Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Sexist Book Covers

As we see in this article, sexism in the publishing industry still remains a pervasive problem; books and magazines offering up hurtful gender stereotypes that generalize, marginalize, and fragment the unity of humanity into purely arbitrary roles of male and female. Here are some more examples of this problem that has remained an epidemic for decade after decade:

I sure hope that guy doesn't catch cold! Why should the man have no shirt on, while the woman stays clothed? And look at the stupidly idealized nude male form used in the art: sure, every guy has a perfect six-pack and a shaved chest. It's just shocking. Don't the publishers want men to read these books too? They are locking out ONE HALF OF THE POPULATION! Fools.

The man on this cover is clearly being used as nothing but a sex object. Once again, we have the needless nudity and the unrealistic perfectionist and exploitative depiction of the male form. Who is this man? What are his thoughts, dreams, aspirations? The publishers assume we don't care. And that's just wrong.

More man-boobage. And as if to purposely draw attention to said man-boobage, the artist draws light-beams pointing to them. POINTING TO THEM!!!! The nude male form is so idealized in this cover that he has become a literal phantom or dream. Again: what about his inner life?

And here we have a fully-clothed woman with two more half-naked men. She looks at the viewer as if to say, "these men are my sex objects, with which I will soon have sex. their only value to me is the sex they might give me, and their perfect naked bodies." I feel so sorry for the men on that cover, not being valued for their personalities.

Again and again and again we see egregious examples of the blatant sexualization of men in these books. Now, some might argue that because that since these books are part of a "genre," aimed at a specific niche that has comfortably supported them for generations, they should just be allowed to pander to horny women. But that's limiting. It's like giving up. Men want love in their literature too! They want to read torrid love stories based on the verdant plains of ancient Ireland *just* as much as women do! They've just never been given a chance to because of close-minded publishers. I'm sure that if we just put out a romance line of publications for men, they would buy them right up. But they're never given a chance. It's a catch-22 situation. How do we expect more men to buy romance novels if they have such sexist covers? It's like stopping them before they even have a chance to try the book out. In fact, men I've talked to said they would be embarrassed going on the subway and reading one of these books, based on the covers alone.

The human race is made up of both women AND men. They both have the right to read romance novels. To say that women might be more predisposed to read romance novels hurts both females and males. It pigeonholes men into a hurtful stereotype. Are any of us a non-denominational imaginary higher being, can we read minds, can we honestly say with any degree of certainty that males generally do not read romance novels? What about Jimmy Stinton, age 24, in Nebraska who *does* read romance novels? What about his rights? Men are not a hive penis.

But let's go beyond mere questions of human equality and ethics. Sexist content in the publishing industry is just BAD BUSINESS. I'm sure the publishers of these romance books must lose money every single year because of their one-sided, discriminatory content. If they would just stop alienating males by their embarrassing beefcake covers, I'm sure they would almost DOUBLE their readership. It just doesn't make sense from a financial point-of-view.

That is why I am launching a new initiative to get more men reading romance novels.

My goals are:

1. To stop having sexist covers on romance novels. The men on romance novel covers should be clothed at all times. And they should look like REAL men, not some unrealistic supermodel. I want to see love-handles.

Fabio: sexual exploitation victim

2. To set up a fund for exploited male models for these covers. Many of these men know nothing else but to pose nude or semi-nude in photo-shoots. Once their time is up, they find themselves adrift, taking on odd jobs or posing for Boris Vallejo. We need to reach out to these men and let them know – explicitly – that they have more value than just their bodies. We need to heal their souls.

3. To increase the amount of men who read romance novels. To ask them what *they* want in a romance novel for a change, instead of the unimaginative, sexist publishers ignoring their very existence.

4. Get more men writing romance novels. It's my opinion that if we get more men involved both in the creative and editorial process in publishers like Harlequin, positive change will organically happen. For instance, say a man was prominently on the development staff for a book like the aforementioned "Bewitched Viking." I am sure that he would have made a double-take at that exploitative cover, lifted a finger in reproach, and put some clothes on that man.

5. Finally, my dream is to create a line of romance publications made just for men. This venture would not be based on what I, as a woman, *guess* heterosexual men would like, but what scientific studies and expressed opinion has actually demonstrated. Here is a rough mock-up of what I envision this new line will look like:

1 comment:

  1. Oh whoops my bad -- I forgot, sexism towards men simply does not exist. Please disregard the entire post.