Friday, May 10, 2013

Flipping book cover gender expectation

This is brilliant, courtesy of Maureen Johnson.
I asked people to take a well-known book, then to imagine the author of that book was of the opposite gender, or was genderqueer, and imagine what that cover might look like.
Some of the results, as seen at the first link, are positively genius. The pink and lace on the gender-swapped A Game of Thrones is remarkably similar to endless fantasy books written by women, and On the Road is spot-on. Seriously. Spot. On.

The point here, of course, is fairly simple - covers (particularly in the young adult category) have a gender bias. It often doesn't matter what the content of the book is. Case in point. And it's not as though we can pretend that books aren't judged by their covers. Of course they are. That's why publishers make certain choices, hoping and thinking that by making a book seem more effeminate, they'll be able to draw in more female readers, absolutely disregarding any potential male readers who will most likely now completely ignore the book. And the critics, who will now most likely completely ignore the books. And our collective literary consciousness.

Basically, Maureen Johnson: thank you.


  1. I loved her post and reading the reports about it was great. You can get an idea of what the result would be by thinking, but actually seeing it, wow, brings it home even more how focusing on gender for book covers does a lot (of bad often).

  2. I've been saying this for years. The publishing industry has no vested interest in getting boys to read and it's really beginning to show.


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