Tuesday, February 1, 2011

DOES HORROR INK MAKE THE FEMALE HORROR FAN?

May it be the tiara, the flaming batons, or the frilly dresses, but I have quite the difficult time convincing people of my horror obsession without flashing a Day of the Woman business card.  I've gone to my fair share of conventions, film festivals, and horror outings where people look at me as if I'm some sort of leper lost on my way home.  I can't help it, I don't look like a "horror fan".  When you say the words "female horror fan", what image immediately is painted in the mind?  Most likely, something that resembles the woman here to my left.  This is Aleata Illusion.  She's a blogger, model, and filmmaker.  She's also highly pierced, highly inked, and topped with some non-traditional colored tresses.  If you were to pair the two of us together, how quick would the common man be to assume that Aleata would be the horror fanatic over myself?  I'm not writing this to be a bash on tattoos or piercings in any way, but more so to address an issue that has been irking me for quite some time.  Why is it that when it comes to women earning their "horror street cred", we have to be sexy, psuedo-goths, and tattooed?

Now, I personally find tattoos and other forms of body modification to be beautiful (when done properly).  I only rock eight holes in my ears, one in my nose, and my skin is as pure as snow.  This isn't to say that I'm any less of a horror fanatic just because I haven't displayed my fandom on my skin.

To the right is the image of a woman a little more recognizeable.  This, my friends, is Jovanka Vuckovic.  Jovanka is a writer, film maker, horror personality, and oh yeah...the former EDITOR IN CHEIF of Rue-Morgue magazine.  When it comes down to it, she is arguably THE woman in horror.  You'd think that with so many incredible credentials to back her up, the world would concentrate solely on her body of work and less on her 'body'.  Unfortunately, this isn't the case.  When discussing how women are viewed with the Women In Horror Recognition Month founder herself, Hannah Neurotica, she made a mention of an instance where a woman (no less) did an introduction of the two of them and spent a majority of the time discussing Jovanka's appearance.  My question is this, WHY?  Why the hell does it matter what a woman looks like, especially in the horror genre?  Where is this unwritten rule that in order to express yourself as a horror fanatic, you have to be decked out in tattoos?  Hannah is quoted as saying " You know-- its really sad that they try to label us by how we look and based on how we look as women, assumptions are made about the type of person we are. Our level of intelligence, our interests, etc. are all based on our appearance".  The sad fact is that Hannah is absolutely 100% correct.  We as women are constantly judged by our appearance, and assumptions are made solely on our outward appearance.

This is where I slip into storytime mode, so feel free to sit pretzel style and gaze at your computer screen like a toddler. Not too long ago, I went to a little unnamed horror convention.  The second I walked into the door, it felt like I was a gazelle wandering the watering hole being sized up by the lions.  There was a heavily flocked booth ran by some of the most beautiful women I'd ever seen up close.  They were all tall, thin, inked, pierced, and rocking some of he most insane hair I'd ever seen. There were TONS of men surrounding the booth glammering with questions.  I finally peeked my way in and asked them a simple question of "What is Your Favorite Horror Movie?"  The girls looked at me blankly and after an awkward pause, replied with "SAW" "HOSTEL" and "UH...THE JASON MOVIES".  Directly to the left of these women was a booth of another set of women.  They were curvier, wearing more layers of clothing, and patiently awaiting anyone to come and talk to them.  I strolled over and before I opened my mouth a woman behind the booth squealed "NO WAY! You got a Ladies of the Evil Dead shirt from Fright-Rags?! I was gunning for one, but I didn't have the money".  From that moment on, the five wonderful women behind the table and I shared a conversation about horror and female geekery that must have lasted at least a half hour.

The message I'm trying to give from my story isn't that all horror inked women are bimbos or anything, but that we as people tend to judge immediately by appearance.  Here we had a group of hot, inked women garnering TONS of attention simply for their looks, while a group of intelligent women were completely ignored simply due to their appearance.  The picture above is one of my head shots that I use for acting purposes.  Now answer honestly, if I were to walk into a room...would you assume that I could out-wit you in a horror trivia competition?  If you answered "Yes", you're either cheating or a damn liar.  It's more frustrating than anything to think that it takes some physical modifications to prove your fandom.  Sports fanatics can wear a jersey, but horror women have to ink themselves?  What the hell?!  I decided to pose the question out to the twitterverse.  I asked simply "OPEN ENDED QUESTION: do you think tattooed women scream horror fan more than non tattooed women?" The replies I received were varying...

@ChadSavage: Only if they're also screaming "I'M A HORROR FAN!"

@Nixskits: Yes. But they're usually smarter, more fun, cooler & generally less judgemental than the ones who abhor horror in all forms!!!

@TheMike31: Depends on the tattoo. If they've got a Necronomicon in their cleave, yes.

@KreepyLady:Some wear their horror heart on their sleeve,others incorrect chinese symbols. Then there's the anomaly of a friend who loves horror but all her tats are of sea life! Doesn't support the scene much though.

I guess the moral of the story here is don't judge a book by its cover


19 comment(s):

Max the drunken severed head said...

It's true, of course, that horror tats are a visual cue that says "horror fan." And certainly lots of tats, piercings, and hair colors will scream "I'm not mainstream." (Nothing wrong with that.) Also nothing wrong with commenting (politely and positively) on body art that is on public display.

But I would assume that anyone attending a horror convention is into horror, regardless of their gender, age, or appearance.

Horace Torys said...

You're talking about how people outside the horror community view those within, right? I would assume most people reading this blog (horror fans) would know that bod mods have nothing to do with it, and that sometimes the most unassuming people are the freakiest when you get to know them. And that some of the "obviously" gothy/counterculture types are just searching or posing.

You mentioned this is Women In Horror Recognition Month, and I think the existence of something named that may be related to the limited/stereotyped recognition female horror fans get (and don't get).

I'm a white male, and I hope this doesn't get me in a lot of trouble, but I sometimes wonder if things like Women In Horror Recognition Month and Black History Month aren't counterproductive. Clearly, women and blacks are underrepresented in textbooks, halls of fame, etc. and that should be rectified. On the other hand, doesn't it kind of reinforce the stereotype to "defend" these groups with a recognition month? It reminds me of many people's reaction to the Special Olympics: "Wow, look what they can do even though they're disabled!"

We have Special Olympics because, in general, people with disabilities can't compete with fully-abled people. But women and blacks are not disabled, and should be recognized on a level playing field subject to the full forces of competition. I'm guessing recognition months are started to try to level that playing field, to overcome the prejudice that favors white males, but they only reinforce it, in my eyes. We tend to hold up the same handful of blacks or women in a field, and it seems to confirm the idea that people from this group will only be recognized if they are "helped," or that "they've done impressive work -- you know, for a woman."

These things, along with a few recent studies that suggest that women are underrepresented in some fields because they freely choose not to go in to them (http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/256816/gender-discrimination-science-myth-alex-b-berezow?page=1) make me wonder what we're actually accomplishing with a recognition month.

I understand I'm treading on thin ice here. I'm not a troll, and mean no offense to anyone. I would like to hear your, and your readers', opinions on the subject.

The Scream Queen said...

You read my mind writing this. I've been writing my blog for a while, but I've just started doing the convention thing. Not only do I look insanely plain amongst the tattooed and wild-haired female horror fans, but it's hard to sell myself as a serious horror writer/fan when I'm wearing Banana Republic jeans.

I love horror SO much, and consider myself pretty freakin' knowledgable about it. But I can type up blog posts until my fingers bleed and it still doesn't pay the bills. During the workday, I sit in a cubicle wearing a skirt suit, and pink hair and visible tattoos are generally frowned upon.

As for tattoos, I have several that aren't visible unless I wear a swimsuit. But horror tattoos? As much as I love Freddy, I don't want to look at him every morning in the mirror ;o) That doesn't make me any less of a fan than someone who does.

Tenebrous Kate said...

To be honest, I think the bigger issue here is that women *in general* are judged based upon their appearances, and that there's this (stupid) idea that women are somehow new to the idea of being fans of genre entertainment (science fiction, horror, comics--you name it!) and evoke hostility just by being present at horror events. It's frustrating to see that there's still the lingering ghost of that awful choice between pretty OR smart, whether your definition of "pretty" includes technicolor hair and body modifications or leans towards a fresh-faced, clean-cut aesthetic. The alt.girls at the booth were just there to have a good time, same as you & your newfound friends :)

Furthermore, fandom isn't a competition. I could answer exactly zero "Friday the 13th" questions (unless they related to Part IV or Part VIII, randomly enough)--you'd have me in a trivia headlock and I'd have to admit crushing defeat ;)

If anything, having more people of more genders/races/appearances/subcultural affiliations present at a horror con should be a liberating, wonderful thing! Under the skin, we're all enthusiasts, and I find that enthusiasm to be infectious, encouraging, and thoroughly awesome (even though I can be too painfully socially awkward to say as much at the time, unless I've had a bunch of beers and go into "I LOVE YOU GUYS" mode, which has been known to happen).

But yes, in reference to the original post: I think the only safe assumption about a woman with tattoos is that she likes tattoos ;)

Doug said...

Stay true to yourself and don't ink yourself up if you do not feel it is your thing. You don't need to prove your "horror cred" by wearing a tattoo. Sometimes that can be more of a poseur move than an authentic one. It's an easy way to tag yourself.

Plus you stand out and are not one of the sheep these days if you DON'T have a tattoo. Personally I am sick of seeing so many beautiful women destroy themselves with too much ink.

I sometimes wonder if all these inked up people will regret it later in life. There's gonna be a lot of weird looking old people walking around with ugly tattoos that have become ruined due to aging.

Monster Scholar said...

I have no tats or piercings and I think that challenges people's perceptions of me when I confess I am a horror fan.

I think that it's about stereotypes and how we expect people interested in certain things to look a certain way. My husband always tells me that I look far too adorable to be talking about exploitation horror and bloodsucking monsters.

At a conference I did a presentation of my paper on Hostel 2 and showed the audience the penisectomy. My fellow panel member, a male aussie, said that he was more shocked that I cussed (whilst repeating lines from the film) than the gore on the screen.

We all look for signifiers to determine how we categorize people. This makes it hard for women not sporting tats and a cherry red mohawk who feel like they won't be accepted on the basis of their passion for the genre, which is complete BS.

Female horror fans come in all shapes, sizes,and hair colors, so give a girl a break!

Living Dead Girl Nicole said...

When I read this entry and saw the first picture of that tattoo'd girl with the pink hair and what not.I honestly answered no. I didn't think she fit the typical horror movie fan look.I guess its because I don't believe there is a "look" to being a horror fan.

I myself am covered in tattoos. Some even horror or dark entertainment related. I have a whole sleeve of woman characters I have admired since I was younger (THe Bride of Frankenstein, Elvira, Morticia, Lily Munster, Lucy Westenra, Lydia Deetz etc)mixed with Halloween stuff.I didn't get the tattoos because I wanted to scream "look at me I like spooky things" but because I genuinely like spooky things. Usually when someone gets a tattoo and actually thinks about it they get something that they like or means something to them. And well the idiots that get them for the wrong reason to look a certain way or fit in well.. they will in life regret them down the road. For instance I knew a girl that dated a friend of mine.. she got tattoos on a whim all the time cause she thought it was cool. I get my tattoos because I am an artist. I love the art form of tattoos and being able to express the things I admire and love on my body like a canvass. I get them for me and not anyone else. We were at a con and someone stopped me to tell me that my sleeve was amazing. The girl with the "sticker collection" of tattoos was upset that no one said anything about hers. I told her "I didn't get tattoos to gain compliments or to fit in. I got them cause they express who I am."

I also don't see getting a horror movie related tattoo any different then wearing a horror movie shirt. Except for it being a permanent mark of expression. I get the same reaction to my tattoos that I do with a long sleeved horror movie hoodie on.

And like with every industry sex sells. If they can find someone they think customers will find hot or attractive to work at their cons they are going to hire them even if they dont know a licking thing about horror. That even includes the horror movies themselves. I have seen numerous interviews with hot female actresses that star in horror films but hate to watch them cause they "scare them" ha ha.

I myself looked up to Elvira over Barbie growing up. My Dad was a big fan and had a giant cardboard cut out of her in our house. I even dressed up like her for Halloween (kid friendly of course). Long before I had tattoos I was introduced to the horror industry. My Parents were never covered in tattoos, didnt have weird hair color or dress in horror movie memorabilia clothing but they were fans of scary movies. I am curvy, pale with dark hair (occasionally changes to weird colors)and now I have tattoos but that is who I am. I love being myself and expressing myself however I want to cause its my God given right and if people don't like it they can shove it ha ha. I don't think you or anyone should have to change themselves to be something they are not to admire something. You know your a big fan and that is what matters.

This is also why I admire the horror movie industry and the cons so much. Because the horror movie fans are not judgemental. You have someone like my Dad or your Grandpa standing next to someone with a mohawk and tattoos waiting in line to meet the same horror movie celeb they both admire. That is what is so great about this industry. It reminds me of the art industry as well. It's accepting of all types of people. It's the reason I think I love and relate to it so much. When I am at a con I feel like I am home. I can be myself without the criticism and I love that.

No matter where you go or what your into there will always be "fakes" trying to fit in, pretending they are something they are not. I have come across many people that are like that in my life time and well all you can really do is stay true to yourself! Because at the end of the day that is what really matters.

Aleata Illusion(GoreGoreDancer) said...

People shouldn't judge anyone by their appearance, but sadly they do. I hate the whole "pretty girls can't be smart" thing that seems to come up. I may model, but I also know more about horror than anyone I know. It all just depends on the person. Everything on my skin means something to me. Everyone expresses their love of horror in different ways. All the more power to them! *high five*

Sarah said...

I only wear earrings in one of my three ear piercings now, and have never been able to afford tattoos. I own only one or two horror t-shirts now because I'm kind of over ironic/band/etcetera t-shirts. I don't own much black clothing because I have a couple of cats. And most guys can apply eyeliner better than I can. So some people do get confused that I can talk at great length about horror, and one or two have commended me for not looking like a typical horror fan. I haven't crossed the line into going to conventions, so I don't know what the reaction there would be. I think there are more clean-cut looking horror fans than most people think there are.

So were the tattooed women at the con "booth babes" just hired to shill something for a company that day? It was sort of unclear from your post.

Michael Williams said...

Interesting article. I have a confession to make: I started reading your blog because you are a female and I feel that women are hideously under represented when it comes to horror (I continue to read your blog because I enjoy it and believe there is something I can learn from it.).

I have five tattoos and went through a piercing stage (topping out at 13). I don't think there is a right or wrong reason to choose to get a tattoo. For me, most of my tattoos represent personal milestones and contain symbolic imagery (to me). I got the one on my leg because I saw a picture of it in a magazine.

One of the things I never hear people talk about regarding tattoos is they create a lot of attention to the bearer. I love to talk about my tattoos to anyone that wants to listen.

I think that attention might have been a part of why the first group of women you described came to the convention; we know there are plenty of people out there who dress or behave in order to attract attention to themselves. Those women's answers to your questions show a fairly superficial interest in the genre.

For men, there is a sexuality attached to women with tattoos (my girlfriends never paid as much as I did for their tattoos and I always thought that was pretty sleazy) and what not. Our reptile brain wants to either mate with them or flee them.

That said, even thought I find those girls intriguing because they are more exotic looking, given the choice of where to sit in a crowded, middle school cafeteria, I would probably gravitate towards your table because I would hope there was more common ground.

I am taking a long time to get to the point; I agree with your final statement, judging a book by its cover is being just a superficial as the "fans" who find itr easy to dress the part without making an effort to understand what the part is.

M

http://wiwln.blogspot.com/

Lianne Spiderbaby said...

I don't have any tattoos or piercings... I used to look edge-ier back in the day (a marilyn, and a chelsea cut look), but I wanted to be different and stand out in the horror world, and I've achieved this by just being myself in the sense of looking more... "normal" I suppose. I successfully started writing for Fangoria magazine, writing my first book on exploitation actresses, and writing my first horror screenplay without having a tattooed-goth look...

xox
Lianne Spiderbaby
p.s. I love your blog, keep up the great work, I'm a huge fan!

Anonymous said...

I wish someone could explain why being recognized as a "horror fan" (male or female) is important. Why all the concern? Be yourself. If you like a certain thing, like it.
What does a basketball fan look like?
How can you tell someone who likes to cook?
What's the best way to spot an avid reader on the street?
What does it matter?
You've clearly found your spot on the internet (a place where you can express your passion/views/interests) so who cares what people who don't know you think?
Do you. Screw everyone else.

Pax Romano said...

First off, I love this post - wonderful food for thought!

As for tattoos: Strangely enough, they've become so ubiquitous (on men and women) these days, that I usually don't make any assumptions about the inked party in question.

In my eyes, what screams "Horror Fan" is the love and obsession one has for the genre, not the superficial trappings. That of course, is my opinion, your mileage may vary.

Dai Green said...

Ehh, don't let them get you down, doll.
I have six tattoos (which are strategically placed where I can cover them at any time) and a couple of piercings, but I also dress like I am more likely to walk into a accountants office rather a horror event, most times.
I actually had another female in the horror industry say she "couldn't take me seriously" and that I must be a poser because of it. She had wildly colored hair, facial piercings of all sorts, and her entire outfit cam from Hot Topic and since I didn't resemble that line of thinking, I was not OK in her book.
All I can do is laugh about things like that as should you.
I dress like an accountant, but I also dress like a club goer, a slut, and sometimes I dress like A MOM! Depends on the mood and the occasion.
Doesn't mean anything, doll.
Don't worry about it in the least.
<3

deadthyme said...

I don't think this is just something women are hit with. Of course more people are going to flock to people who are dressed more interestingly/ garishly/ etc.- if you look like someone I see every day in the grocery store, then you don't stick out much. People are drawn to the showy and dramatic, esp when they go to a convention or something. But it's not just females that this happens to- at TFW last year there was a normal looking middle aged man who just happened to be a long standing horror author I had been reading (and liking) since I was 15 years old. No one was even glancing at his table because he didn't look like a biker or have tattoos, long hair, some sort of outlandish outfit or piercings. I walked by him 3 times before I noticed his books on the table. That's just human nature (I think it's actually animal nature as well- birds always lure mates and such in with colorful feathers and actions). It's not necessarily right, but I can assure you that even tho the ones that stick out the most might draw in the most attention at first, the most interesting ones (not talking about looks here) are the ones who keep the attention long term. Or at least they'll keep the attention of people who are worth talking to. Who cares about the rest?

Christine Hadden said...

This really is a great post!

As for me, I have no tats and no piercings save two in my ears, and I guess that makes me in the minority as well. But so be it.

I get the same confused looks when I ride with my hubby on his Harley. Apparently people expect me to be covered in tattoos because I'm on a bike!? Whatever. My husband has several tats, and got them well before his Harley, but people assume he got them BECAUSE of his bike, like it's a given.

I don't conform to stereotypes because at the end of the day, I always do what I want and if people can't take me seriously because I don't have Michael Myers across my chest then that's their issue, not mine.
But I bet I know a whole lot more about Michael than they do.

I certainly agree with you that people shouldn't judge a (horror) book by it's cover. I suppose it's inevitable, so we'll just keep doing what we do and proving everyone's first impressions wrong ;o)

Dr. Gangrene said...

Well I think the common person out there would assume a man rocking horror tats and multi-colored hair would be a horror fan before a conservative looking guy, too. I recently told a girl I met that I was in a punk band, and she said, "What? You?" Guess I didn't meet her expectations of a punk rocker.

I could post pics of Rob Zombie and myself on my blog, side by side, and people would assume Rob is a horror fan before me.

Whatever. Assumptions are always made, rightly or wrongly. As for the skimpy dressed girls garnering attention, that is just society. Wanna get a pack of slathering fan boys to your table - get skimpily dressed women nearby. Works every time. Means nothing though. You know you rock and your blog of speaks for itself!

Elliot Ibáñez said...

I do not look like the stereotype of an horror fan either. I enjoy horror films but not much things related: for example don't enjoy the music associated with horror. I think some people try to hard to have a personality of their own but at some point it built around the archetype. Besides, isn't those wild tattooed, pierced and multicolor haired horror fans the ones cheering K Stew and the Twatlight gang in the Scream Awards?

Kriscinda said...

We when look at it from this perspective, it's easy to go back and forth and yadda, yadda, yadda, but if we simply ask the question: Does anyone doubt a man is a horror fan if he doesn't have horror tattoos? The answer to our question is easier. A lot of men either don't have tattoos, or have something other than horror, and no one doubts they might love horror. Tattoos, horror or not, are an entry in a long list of Physical Attributes Women Must have in Order to Be Accepted in Horror. And the more intimate the tattoos are, the better they're "accepted."

Also, at the top of the comments: Way to compare women and minorities to the Special Olympics. You really did that? If you thought five more minutes, you might understand that the mentally disabled aren't *able* to compete, whereas women and minorities *are* but they are *deliberately* undervalued and oppressed. This is why we have to set aside a month to be able to get a little positive feedback and encouragement, because we don't get a whiff of it the rest of the year. It's not counter-productive. It's the reason we still have all-women colleges--it's so societal pressures don't crush us while we learn. Women in Horror Month is to help us remember that we *are* good enough, smart enough, and talented enough, and many times, more so than the garbage that's being produced by men. It's very easy to forget that when you never see anything about women in horror. As far as I'm concerned, I celebrate this month not because I expect men to change, but because women need the support to fight against that refusal and sometimes inability for men to change.

Seriously, try to think before posting.

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