Why Women’s Books Always Have Flowery Covers
Poetry class is dull. I’m poet and I rarely have the drive to go. I honestly couldn’t care less about some dead dude making overly aggressive remarks about a poor woman who wouldn’t love him. But after a semester of a complete snoozefest, I discovered my half asleep decoy had absorbed a lesson.
It was in another class, one I was taking in the film school. We were discussing our projects integrating Nature, Design & Media. One of my classmates is creating an archive of female artists. She was inspired by a dream she had about being pregnant – it got her thinking about how womanhood is defined by being a creative force; we literally create life from our bodies. But yet, we are underrepresented in creative fields. In the School of Cinematic Arts, we girls are only 30% of the students, and those numbers are huge compared to the general industry. Somehow when we push through the art world and actually make it, we are branded as “the female director,” the maker of “chick flicks”…essentially the world etches in flowers on our identity like on the cover of the Elizabeth Browning book I was so reluctant to pick up.
No matter who the poet was, every copy I had of their work was branded with meadows across the cover. Marketing female art with flowers has become standard protocol.
But most of our work has nothing to do with irises or lilies. Nora Ephron, who in my opinion is the most influential female filmmaker of all time, wrote When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless In Seattle, making her the queen of the rom-com. Yet the core of her work is unsentimental. She never crafts Prince Charmings. Her characters are complex, troubled and dynamic, never exuding the cheese that exudes from the Nicholas Sparks collection. That’s what makes it great.
Marina Abramovich, the iconic performance artist, does everything but frilly. Her work is edgy, harsh, and painful. She more likely to wear a band of fire than a flower crown. If they could, I bet publishers would brand Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with a reawakened corpse fairy on its binding.
I wish I had more female artists to name, but honestly, I haven’t been taught them.
Apparently we need roses to sell women’s books. Because of the “flower complex” I’ve never been compelled to explore Emily Dickinson, or check out Sofia Coppola – why would I?
From the little I know, all they focus on is women’s issues, not the hard hitting life changing stuff. And that’s sad. Why aren’t women’s issues considered powerful? Why is femininity synonymous with weak?
I’ve been told not to judge a book by its cover, but it’s never been that easy. It’s in my nature. We all feel compelled to do it. I think we need to admit to the reality of perception. To change, we can’t ignore the fact we judge things by their binding but change the cover altogether.