Book Covers as Gendered Spaces

alexieInequality by Design makes the case that book covers are gendered spaces, and thus subject to all the regular gender prejudice and stigmas of all other gendered spaces in the world. If there was any doubt, it should be cast away by the accompanying pictures on the site, created by the readers of author Maureen Johnson who challenged her audience after being told by a man that he could never read her girly-looking books. See, there are regular movies, and there are chick flicks. There are regular books, and then there is chick lit. There are regular people, and then there are chicks.

There is a word for this: Androcentricsm.  It’s the practice, conscious or otherwise, of placing men or the masculine point of view at the center of one’s view of the world and its culture and history. In an androcentric worldview, men and maleness and masculine expressions are the default, all else are Other.

Point being: art matters. Cover art matters. Design matters. Every font and image choice are conveying not only what is inside the book, but who the intended audience is meant to be. Books with pink background and curly-cue fonts are perceived as female books, and not meant for men. Book covers that do not convey femininity are considered general audience books.

Some of my favorite gentlewomen, particularly Ann Friedman, have been highlighting the very real gender byline gap for years, and pointing out how the pinkification of women’s writing keeps it from being recognized as real journalism, or real literature, and side-eyed for being “chick lit” and lady stuff. It plays off our perceptions of sexist culture to signal what is for whom and when. Dressing up female narratives in pink, twee packaging can be fun and has its place, but it also signifies that this narrative is “Other” and apart from the cis, male norm, which in our culture is the accepted standard, wherein Others may not apply.

See also: Jennifer Weiner.

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