognition, especially in the film industry. Yet, this negative, “anti-women and demeaning” stigma seemed to be the only thing people would focus on when talking about the horror genre – case in point, a classmate once told me that I was the embodiment of everything was wrong with women today because I was making horror movies. This is in part why I began my project: I really wanted to show how empowering horror could be for women filmmakers and how the horror genre was a valid medium to tackle important issues. And of course I also wanted to help straighten up misconceptions about gender and horror so that no other woman would be told she was “wrong” (by other feminists’ standards) for doing something that is (in)directly helping empower other women. 

See, there are different kinds and degrees of feminism that are as varied and unique as there are feminists. For some, the basic idea of gender equality is the essence of feminism; for others, someone needs to have a clear political agenda and dabble in activism in order to call herself a feminist. This is really a question of perception and I’m not there to say who’s right and who’s wrong; I wrote an entire thesis on the topic and I know it’s easy to get lost in these muddy waters. What I feel is important in the end is the result: are women empowered and/or is it helping women in general. If one of the answers is yes, I think this is pretty fucking awesome.  

I, myself, involuntarily made a feminist horror film. I say ‘involuntarily’ because I was not consciously trying to make a feminist film (according to the aforementioned description); I simply wanted to tackle a topic that was important for me as a woman. Now, if we fast forward three years after its first screening – Hollywood Skin premiered during the first ever Women in Horror Month – it has played in over 20 festivals around the world. Even if I sometimes wish people would give the same kind of attention to my most recent projects, I’m still extremely proud of this project because I know it has helped women. You have no idea how many women (and men!) came up to talk to me after screenings, thanking me for making the film and telling how touched they were by it. Not only did I feel empowered making the film, the film itself also helped other women in general and that, for me, is the best reason to be making movies. It’s one thing to make; it’s another to make art that resonates with people.

Of course, I could not have reached that big of an audience if it wasn’t for the first Womenin Horror Recognition Month which was created in 2010 to help promote women working in the horror industry and to shed some light on the idea of feminism being closely linked to horror. (After all, which other genre allows you to tackle virtually any theme you want in a way that will reach audiences and trigger a visceral reaction?) Not only did it help promote the film in parts of the world I would have never dreamed of, it also helped me feel like I was part of a community that welcomed me with open arms.  

Is the Women in Horror Recognition Month important? Abso-fucking-lutely! Why? Because it helps women around the globe, whether they’re filmmakers, writers, visual artists, etc, get their work out there and, most importantly, it helps inspire other women to pick up a camera/pen/whatever and to start creating/expressing their ideas. And it’s not just about women, it’s about gender equality. It’s about telling the guys “hey, we exist and we want to work with you”, NOT we want to push you aside. If one day we don’t need to have a WiHM anymore, great, that will be an awesome world to live in. But, that is not yet the case, so let’s keep supporting one another and inspire more women to take an active role in the industry. 

This is the 4th year in a row that there is a WiHM and it is no coincidence that it is picking up steam every year with more events and more discovered filmmakers; it’s confirming that it is achieving its goal and filling a void. Long live WiHM! 

P.S.: Of course, even more wonderful things can be said about the Viscera Organization/Viscera Film Festival, which also is the genesis of the women in horror movement (and the reason I came up with the idea for my thesis). But, since it's February, I wanted to give some love to WiHM, which now operates as part of the Viscera org. It's all part of the same big, happy family anyway!

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