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Judging A Book By It’s Cover

This week there has been animated discussion about book covers. Concern over the truly awful feminised version of Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” went beyond merely that of taste.

1966 cover design
Faber’s 50th Anniversary edition

Writer Nicole Elphick highlighted the concerns of many in her excellent analysis over at Daily Life:

The cover also illustrates a larger problem in how women’s literature is treated. By making the cover so explicitly, narrowly feminine in imagery, it assumes that if a woman writes something it will only be of interest to women and should only be marketed to women, as if somehow women are completely incapable of speaking to the breadth of human experience.

Elphick goes on to site author Jennifer Weiner on literary sexism in a 2010 interview she did for The Huffington Post: “I think it’s a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it’s literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it’s romance, or a beach book.” Amen.

However, some of the commentary on the new-look Anne of Green Gables cover (pictured below) is frankly ridiculous. Sure, the new look may feature a traditionally attractive blonde posing in an unnatural way, but to say she has a “come-hither” look, is a “bosomy vixen” and packaged to be like a “porn star” is crazy. She is wearing a high collared button up shirt for goodness sake! Crazy over-reactions like this do nothing to further the very real issue of the premature sexualisation of children and only undermine the valuable work being done in this area.

The controversial new cover of Anne of Green Gables.

I assume the publishers were hoping to update the look and appeal to the young Saddle Club audience with this version. Boring? Yep. Inappropriate to use a blonde rather than a red -head considering Anne is quite famous for the colour of her locks? Agreed. But let’s not start implying that girl’s bodies are innately dangerous and sexually provocative; that even in buttoned up shirts they could be leading people on ( “She’s asking for it by leaning back like that…”).

I’ve previously cautioned against over-reactions, and explained why they are so dangerous, over at The Hoopla. 

Love to hear what you think of both covers…

 

Published inBooksFeminismGender stereotypingSexualisation of children

2 Comments

  1. Meredith

    Great post Danni! I completely agree with your comments Re:Anne of Green Gables. If people search books for teen girls on amazon, many of the covers are that style, so that must be the current marketing trend. My outrage at the cover comes from a purely selfish standing that as a redhead myself I used to think Anne was cool and was one of the first redheads I remember reading about. Much like myself she was innocent looking, but often in trouble. Once again it seems like a case of the adults who cried sexualisation.

  2. Rachel Hansen

    Anne was my absolute idol growing up (I read the entire series start to finish at least 4 times), so my outrage here comes from the fact that some ignoramus in the marketing department decided to give her blonde hair – so much of Anne’s identity was her red hair and freckles! I totally agree that the sexualisation aspect has been overplayed. Although I can’t imagine Anne ever posing like that, unless perhaps Gilbert was strutting past.

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