These five films are horror movies that have helped me become a better feminist. Listed in the order of which I saw them, these films showed me that femininity and purity are not the only things women have to offer the horror genre and society in general.
Following a string of grizzly murders, this movie opened my eyes to the way horror films could be, and how women could be in them. With the main character Sidney Prescott’s self-awareness and acknowledgement of the less than flattering depiction of women in horror, I saw hope. Women could be realistic; they could keep their clothes on and still offer a great deal to the movie, and to the world of horror. Suddenly my favorite genre showed me a capable female who could survive betrayal, loss and numerous attempts on her life.
Sydney taught me that women could be just as resilient as men whilst laughing in the face of death. Not a virgin but still a survivor, this film gave me hope for the future of the whole genre and the depiction of the women within.
Following the first movie Alien, this film features Sigourney Weaver's Ripley still coping with the loss of her crew and dealing with a group of marines who have to face off against the infamous Xenomorphs.
The movie depicts maternal instinct at its best. It opened my eyes to the strength of women; the grit and determination it takes to overcome situations even when the odds are stacked against us.
As with the previous film, Ripley depicts great resilience whilst remaining clothed, dedicated and in touch with her humanity. This film gave me Ellen Ripley as an idol, an example of a strong woman who helped me through day to day life. Sure I never had to fight off aliens, but we all have our struggles and Ellen showed me it was not only possible but just part of being a woman.
I saw this movie after seeing Scream and was painfully aware of the sexism rampant in this movie.
The female lead Laurie is clever and virginal, but it is her misbehaving, drug taking, promiscuous friends who die, offering a familiar biblical message; the sinful are punished and the pure survive.
Although this is a great movie the facts are there and this is a problem not only in the horror industry but in society. This film highlighted the common mindset that a woman’s behavior entitles her to be punished. for example, a scantily dressed woman deserves harassment. A golden oldie of the genre for sure, this film is enjoyable if you ignore the typical message of fun = death and virgin = life.
4. Ginger Snaps
As a teenager this film helped me understand myself. A coming-of-age movie which follows the story of two sisters as they enter puberty while at the same time, Ginger, the eldest, happens to be bitten by a werewolf. Lining up the symptoms of becoming a werewolf with starting her period, it is a tale of change; a young girl becoming a woman, and all the power that entails. It is this animalistic depiction of female sexuality that helped me understand myself (and stop hating my period) and my gender.
Where most horrors depict men as powerful, this film offers the other side of the coin. Sure Ginger becomes a werewolf but I consider it to be the best coming-of-age film around and a clever depiction of how things change when a girl becomes a woman.
5. I Spit On Your Grave
In a time where sexual harassment is a day-to-day issue, this film gave me strength. Although I'm not condoning retribution, this film showed me how important it is that the law responds to reports of abuse and harassment.
A truly visceral depiction of vigilante justice, this film highlights the needs that still exist in today’s society. Following the assault and resulting revenge of a single woman, this movie offered me a cathartic experience, allowing me a release for all of my frustration at cat-callers and men who think harassment is okay. This film is here because it shows the desperation a woman can face in such situations and how necessary justice is.
Written by Lola Newman
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