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May 9

Coverflip and “girly” covers

So I think the Coverflip challenge is really interesting, particularly because it highlights trends in cover design that are really pervasive; I don’t think you can argue that cover design isn’t affected by the author’s gender or the intended audience. 

That being said, I don’t think I’m a fan. I feel like a lot of the entries aren’t just illustrating the sexism in cover design, but are also mocking the type of literature that usually merits “female” book covers. Look at the entries for Coverflip: how many do you think intend for the “female” cover to be better than the “male” cover? 

I think the challenge also generalizes what men and women authors write, via tropes in cover design. All the female-gendered covers look like Danielle Steel novels, and the implication is that female-gendered covers are frivolous; I know the point Coverflip is trying to make is that female authors are not frivolous, by extension, but I don’t know how much that translates. 

I also think that the Coverflip movement mocks the kind of literature that usually gets the “handsome person/Instagram-filter” cover. I know there’s a difference between Catch-22 and The Princess Diaries, but people are allowed to have different tastes in what they like to read. Books are allowed to be escapist, frivolous and silly, and none of those things are bad things. I don’t have to read Kant every time I want to sit back at a beach and relax with a book, and reading Candace Bushnell doesn’t mean I’m some sort of vapid idiot; for god’s sake, I’m reading a book.

I don’t like the judgment passed on those covers because it’s saying those covers aren’t good, and by extension, it’s implying that stories that focus on those subjects aren’t as good as books that get male-gendered covers. They’re not better or worse than other ‘higher-minded,’ ‘serious’ literature, they’re books that people are allowed to like.

The book cover designs that people make for male-gendered authors, flipped to be female authors, also shows how we mock things associated with female-gendered covers. Why is it bad that “Georgette” R.R. Martin’s cover looks like something that ought to feature Fabio? It’s mocking something for being tailored to the (assumed) interests of a female audience (since romance novels are marketed mostly to women).

I get that the crux of this issue is that cover design can be influenced by the author’s gender more than subject matter, particularly when the authors are women. But why are the male-gendered book cover designs the ones that are, the majority of the time, lauded and preferred? I see it as shaming people for having female-gendered interests.