I must start this blog off with a declaration: I love the paranormal community. It is because I love it that I’m writing this piece. This is something that has been on my mind quite heavily lately. Every time I see a promotional image for a television show, paracon, paranormal event, etc….too often I find myself asking, “Where are all the ladies?”
The paranormal community has its ups and downs, especially that infamous “para-drama” that we all encounter occasionally. However, this has been a glaring flaw I’ve noticed in the events aspect of the community. There is a disproportioned ratio between female and male guests. First off, I don’t believe this is intentional. I’m going to try to avoid being critical as possible, because I know SO MUCH WORK go into these events, and many times organizers have to work with what they have.
I suppose I can argue that this stems from the lack of female-driven television. I have to commend Katrina Weidman for continuing to be that pioneer for women on television. Of course, we also have Amy Bruni, Amy Allen, Heather Taddy, and Lorraine Warren. I can literally count the number of women who consistently appeared in a paranormal television show on barely more than one hand. I know there are a few more. Note that I am NOT including medium shows, where there is usually a female lead. There is no question that women do have a presence on ghost hunter type television shows. However, how many of them are the star of the show? How many of these shows have a female ghost hunter as the star vehicle or a television show, or even have an all-female team being featured on a television show.
For example, take a look at Ghost Adventures, which currently has no female show runners.
Ghost Hunters does a bit better with their female cast members. The ratio varied from season to season. I noticed that Ghost Hunters International included more women.
Keep this in mind as I make this next note. Now, count the amount of male-driven paranormal television shows. The list goes on. Haunted Towns, Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Brothers, and Ghost Stalkers alone takes up a good amount of this list. The paranormal television industry is male-driven, and it continues to do so. Female cast members are usually a co-host, the sidekick, the psychic medium, the spiritualist, the witch…now THAT list goes on. How many successful and mainstream paranormal shows do we have where we have a leading lady that isn’t sharing the spotlight with a male star? I do appreciate the strides that shows like “The Dead Files” have made for women in the paranormal.
According to a 2017 study from the Netherlands, they found that men’s channels featured less-equal and a more traditional image of gender. They found that females were underrepresented on men’s channels while gender was more equal on female-centric channels. However, given that paranormal television has been compared to professional wrestling, and even adult-entertainment, we have to wonder why this is. When you look at female-representation in the comparative venues, this trend in paranormal television makes sense. Given that these television shows are meant for entertainment and shouldn’t be interpreted as reality, it’s truly another form of theatre in a way.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the paranormal event circuit tends to be male heavy. These events depend on featuring stars of television shows to help drive ticket sales. There was only one all-female driven paranormal con that I could think of, and that was the ParAmeriCon, which was created by Suzanne Sorrell of Evermore Paranormal. I know Phenomenology tends to try to keep it even between male and female guests. There was an attempt to mount an all-female event called, “Women’s Para Retreat”, but they canceled the event due to lack of ticket sales.
However, events like ScareFest are currently not featuring ANY female celebrity guests. They are featuring the cast of Ghost Brothers and Haunted Towns. Now, it could very well be possible that no females applied to become a speaker for ScareFest. I have to say that I’m not a believer of creating opportunities for the sake of inclusion to help an organization’s stats, as that ends up doing more harm than good. It could very well be that there were females who applied but were not qualified enough to speak.
Then we have these other events, where there is an uneven ratio between men and women. I’m only going off of what was included in the event’s marketing materials. Usually the remaining guest list is more expansive.
The earliest event I’ll mention is Pensacola ParaCon 2011. There were eleven men and only one woman for their featured guests. 1:11
Pensacola ParaCon 2014 featured four women on their promotional materials. The remaining thirty were men. 3:30
Old Mill ParaFest in 2014 featured three women and eight men. 3:8
A 2014 event called, “ParaCon” had no female guests at all. It was all men. 0:7
An event simply known as Para-Con 2015 only featured one woman with the remaining featured guests being men.
Sage ParaCon 2018 had two featured female guests, with Katrina Weidman and MJ Dickson. The remaining seven guests featured were men. 2:7
For the 2019 ParaPsyCon, there are five female guests and eight men. 5:8 is actually pretty good. This particular promotional image only features three women and eight men.
PennHurst Asylum Paracon 2019 features twelve men on their front page and three women, Rosalyn Bown and the Mountain Gypsies. 3:12
Mass ParaCon 2019 has eight female guests and eleven male guests. Their promotional image features five women and six men. So, very balanced! 5:6
Then we have the Ocean State Paracon for 2019. They have six women and eleven men on their promotional image. 6:11
The Haunted Road Media ParaCon has over nine female guests and six male guests. This is the first event I found where the female guests outnumber the males. 9:6
From this little breakdown, we can see that some events have made efforts to be more gender-inclusive for their guests list. Other events still have some improvements to make. It would be brilliant if the paranormal television industry had a more balanced ratio for female-driven paranormal programming that didn’t pigeon-hold them in the “psychic medium” genre, but instead, leading a paranormal investigation on camera.
Some of the most brilliant minds I have met in the paranormal community have been women. What is interesting is that there seems to be more female paranormal authors out there, which is a fascinating conversation to be held. I strongly feel we need to keep spotlighting these women because we are more than the sidekick or the cohost. I think the paranormal community is ready for more leading ladies on television as well as being featured in events, articles, books, podcasts, etc.
Until the paranormal television business catches up, it is up to us as event organizers, teams, attendees, and supporters to lift women up.