I wrote this blog, yesterday. It began like this:
…please read in a Princess voice ala Carrie Fisher as a tribute to all women.
A quick note on that – she was a feminist and mental health advocate, and in today’s fucked up and weird world (it’s my blog and I’ll swear if I want to), with questionable democratic capitalists ruling the western world, and women’s rights in question all over the earth, I think it’s important to be vigilant.
That’s why I’m submitting to this project, and you should too.
I’m even more sensitive these days to what appears online, and how careful I am myself about what I share. There’s a mass of fake news, coupled with seemingly benign, but stereotype reinforcing images that plague our social media newsfeeds every day.
I’m going to play devil’s advocate with something I’m involved with, that I find on the one hand really exciting, and on the other, makes my brain explode at times.
The Much Longer Conversation
I’m part of LitRing, and very excited to be one of the grab bag editors. I love that I get to review books from all over the place, and as a consultant with Novel Publicity, my boss and I work with tons of clients each day. We specialize in the ‘grab bag’, speculative, science-fiction, fantasy and niche markets are our thing. We also work with lots of people in YA genres, and Romance.
Caveat – It is no secret that I’m not a huge romance fan. If it’s non-traditional, then you might have me, but only if you’re genre-busting and stereotype busting. On the other hand, as a team, Pav and I are quite good at marketing books from any genre, and we can take our sometimes strong-headed personalities out of the context as long as we’re working with honest people.
What the hell does any of this have to do with feminism?
Well, to start with, marketing (which is a big part of my job(s) online, though I prefer editing) is inherently subject to stereotypes through text, images and how they’re conveyed to the advertising audience. As I said in the previous post – I’m going to play devils’ advocate here & analyze the graphics on Lit Ring’s website with a feminist lens. (I’m both voices, in my own head here – in true Naimeless crazy style!) Also keep in mind that this head conversation is clearly at the ends of both spectrums – bordering on ‘evil feminist’ and ‘bastard capitalist marketer’. It’s mean to be outrageous, because really, we should all be adults, and able to talk about anything rationally. Please picture them as Jim and Kirk.
Anyhow, take a look at the graphics on the bottom of this page: http://www.litring.com/giveaways/
The Feminist says: Romance Graphic – why is it a man and a woman? Couldn’t it be two women, two men, or two dogs for that matter?
The Marketer says: yes, it could, but then less people would identify it as romance.
The Feminist says: Oh,- or *gasp* think they might be clicking for erotica – you know because erotica is all the naughty stuff like being *gasp* LGBT2SQ.
The Marketer says: right, but we’re trying to reach a wide audience here.
So, we’re left at a crossroads – my feminist ideals and the marketer inside me constantly fight. I’m ready to admit, though, that if you want to reach the large romance audience, traditional images are the way to go.
I DON’T LIKE IT, THOUGH.
We could go on, and speculative, thrillers, christian (intentionally not capitalized) and young adult all feature one sex prominently to the demise of the other, but to keep it short, I’ll do my own graphic next…the Grab Bag
The Feminist says: This is better, it has men and women – they graphic is gray, so no skin color, but it’s clearly evident that every head is white in that picture. Much better effort, though.
The Marketer says: Well yes, it’s better, and there’s that guy with a beard…
The Feminist says: yeah, and now you’re stereotyping guys with beards as what?!
The Market says: Shut-up, and let me have this one.
Again, a crossroads, albeit a less defined one. Please keep in mind I took part in creating this/approving the images associated with my section (grab bag). This image, in more ways than the others at least, identifies that the books are a mixture, non-homogenous, and don’t necessarily conform to a specific genre.
Where work and life meet
I get that these graphics are meant to sell, and they will – they’re beautiful, pop, and immediately bring to mind the type of book you’ll be getting in that genre. So, in this case, the balance was images that are stereotypical enough to invoke ideas about what kinds of books lie in wait after clicking, but not so stereotypical that they don’t leave the door open for books that may not ‘quite’ fit the traditional description of the genre.
It doesn’t totally match my values, either.
Is that really okay, though?
It might be, and it is for most people. There’s an inherent give and take where money is the currency required to survive. This is probably the most benign type of stereotyping in marketing you’ll get. It was okay enough with me, in this case, that I approved of the graphics. That’s not really the point, though.
The point is, it can quickly evolve, into something much more sinister. We can quote lyrics from artists like Eminem, Snoop Dog, Lady Sovereign and probably hundreds of others as an attempt to reach larger audiences. If we’re not careful, we can turn something that sounds catchy like a song lyric into something that looks like women bashing, or teeters on the edge of reinforcing things like “Men are more violent than women” and “Only women can be raped!”
We’re blind to most of it – we constantly pair men with blue and women with pink – I personally prefer images that have no sex attached. I use purple a lot for that reason. It may seem tiny, insignificant, and unimportant on the surface; but at the end of the day, if we’re reinforcing the exact stereotypes we’re trying to bust out of we have to be uber vigilant. I try, and I am constantly seeing our stereotyping everywhere. I also know I’m hyper-sensitive to it because I’m writing a thesis on how/if/why/should we even? indigenize music curriculum. (indigenize is intentionally left in lowercase because I am not referring to a specific peoples, but the concept of indigenous itself.)
Even in Canada, where there’s no risk of an orangutang leading our country.
P.S. If we’re local (or even if we’re not, and you’re creative) we can totally barter. I’m all about living at the edges.
Oh, and in keeping with my promise…
Today, I have worked on reading through this list: https://decolonization.wordpress.com/decolonization-readings/ and re-written a section of a thesis critique dealing with teachign Mung children music!