Is this question a generalization of the horror genre? Of course it is. Even with that we cannot deny the trend in horror movies and stories, especially the ones involving ghosts.
Before I go any further, I am not saying men are never casts as evil spirits but in simpler terms male villains are revered in the horror & thriller genres as a psychotic masterminds or physically overpowering over their victims. Several of the iconic examples are Jason Voorhees, Hannibal Lector, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Jigsaw.
If you ask horror fans to envision a vengeful ghost I am confident they will picture either a ghost in the form of a woman or a child.
Is the reason for this mind set a result of men making up the bulk of horror fans?
“The breakdown between men and women is very similar to the general comic fan population. Walking Dead fans are 59.38% male and 40.63% females. General comic fans are 57.38% male and 40.98% female. So the two populations are very close when it comes to that.”
Open and shut right?
The evidence suggest that.
OK, overall men tend to be more fans of horror.
How does this explain why women and children tend to be ghosts in horror?
Considering the bulk of horror fans are men, if I were to take an educated guess I would say you want the bulk audience/ reader to have an ‘Oh Crap!’ moment.
How do you come to that conclusion?
How many of those clowns were assaulted by male intended ‘scare victims’?
You can search on Youtube to find several recordings of men getting out of their cars and assaulting the creepy clowns.
Physical opponents of similar size is not something men get easily intimidated by since they can judge their chances on defending themselves with their strength against an imposing threat. Fighting fire with fire is the trending reaction among men.
Now put those same men to confront a ghost or spirit they cannot touch. An adversary they do not have the physical means to defeat right away but that adversary can harm them with ease. Now that is an ‘Oh Crap’ moment! The logical tactic men would default to against such an adversary is ‘flee and regroup or die’.
On top of that if the ghost is evidently not a man sized opponent, men will process this as a threat not easily measured. Logically you don’t take something on you can’t measure right away. In this form women or children become a valid threat that bypasses a man’s strength measurement.
Several other factors are the unpredictability of a female or child evil spirit. Men can try to relate to the ghosts of other men. But a female or child evil ghost the association is usually they are coming for vengeance against a man who abused them. Immediately men will think, ‘it wasn’t me and I am not sticking around to get caught up in this’.
Do you think I am correct or are there other reasons we see this trend? Write in the comments below.