Good, Feminist Book Covers

It is only fair that I display awesome examples of book covers that exemplify the strength of a female character, rather than her vain beauty/sexed-up flair(something antithetical to the character at the heart of the story). The best covers are gender-neutral covers for stories that could be read by either gender.

Here are my favorite Feminist book covers

Covers for  Healer Book Covers

I still really like the Harlequin US covers for the Healer series, regardless of their marked inaccuracy. But, the UK covers are just strangely much better and more accurate. Why is the US Touch of Power  cover so pink, so floral, and so inaccurate? It’s pretty, but it really doesn’t suit the book. The UK cover brashly displays our heroine, Avry, (my favorite MVS heroine) as feminine and strong without too many flowery elements. She looks like the formidable healer I envisioned her as, much more than the little girl image in the US cover. For the US Scent of Magic  cover, they fleetingly did a fantastic job with it, until reverting back to the dominant girly colors/weak-looking character frame for the female character.

If you’ve read the series (I’ll be doing an in-depth review of the remainder of the series, very/very soon), you know that Avry is probably the strongest one of all. She literally is the Jean Grey of Maria V.Snyder’s books (without all the cloying dark-side issues that would morph her into Dark Phoenix).

All her book series are strongly feminist (probably some of the most feminist books in the YA section), and I would love to see more male readers have more wherewithal to read them. In a better world, a guy could inconspicuously read Touch of Power with the pink cover (I did w/ some unease. Where is the Kindle edition, when I need it?)

I almost bought the UK editions because the covers are vastly better than the US editions, and I would have comfortable reading them in public (instead of the “hey, look, I’m reading Barbie’s Great Healing Adventure” with US Touch of Power cover)

If you have not read Maria V. Snyder’s books previously, you’d think action-sequences weren’t featured so prominently in the series. I think these books could have a wider readership, if Harlequin designed better covers, closer to spirit to the above UK covers!

I love the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson (someone that writes some of my favorite female characters in fantasy fiction). This cover just makes me more proud to own his books because the female character is not sexed up. These books are enjoyed equally by men and women. The female character is unassuming, and she looks remarkably normal. Tor Fantasy did such an excellent job with these covers, and it makes me wonder why other publishers have so many problems presenting female characters in this way. In a world of women having to look like skinny tramps on urban fantasy covers, the covers for Mistborn are an anomaly in a genre, geared towards male readers.

Princess Academy.jpg

With a title like Princess Academy, you would not expect such an exemplary example of a book cover for a novel that is mainly from the perspective of several well-written female characters. There are many examples of awesome male characters in this book as well, and the core message of this book is antithetical to films like The Little Mermaid (that perpetuate some really weird messages for women about being selfish, dishonorable to their family, and vapid in pursuit of love..BLAUGHH).

No, this fantastic book is the opposite to that, and I really, really love it. I’m so happy to say that I’ve read it, even though I’m a guy. I wish more educators would use this book in schools. Most of Shannon Hale’s works make me very, very happy. She’s an excellent writer, and has put some much effort forward to construct vibrantly strong examples of female characters that do not have to be warriors either. There is still a fun sense of pacifism, at the heart of these novels, making them more classic Mary Wollstonecraft feminism and not bra-burning feminism.

Another unassuming cover. It is abstract in meaning, and it doesn’t focus on superficial qualities of the book, that are contrary to the values represented in the story-line. I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood’s writing, so it makes me happy that Cat’s Eye, a book primarily about women  does not have a chick-lit cover. It has a cover that is mature!

Who’d think this book had a very strong romantic plot, at the heart of it? It is always very intelligently written, and has tons of very interesting historical factoids to separate this book from the myriad number of soulless,unromantic romance books out there. You wouldn’t even expect this to be a vampire book. It is another unassuming, picturesque scenery shot that does not make use of sex appeal on the cover to sell the book!! Great job, Penguin, for making not just a feminist cover, but a cover that also invites men to read a book, written by a woman and with a story primarily about a woman.

Regardless of your thoughts about the content of the book,this analysis is strictly about cover art. I strong feel that the covers for Stephenie Meyer’s books  have been fairly gender-neutral. Even though, two of the covers have a rose and ribbon; I still think they are still subtle and abstract covers. For that reason, I consider them to be good examples of feminist covers because they respect the maturity of the reader and focus more on the mysterious elements of the plot itself.  The discussion ends there, and I will say no more about Twilight, in terms of the questionable content (I don’t consider them feminist books, if you really are dying to know my opinion on them).

Another Mormon. You know, this is really unintentional. Overlook that fact, it is not important at all to this discussion. 

Anyways, these covers are a direct subversion almost of all those tasteless Wives of Patriarch books that have so much notoriety in the Christian publishing world.  They are flagrantly sexist and the marketing aim of those books are reductive.

First off, I have never read these books, but these covers feature average looking women. Who’d expect it? They’re not dolled up, sexed up, or shown to look like some abnormal, separate spieces. Okay, it may sound like I hate women that are fashionable (no, I don’t); my criticism of such covers is that they’re inaccurate and they send the wrong message to prospective readers. Even worse, it is usually extremely out-of-character, given that some of these women are from impoverished backgrounds (and wouldn’t be dressed like posh fashion models).

It is the inaccuracy, and the weird desire to doll up female characters (particularly, women from the Bible) that kind of confuses me. That shouldn’t be the focus of the cover, especially if said character again is either impoverished, humble, brave, strong (not vain or rich).

Still, I’m surprised Orson Scott Card published these books,and that the publishing company did such a impeccable job with the covers. Again, they’re unassuming, and they look like they invite male readers to read these books: a crucial element when encouraging men to read books from the perspective of a female character.

By the way, notice that she still looks feminine, even without all the makeup!! Why, I think she looks normal!!

For comparison sakes, here is the ghastly cover from the Wives of Patriarch series, featuring the same Biblical character:

Honestly, she now looks absolutely ridiculous! I have nothing furthermore to say, but she definitely does not look the part.

If you were a male Christian or Jew, and you wanted to perhaps read a novel about Sarah,  which book would you choose to read? If you guessed the Orson Scott Card, you are correct. Most male readers will choose something much less gendered, and more neutral. I think most readers, looking for something with higher literary quality, would pick something with a much more mature cover, as well. Placing a superficially ridiculous cover on your book, blatantly informs the reader that your book is Harlequin trash!

I love Sarah Water’s books! You probably wouldn’t know, by the looks of this cover, that her books feature lesbian characters. I know my post is probably confusing those, who are stringently ideologically pure, meaning they only read something liberal or conservative. I think that is an absolutely ridiculous way to read a book, especially if you want to be a free-thinking individual (very few of those left in our world of label-mongers)

Anyways (enough of my rant about group-think), the Fingersmith  cover works successfully as a feminist cover because it focuses more on subtly supplying the idea of the plot, rather than crudely placing dolled-up, Victorian lesbians (with lots of cleavage) on the book. The publisher might have done just that, and have effectively altered the market for this book. Instead, they realized that Sarah Waters primarily writers mature novels, filled to the brim with literary qualities and evocative language.

I think this cover begs the question: Why, just why, is it so hard for other publishers to realize that subtle, gender-neutral covers work the best?

Besides having a strong feminist plot-line, the Hunger Games has one of the best feminist covers. Do you notice that it is a minimalist cover? The publishers could have easily done what some publishing companies now do with YA books, featuring a love triangle. They will literally put two strong, unrealistically pretty men, back-to-back alongside the supposed strong female character.

Imagine now Katniss, striking an urban fantasy seductive pose, in a skin-tight, flesh-colored suit, alongside Peeta (who is weirdly bare-chested and brawny, all of sudden) and Gale with his large, mesmerizing bedroom eyes and broody glare (of course, per Harlequin custom; he is shirtless).

No intelligent reader, regardless of gender, would pick up Hunger Games with such an ineffective cover. There would have been no film; and the film might not have cracked the Hollywood glass ceiling. Jennifer Lawrence wouldn’t be the awesome role model that she has become.

See, publishing companies, that is why sexist book covers could greatly limit a book’s potential!

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