Hey guys, if you haven't read the first and second part of this post then go back, read them, and then come back here for what will (hopefully) be the last post in this series.
Done? Great! So, as you already know, I went to an event last week. It was informative and I generally liked the conversations during the Q&A part of the event. But, I had some problems with it. I discussed my various problems with the event in the second part of this post.
My last problem with this event is more to do with the publishing industry as a whole, but I'll use two books shown in this event as a starting point.
Penguin showcased two books as apart of their event and they are the Our Australian Girl series and the Do You Dare? series.
Both books were produced by Penguin to appeal to a certain audience. Our Australia Girl, for girls, and Do You Dare? for boys. This sort of series creation assumes that girls only read a certain type of story and boys only read a certain type of story. Just in case you didn't know already, girls can like all manner of books and boys can like inheritably "girlie" things aka stories about girls.
This type of creation reinforces gender stereotypes about girls and boys. It says that girls like pink and are always feminine and that boys are tough and adventurous.
The books are also packaged in a very gender specific way. Everything for girls is labelled pink and the boys books are blue. Which, you know, wasn't always the way of the world. If we, as a group of people, were able to really produce non-gender specific books for children, then we could start breaking the myth that boys only read boys books and anything pink should be warded off from boys or read by them away from prying eyes. The shame surrounding reading books by or about women as somehow stopping a man from being "a real man" could be dropped completely and looked upon as a shameful part of our history.
Boys should be able to read widely, the same as girls are taught to, and yet these sort of gender specific covers and stories stop that. They perpetuate the idea that males and females need separate reading material, that we can't relate to one another, and that a boy should read only read male dominated stories produced or that appear to be produced by men.
Women throughout history have had to change their names just to be published and/or their books appreciated. JK Rowling only started publishing as JK Rowling because her books might not have sold if audiences knew she is a woman.
This type of packaging also completely ignores that gender can be fluid and that people can choose to identify as whatever gender they want or no gender at all.
This trend to make books at least look like they're geared towards a certain gender is not a new thing. Just take a look at these books. On the right are YA books by women and on the left are YA books by men. Take notice of the packaging and how the stories are being sold to you, even though some of them are very similar and/or within the same genre.
Next time you're in your local bookstore have a look around at the writers of the books and what cover they are given and you will see that this trend is not limited to these books.
Books should just be just books. They should have a cover that reflects their story, not on the presumed audience of the book. People should be able to read widely, including children. We should start teaching children, boys and girls alike, that they should read everything, regardless of who it depicts and who it's by instead of perpetuating the idea that boys only read boys books and that books be females are somehow lesser than male books. Books should judged on their stories, NOT on the gender of the author who wrote them.
If you liked this post make sure to follow me on tumbletwitface or just check back every Monday and Thursday. This discussion is far from over, but hopefully it has you thinking about book covers and how you really shouldn't judge a book by it's cover.
Anjulie Te Pohe
Founder of Koru Mag | Mookychick contributor | Avid reader and writer of YA | Takatapui (Maori & bi/queer) | She/Them | Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org