Sunday, June 16, 2013

Victoria's Secret Garden: The hidden message behind YA book covers


Over the past week I’ve read a few blogs about YA covers, and how many are gender-biased and geared for girls—thus excluding boy readers.  Maureen Johnson posed an interesting challenge in an article for the Huffington Post asking authors to re-imagine non-gender specific book covers, and the results are quite thought provoking.

I was surprised, though, that in all of these articles, no-one took objection to the caliber of covers now gracing many of our YA books targeted for girls.  I can’t help but notice that nowadays there seems to be a trend for “girls’” books to have the prerequisite saucy supermodel glaring at me from the cover.  A perfect Revlon face, airbrushed to the nines, billowing hair, pouty lips straight from a lipstick ad.  And the dresses!  (or level of UN-dressed, as the case may be.) I mean, I can appreciate a pretty dress as much as anybody, but enough already.  (I considered posting some of these covers for illustrative purposes, but decided against it.  My purpose is not to single authors out.  Besides, you know these covers when you see them. Suffice it to say, Frances Hodgson Burnett would be shocked.)
 

Do we really need to fill our young girl’s minds with these unrealistic images?  Aren’t they bombarded enough as it is with this ideal of the perfect female form in every movie, commercial and magazine ad? I thought books were supposed to expand the mind, not brain-wash readers into society's warped idea of perfection.  My twelve-year old reads these things, fer Cripe’s sake!  And more and more often, I find myself leaving my YA book face-down if I find myself reading one of those books in public.  It’s embarrassing!  Writers put their hearts blood into developing a main character and in the end it's all reduced down to a hot girl in an awesome dress.  Not to mention--what types of lasting impressions do these images leave with young minds? This surface-level selling of the female form has a name, and the twenty-dollar name for this practice is “the objectification of women”.  Sex sells.  On all levels, it seems.

So I leave it to you, my (wanna be) published comrades, let's consider well the future covers we choose to grace the labors of our pen and heart.  Represent our story well--and leave the booty-call to those who lack an imagination.
~Just Jill

17 comments:

  1. They can be pretty without being over the top model beautiful.

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  2. Unfortunately, most authors published through traditional channels have no say over this. It's all a marketing tactic. It does bother me though. Fantasy novels are often guilty of showing the scantily clad female warriors too, which is so unrealistic. No one has boobs like that (well, unless they paid for them). :P

    Yeah, it probably does contribute to an unrealistic ideal that no one can live up to.

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    1. I think it's hilarious when they depict scantily clad female warriors. As if any self-respecting warrior of either sex would go into battle without armor of some kind. I do hope I won't be embarrassed by any of my covers.

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    2. I almost just didn't read a book about a warrior princess because of the prom-girl on the front cover. Turns out the character in the book was constantly getting flack for dressing like a boy--yet they let fly with this cover-model? Unbelievable.
      ~JJ

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  3. You're absolutely right. I sure don't remember seeing those kinds of pictures on the covers of books I read as a kid.

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    1. Can you imagine Laura Ingalls Wilder staring lustily off into the distance while Alamanzo reaches toward her...er, lustily?
      My apologies L.I. W.
      ~JJ

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  4. That's very thought provoking - and not something that applies only to YA covers, I think. It's made me consider what I'd like me eventually book cover to be like. Hmmm

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    1. You wouldn't let it go without a fight Debbie!
      ~JJ

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  5. From the industry perspective, I believe publishers choose covers based on their potential to sell. It'd be fun to see a publisher taking a chance by depicting a real girl over a wildly airbrushed one on a book.

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  6. True--but we all have a voice. Even if it goes unheeded...
    ~JUst Jill

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  7. I agree that these ads may contribute to young girls having self esteem issues. It's so important for parents and teachers to emphasize the importance of inner beauty.

    Julie

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    1. Yes!
      Thanks for stopping by Julie!
      ~JJ

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  8. All these 'suggestive' covers are doing is satisfying marketing's urge to sell by whatever means. In effect, we are setting up young girls for problems in the future if they believe the hype.

    Depending on the views of others for your self-worth is a downhill road. Great point you've made here.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by the nut-tree. I guess I just hunger for more than a pretty dress...
      ~Just Jill

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  9. Here Here!! I still that line in the Baz Luhrmann sunscreen song.

    Do NOT read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Vixen. Loved your blog!
      ~JJ

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