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May. 9th, 2013

The amazing Maureen Johnson took on the gendering of book covers in the Huffington Post this week: the article is a cutting way to point out to the clueless how women's books are softened and made non-threatening and less important in publishing. Check it out, but have your favorite heartburn tablets on hand. Maureen is someone to follow, not just in her fiction: she is one of our best activists.

I also recommend this very thought-provoking article of hers, The Gender Cover-Up. What can I say, except "she's right." If you need confirmation, you only have to look at the 2012 "Best of" lists published by the prestige outfits like the New York Times, the LA Times, and the New York Review of Books, among others. The majority of writers on those lists is men (majority ... is, not are--yep, that's right). The same is true for the British lists, except for the one that is dedicated to women because the principal list continually chose only male writers.

Maureen is a delight to read. She is crystal clear in her thinking and prose, and she doesn't mess around. Check her out. Discuss freely. Enjoy!


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 9th, 2013 04:24 pm (UTC)
Looking forward to reading both when I have a chance!

Also relevant to this topic: Geek Eccentric's recent article 'Females in Fanart: The Hawkeye Initiative fights back'

ETA: resubmitting this comment without the url because LJ told me that made it spam? It's not like I wasn't logged in... o_0
May. 9th, 2013 04:53 pm (UTC)
sadly she does have a point... personally these days about 98% of books that i read are by women authors and that are about female main characters, these days i prefer to try to mainly support good female authors with books that are actually well writen a LOT less of the books i am willing to read are "fluff" types of books than i used to read.. while i do still read the occasional romance novel they are generally not regular romance novels ... they are ones from series where it is more like an epic fantasy series with a bit of romance mixed in than like the typical sort of romance novel... I do have to say finding new authors and books to read that are specifically geared towards women and are not fluff type books Is much harder than being willing to read just anything, I like these sorts of books because i can relate to the characters more. Growing up though most books i read were by men and about male characters, admittedly there are some male authors who can write a good female character, but not as many as i'd like... though even among the female authors who do get published i find there are still many who right more male oriented books and end up writing female characters that more fit the "books for men" standards and are less than fully fledged characters, i recently read one book about a female lead character who the whole book i kept thinking OMG this character is an idiot..(i finished it mostly on principle and hoping it'd get better) the character had a magical ability and has no problem using it and it's supposedly one she's had her whole life and couldnt possibly forget about but then conveniently forgets to use it any point where it'd have made a diference and other times something happened where if the character (who supposedly has a PERFECT pretty much HD quality memory) had remembered something from the previous page then thing she was trying to figure out would have been within the first 20 pages of the 300+ page book... i dont get why some female authors choose to write female lead characters that are pretty much brainless twits. i can ALMOST understand men doing it since many men have the impression women are like that, but well a woman author should know better. BUT i think authors like that are a big part of why there is such a difference in the presentation of books, because women who accept writing like that often are the types to read whatever they are told is for them.

Edited at 2013-05-09 04:58 pm (UTC)
May. 9th, 2013 07:13 pm (UTC)
I strongly dislike (to the point of being less inclined to purchase or read) books with images of people on the cover regardless of gender, though they are often women. I don't like to be shown an image of a generic model suggesting that that represents the character inside, because I think creating an image of the protagonist is business between the author and reader in the first few chapters of the book.

Edited at 2013-05-09 07:17 pm (UTC)
May. 9th, 2013 11:38 pm (UTC)
I ended up having to work late yesterday because I could not stop talking about this article, and I thought of how I came to read your books as a teen, Tammy! Cover-browsing in the library, I saw both Wolf Speaker and the first Alanna. (Wolf-Speaker had Daine kneeling on the cover and Alanna had lightning and Moonlight and was glowing.) I loved horses, wolves, and swords...but gravitated to Wolfspeaker because it had no pink. I hated pink on principle because it was "girly" and I did not want to be considered girly. I loved wolf-speaker (and daine's still my fave) and i went back and read Alanna and loved her too. (And like me, pink isn't really her thing). I've loved later covers for being less gendered (as well as gorgeous).

It frustrates me to some extent that I look more negatively on a "feminine" cover - as if that diminishes the book's content. And maybe i should learn a better lesson from Alanna, seeing as the pink title was above a sword fighting badass like I'd always wanted to be, but we have a societal shorthand for recognising what is feminine and what is not. Male authors tend to have neutral, not stereotypically "male" covers) and publishers seem to be using covers as a handicapping technique that only serves to handicap.
May. 11th, 2013 12:14 am (UTC)
So true, all of it. And I'm guessing most of us here know that the bias doesn't stop with gender.
May. 11th, 2013 02:17 am (UTC)
Yeah. We're all aware of this. Those of us who are in the mood for mind candy can walk into a bookstore and spot it at a glance. The problem is when you want something a bit more substantial and have no way to sort it out without settling down to read a chapter or two.

Genre fiction is a bit easier, since the genre themes are codified and that kinda/sorta can take precedence over gendering the marketing. Not always, but often enough.

I do book covers and the editor usually tells me pretty much what he wants. But then everything I've done for him is non-fiction and more on the order of either criticism or biography which are probably a bit of a different pair of sleeves.

My own stuff (no, I don't write, I do graphically heavy .pdf editions of fanfic. Technically, I publish) generally go for the historical leather-bound Easton Press look which isn't particularly strongly gendered.
May. 11th, 2013 05:03 am (UTC)
This is AWESOME. I've been seeing these flipped covers already on tumblr, its a fantastic challenge- and it's so true.
May. 11th, 2013 10:26 am (UTC)
Some of the local libraries in my area have started wrapping books on display in brown paper covers with just the title and the author written on the front, and maybe a little summarizing blurb to encourage people (especially kids) to read new books without making assumptions based on the covers.
May. 15th, 2013 06:23 pm (UTC)
As someone who frequently forgets what the artwork looks like on hardcover books due to removal of the book jackets, this confuses me somewhat. Then again, I am also female and have no trouble reading books with boyish covers as society seems to have made it more acceptable for females to associate with traditionally male atributes than the other way around.

It is weird to me to think of books as girly books or boy-y books even though I know that they are. Books should be books, and people should be able to read them regardless of cover art or gender of the author and/or characters.

As someone who knows more about the color of the binding on her books than the actual cover art, I found it quite interesting when I borrows a first edition of Alanna: The First Adventure from the library last year and discovered there was a butterfly on the cover of the actual book.

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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