Judging a book by its cover

// 29 October 2006

Jessica Valenti from Feministing is about to publish her first book. Although the only thing revealed so far is its cover, Full Frontal Feminism has already provoked a storm of contraversy in the blogosphere.

A number of commenters on Feministing took Valenti to task for using a sexualised photo of a naked woman to sell a book about feminism. Some of the blog’s readers questioned why the tummy featured on the cover had to be so airbrushed and perfect. Nerdlet, for example, said:

This was a missed opportunity to put a real woman’s body on the cover. A little bit of pubic hair sticking up at the bottom, if nothing else. A navel ring. A scar. A birthmark. A tiny bit of a paunch. Something

Still others, such as Tom Head quoted below, see it as a canny marketing ploy to draw in a readership turned off by feminism:

The cover is supposed to look like a generic fashion photo (right down to the white-breadedness), to send the message, you can be a feminist without giving up Vogue and whatnot. Then, once they let their guard down and start reading, whammo! Jessica will radicalize the hell out of them

But other commenters, and blogger Nubian, raise the – perhaps more serious issue – of race. Does a photo of a white woman’s body exclude non-white readers?

Why not just call it a young WHITE womans guide to WHITE feminism? It is so obvious that this book is not for my young cousin, her friends, and a number of other young women of color who believe that they should be treated the same as any other woman. But i guess, they don’t matter, do they?

Nubian even goes so far as to strike out we and replace it with you when talking about Valenti’s feminism.

A piece of publicity that’s arguably already compromising feminist ideals to draw in new readers should not be shutting people out like this. Surely it should be possible to come up with a cover that appeals to the “I’m not a feminist, but” masses, without giving the misleading impression that feminism is just for white women.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the blogosphere, the debate about feminity – and whether waxing, makeup and pretty dresses somehow makes one a lesser feminist – continues. Over at Mind the Gap, Winter adds a different perspective by questioning her own avoidance of anything overtly feminine.

Huzzah! Go me. I look the way I do because I’m a good feminist who doesn’t oppress other women.


So, does that mean:

I don’t have to talk about the fact that if you tried to make me wear a dress I would cry, because that’s a perfectly healthy feminist reaction to dresses?

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