Gender's Role in Literature – Raven Oak

Gender’s Role in Literature

Author Joe Hill shared this and it’s been going around Facebook all weekend, but this article from the The Independent in the UK by Katy Guest brings up an age-old debate that really should be over and done with by now.
Joe Hill's Tweet
I say over and done with because by 2014, gender equality should be here. It’s been almost a century since women won the right to vote, yet we’re still fighting for equality. Pink used to be a color more associated with males. Men used to wear dresses as toddlers and young children. Yet somehow, in 2014, we’re living in a world where publishers think a book must “appear” girly for a girl to want to read it, and the cover must be gritty and action-packed for a boy.

The author, Katy Guest, is a literary editor who makes the point that children don’t care if a book is targeted or “marketed” towards boys or girls. Children like a good story. They enjoy characters they can identify with on an emotional or personal level. Look at the craze surrounding the Harry Potter series? Or the Hunger Games? Divergent anyone?

Strong female and male characters. Story lines with complexity and realism. J. K. Rowling didn’t try to protect children from the realities of life such as poverty, death, or child abuse. Children (and adults) of all ages were drawn to the series because of this realism. In fact, in the case of the Harry Potter series, the covers are hand painted art, designed from the plot of the novels themselves. Intriguing and interesting! What a concept!

I agree with Ms. Guest that there is too much focus on profit and marketability in book covers these days. In fact, authors are told from day one to “build their platform” and “establish your brand.” Instead of novels sporting covers from the plot, covers need a gimmick, as if readers are too stupid to pick up a book for any other reason than a marketing ploy. I find this as insulting to the reader as these gender specific covers. (Unfortunately, Hunger Games and Divergent bare branded covers rather than something akin to the artwork of Harry Potter artist, Mary GrandPré.)
Brand CoversAs a writer, I understand that marketing does help a book sell. I also understand that catchy covers can help keep a book stuck in someone’s mind. But I wish that publishers would give their readers some credit. We don’t need a book wrapped in pink or blue with girly or jagged fonts blazing across the spine for us to want to read it. Give me an interesting character and a unique plot and I’m yours.

Give me a relevant cover, and I promise you’ll sell more books that way. After all, all it took was this to hook me into a lifelong love of fantasy novels. All it took was this book cover below to mesmerize my thirteen year old self. From that moment on, I was not only a dedicated fantasy reader, but a fantasy writer as well.

The White Dragon by Michael Whelan“Weyrworld” by artist Michael Whelan,
for the cover of the fantasy novel, “All the Weyrs of Pern” by Anne McCaffrey.

8 Replies to “Gender’s Role in Literature”

  1. Well said, Raven. I was just thinking of this, actually. Similar examples are seen almost across the board. We just discussed the Nerf Rebelle water gun with our daughter … apparently it holds less water and costs more than the model marketed toward boys. We as consumers need to reject these ploys. I would love to see covers more descriptive of the content in the books, as opposed to marketing gimmicks aimed to draw in the intended demographic. 

    As an aside, of course it would be cover art by the amazing Michael Whelan that would draw (no pun intended) you in to fantasy. He’s an amazing artist, who I’ve appreciated since first seeing his work in the Steven King Dark Tower series.

  2. Well, since I don’t write romance, my books won’t have a hot, glistening chiseled dude on the cover. But I can tell you a few authors who do! 😉
    And I expect you to read my books anyway. The price of being the friend to an author. 😛

  3. ECSouzaI’m a huge fan of Michael Whelan, and not just his Anne McCaffrey book covers. His work for the Dark Tower series is phenomenal as well!
    I didn’t know that about the Nerf Rebelle. That’s actually disgusting to me that they would create and market something like that–talk about chauvinistic! Ugh! I am glad to see parents are trying to reject these ploys. More need to! Thank you to you and your wife for being responsible parents!

  4. It’s funny, my husband and I have been discussing this very issue this
    last week.  I was appalled at the children’s section at Barnes and Noble
    last week.  My 3 year old daughter loves the Justice League and Wonder
    Woman.  there’s nothing about heroes in the girl’s section and nothing
    about WW in the boy’s section.   Why are there even divided gender
    sections?   we all left disappointed.  
    And the fact that there are now girl’s Nerf and Lego products is beyond
    ridiculous.  Rowan likes dolls and pink, but also dinosaurs, monsters,
    robots, and blue.

  5. @erinofeireI
    understand completely. I was the girl who played with She-Ra AND
    He-Man, along with my GI Joe, Transformers, and Care Bears. A mixed
    grouping of whatever I liked at the time. And instead of worrying about
    how they looked or “raising a family,” my toys battled evil and saved
    the day. In the mud. Or in a tree. Somewhere dirty and dangerous.
    Toy makers have definitely drawn a line that needs to be destroyed. Time to battle evil again! 😉

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