I Am A Woman by MF Wahl

I am a woman.

Wait. Sorry, did that sound like a confession? Let me try again.

Woman. Chick. Dame. Lady.  Ms. Say what you will, I have two X chromosomes. So why should it matter (beyond say… procreation)? Maybe it does for fairly separating Olympic athletes, but in fiction writing it should mean just about squat. You would think in this day-and-age it wouldn’t be an issue, at least not in North America, but you would be wrong. It seems that the double X can be the kiss of death for many writers.

Usually around this time of month something very special happens. No, not that you sexist (just kidding, that was obviously a setup). Usually I interview a Woman in Horror. It’s a little blog series I do to highlight the great and often overlooked female talent that write horror fiction. This month I decided to write up a personal post instead.

I have often struggled with allowing my female identity to be known to readers and reviewers. As a horror writer I have a self-published zombie novel, DISEASE, to promote I feared I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a woman. Many industries are male dominated, and the horror industry is one of the highlights. Traditionally, male writers tell tales about male characters to sell to male audiences. Although the landscape has been slowly changing over the years I don’t think anyone would be naïve enough to it’s not different for men and women. Like it or not unconscious sex bias, if not out right sexism, is prevalent in fiction, in horror, and even still in society.

If I give away nothing as to the identity of my gender 99% of people assume I’m male, and I like it that way. For a long time I refrained from any gender identifying words or statements in my blog posts, my social media, and my website. Even my public picture obscures the fact that I’m female in an attempt to level the playing field.

So why then am I writing this post? Recently I read an article about a woman trying desperately to be noticed by publishers. After the isolating sound of silence drove her to the edge she decided to submit her novel under a man’s name. Lo and behold, the silence was broken. You can read the article for yourself here. Having struggled with the double X problem my entire writing career I could truly feel for her. Then that old adage “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” rose to mind.

How can I lament the sex bias is my industry while doing little to nothing to speak out about it? Sure, long ago I eased up on being over-protective of my sexual identity, but I rarely offer up the information. I don’t plan on changing my picture any time soon, and it’s still easy to assume I’m male, so how can I stop adding to the problem? It’s a hard decision, to let on to something that could be a determent to your career – to know that in many cases I will be judged not on the quality of my work, but my genetics.

In my day-to-day life I’m passionate about women’s rights, and I think should be when it comes to my Internet life as well. From this point on I will remove my self-applied muzzle and speak out when it comes to sexism and sex bias in the industry. I will continue to support other Women in Horror and let it be known that I am She. 

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