Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Problem Worth Addressing

I don't do "Soap Box" posts very often, but I came across a really fascinating article that addressed a problem that I never realized was a problem.

The post was called "Cover Trends & The Female Body". You can read it on the blog Stacked by CLICKING HERE. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!

Since I read this, I've given a lot of thought to the books I am drawn to. I always tend to gravitate towards "Pretty Covers"--many of which were listed in this article. I've also been the victim of what I like to call "Cover Fraud". (When a really crappy book is disguised in beautiful packaging.) But in all the time I've been reviewing books, I've never given much thought to the influence of cover art on teenagers. And even adults. No one is exempt from the influence of media image. It's become so much more than just getting someone to read your book. It's become a not-so-subtle way of telling women that they aren't good enough unless they look or act a certain way.

And while some of you are probably thinking that I'm reading too much into it and inventing a problem that doesn't really exist, I truly believe that media nowadays strike in any avenue they can. Because we are being bombarded on all sides, I think it's so important to instill in girls and boys (and women and men) a strong and unshakable sense of self-worth so when they are confronted with cookie-cutter images of "the perfect body" or "the perfect girl" or whatever the case may be, they won't succomb to the need to try to become something they aren't or have unreasonable and unrealistic expectations.

Now I'm not saying any book that has the types of covers listed in the article are bad, and I'll never read another one. But I am saying that I feel the need to be more aware of the messages they portray. I didn't start reading Young Adult books until I was in my early 20s, and I was/am old enough that the images don't affect me like they would, say, my teenage sisters. However, that doesn't make them any less powerful. While covers draw me in and are sometimes the difference between me buying a book versus not buying it, it's important to acknowledge that these books, when written, weren't geared towards me--a twenty-something wife and mother of two. They were aimed at (Imagine that!) actual TEENAGERS. Meaning that the cover art and subsequent message of said cover was meant for teenagers too.

We need to be more aware. And we need to acknowledge that there is a serious problem in the messages being sent about girls and women. They (we) have it hard enough from TV and magazines already without books throwing our imperfections in our faces too. But really, maybe the message should be this: Don't be so hard on yourself. You're perfect just the way you are. And a just a book.

What is your opinion on this issue? Or do you not see it as an issue? I'd love to know your thoughts on the matter.

Happy Reading!


Sara said...

I agree. I think it is a problem. Messages like that get into our brains in insidious ways that we don't even recognize sometimes. For sure businesses and media should make an effort not to perpetuate those types of stereotypes.

However, I also think it's kind of a circle. I definitely think that sometimes people who choose those pictures aren't doing it in a conscious effort to send those negative messages; it is what society has come to expect and, sadly, it's what sells the books- and that's their job. Consumers should stop perpetuating the stereotypes by stating their opinions through what they buy.

(Also, I just want to make it clear that I'm not blaming or judging you by any means- I'm judging all of us! :D - I buy books that have attractive covers simply based on the cover too.- It's a hard habit to break.)

Megan @ Reading for Refuge said...

Sara: I agree with you! It's a vicious cycle, and it IS hard to break. It never was a conscious thing for me--buying pretty books. I just gravitated towards them. Now I definitely think twice before grabbing a book based on the cover. This has changed how I see them now. :)