I don't read a lot of modern fiction outside of the fantasy genre, so I was unaware of this trend I saw described in the Chicago Tribune
today. Apparently it is the current thing in the publishing world to depict headless women on the covers of books. These women aren't missing their heads, they just aren't shown in the pictures. Instead one sees a generally sexy body devoid of the expressions and personality of a face. It's trendy, it's the current style, but why?
Some accuse the trend of giving into the sexist stereotype of the "ideal woman." This is the "male fantasy of the woman who's totally available and can't talk back and doesn't think and doesn't judge" - if a woman has no head, she has no voice. Others though point out that these books are marketed to women not men and so instead present women with an ideal body they can fantasize is their own. "The covers may be in some ways playing to the anxieties that women have, which are not about being smart and using their brains and being successful, but are about whether they're going to be able to attract men and get men to make commitments and be able to get married and have egalitarian relationships and have children and keep their careers."
Either way, I personally find it a disturbing trend. As many of us here seek to claim a voice for women in the church and learn how to use our own voices, this tendency towards headless, voiceless women seems like a step backwards. I don't think I've read any "headless women" books, so I don't know what the books actually convey. Like I said, my fiction tastes are in the fantasy genre which usually portrays very strong women on the covers of books - celebrating women more than anything. But this tendency to obscure women on the covers does not seem celebratory to me, but reminds me instead of the days when women had to publish under male names in order to be read. Remove a women's identity and she ceases to threaten.
What are your reactions to this trend? Is it harmless, or disturbing?
Labels: Culture, Gender Issues