Hey folks, B-Sol here with what I guess is an explanation of sorts, and one which I feel is important and necessary. Earlier today, The Vault of Horror's Ms. Horror Blogosphere competition was the subject of a very angry post by Heidi Martinuzzi of Pretty-Scary.net, which is basically the epicenter of the female online horror world. I was taken aback and saddened a bit by this, and thus the need to explain myself.
Firstly and most importantly, I wish to humbly offer my sincerest apologies to anyone who has taken offense at the contest or found it to be demeaning toward the contestants. Particularly the actual contestants, but also to readers in general, whether male or female--and also to those who declined participation, such as Bloofer Lady of the excellent blog Horror Crypt, a great writer who bowed out over some very valid concerns regarding this very issue.
In her post, "New Annoying and Unnecessary Women's Contest", Heidi described the competition as "a truly nauseating attempt at attention grabbing and women-judging." She goes on to write, among other things, that "despite being a contest amongst bloggers, who are writers and journalists, each entry requires a photo of the lady and a bio. Which begs the question - why aren't they just being judged on the quality of their blog and writing? Answer: because it is never too late to judge women based on their looks."
Again, I'm saddened that my idea could be construed in this way by anyone, and it's upsetting to think that this was the unwitting result on my part. This was the farthest from my intention--rather, my intention was to break up the boy's club that online horror writing can very often be, and to bring some attention to a very talented group women bloggers and the sites they run. Simply put, I was trying to give props to these women, not tear them down, and it's unfortunate that it would instead be taken in such a way. For this, once again, I apologize.
The bottom line is, that when it comes to online horror journalism from a female perspective, Pretty-Scary is basically the gold standard. And so to be judged so harshly from a source I so greatly respect, is quite a blow, I won't lie. To be honest, I very much considered inviting Heidi herself to participate in the competition, but decided against it since her site is on a completely different level, and quite beyond the concept of a "horror blogosphere" in my opinion. Heidi and Pretty-Scary, quite simply, are much bigger than my little contest.
I have tremendous admiration for Heidi and Pretty-Scary. Thus it's confusing to read, for example, on her Facebook page, when mentioning my contest: "While I hate promoting things I hate, I like to promote 'hate'"--when my own intention was never to promote any kind of hate at all, but rather to give attention and credit to talented female bloggers.
I feel the need to address some specific concerns here. Firstly, it seems that much has been made of some of the questions I chose to include in the interviews, specificially the "Bang, Marry, Kill" question and the "Whose baby would you most want to have" question. These kinds of questions were included to add a little levity, and prevent things from being taken a little too seriously. After all, the spirit of the competition is fun, first and foremost, and I wanted to lighten things up so as to avoid the whole thing getting too pretentious or heavy. After all, this is a blogger competition; we are not selecting a new Pope here.
Further, very similar counterpart questions would certainly have been included by me should the contest have been among male bloggers. In fact, I should point out that the winner of the contest has the option of hosting a Mr. Horror Blogosphere competition, and should she choose to do so, I encourage her to include those very questions.
Again, I apologize if such questions were construed as sexist. I was a bit worried at first that some might think this, and I fully respect that opinion. My intention was only light-hearted fun to take the piss out of the proceedings a bit, but I fully concede I may have been a bit naive in this regard.
Now let's talk about the whole "picture" issue. Yes, I asked participants to submit pictures of themselves to go with their interviews. Let me explain why. In putting this contest together, part of what I was trying to accomplish was to get each of these writers across as personalities, as people--quite literally, to put a face to the words. I did not ask the contestants to sex it up, or anything like that. All I did was ask for pictures they were comfortable using, and that's what I was sent. My intention was never to objectify these woman, and quite frankly it does them all a disservice to suggest that simply by their posting pictures of themselves with their entries, it suddenly becomes some kind of meat market.
More to this point, Heidi specifically calls out one of the contestants, Aleata Illusion, for suggesting that sexuality and aesthetics may possibly play a role in the perception of female bloggers more than male: "Aleata," she writes, "if you want anyone to take you seriously as a writer, it is a bad thing. If you want to be an Internet blog celebrity, which many people do, go right ahead. This will make it easier to separate the women from the girls when we get all that sorted out." The validity of Aleata's statement aside, I can't help but feel that there is more demeaning going on in this comment than anything going on in the actual contest. Again, I only wanted to build these writers up, not tear them down.
Does sexuality play a part here? Are aesthetics involved to one degree or another in the proceedings? I'd be a patronizing liar if I said no. Of course they are, to a certain degree. Although the contest is about the women as bloggers first and foremost, yes, some voters may be motivated partly by appearance, and yes, some participants, to varying degrees, took advantage of their feminine sexuality to help add to their advantage.
But isn't sexuality part of who are as human beings? And if women--or men--choose to play a bit with it, to have some fun with it, isn't that their prerogative? Especially within this crazy genre we all love so much, in which sexuality plays such an undeniable role (hence the double meaning of the name "Pretty-Scary" itself)? But alas, these are questions that feminism itself has been struggling with for generations, and I have no illusions of being able to settle them here.
While my apology is sincere for those who have taken offense, I do not find the Ms. Horror Blogosphere competition to be sexist or demeaning. Nor do I find Pretty-Scary.net's Scary Stud of the Year competition to be sexist or demeaning. It's all in good fun, and helps bring attention to some talented individuals in the field.
The Scary Studs concept spotlights a different man in horror every month or so. At the end of the year, one of the men is selected as the "Scary Stud of the Year". The participants come from all areas of horror, and although mainly focusing on those directly involved in the movie business, there are occasionally others like Shock Till You Drop writer Ryan "Rotten" Turek, the October 2008 Scary Stud.
Turek's entry comes with photos, including this one, accompanied by the caption, "It's all the heavy axe-wielding that gives his shoulders their excellent tone and musculature."
Of Ryan, Heidi writes, "He’s super sexy and knows a bunch of stuff about horror films... Ryan proves that with a 'can do' attitude, any horror reporter can make the women swoon!... Whether he’s hosting a panel at a Fangoria Convention... or hanging out at local Los Angeles hot spots... he does it being Tall, Dark, and Handsome. Check out our awesome new Mr. October: Ryan Rotten Turek, who graces our site with his awesomely studly and genuinely enjoyable presence."
Ryan is asked questions like, "What is your sexiest quality? Describe in detail..."; "What's your workout routine? I.E. How did you get such nice arms?"; "People often speculate on your hair care activities. How long does it take you to do your hair, and in detail, can you describe for us what you do and any product you may use?"; "Say something totally nondescript and diplomatic about other major horror websites... with an underlying tension about how you really think your site is better than everyone else’s"; "When female horror fans see you, would you say there is more of a 'weeping' effect, or a 'screaming' effect because of how much they love you?" and "What's the sexiest thing a woman has ever done for you?" At the conclusion, she encourages readers to "Give Ryan some sugar, baby" at Shock Till You Drop, or his MySpace page.
Again, it's all in good fun, and it helps give some exposure to a talented online horror writer. I do not take offense at this or any of the other entries for Scary Stud of the Year. I can only hope that the Mr. Horror Blogosphere competition, should it take place, will be anywhere near as cool.
In closing, I'd like to hear what you fine folks think of all this. Was this whole thing a colossal misstep on the part of ol' B-Sol? Are you getting a kick out of discovering a bunch of great horror blogs, or getting sickened to your stomach? I sincerely hope it's the former, as that was all it was intended to accomplish. Making it a contest only adds to the interest and draws even more potential readers to these sites, which was the idea all along. I hope it continues to happen, and again apologize for any offense caused.
"QUITE SIMPLY, THE BEST HORROR-THEMED BLOG ON THE NET." -- Joe Maddrey, Nightmares in Red White & Blue
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