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I Judge Books by Their Covers. Not People.
OPINION (of which I am entitled to and allowed to share. These are descriptive, not prescriptive. I am not telling anyone what to do)
Maybe one of the worst social media trends I have ever seen is this “hot authors” bullshit. Authors post photos or videos emphasizing how hot they are with the encouragement for others to do the same.
*This isn’t about posting selfies. No need to mention it to me, thanks.
*This isn’t about policing how people use social media. No need to mention it to me, thanks.
This is specifically about emphasizing attractiveness in an industry that isn’t already fucked up with that shit (i.e. the film industry). Do we really want the book industry to start prioritizing success based on looks? Age? Sex appeal? Maybe it is already. I suspect that in some cases, it probably is but when I was a child, before the internet, I didn’t even know what my favorite authors looked like apart from whatever images were included in the book—if any. So if there is an emphasis on looks, it’s relatively new and we have an opportunity to not perpetuate it.
Readers buy books for a variety of reasons. Least among them is what the author looks like. This is a good thing. Can we leave it this way? I’m genuinely asking/begging. No author should ever worry if they are attractive enough to write or sell books.
Promoting books is difficult enough. It’s emotionally, mentally, and financially taxing without adding psychological implications of concerning oneself with attractiveness.
Industry professionals pay close attention to social media trends and what’s “working” when it comes to selling books. Does anyone hope that this “hot author” bullshit catches on to the point that publicity teams start encouraging their clients to step up their physical appearance for social media? Jesus Christ. I hope the fuck not.
Authors are required to provide headshots (professional author photos) The ideal *should be authenticity. If someone’s most sincere, authentic way of presenting oneself to the public is without the added societal pressures of being attractive or photoshopping/airbrushing “imperfections” so shall it be. Let it be so! If we can support authors being comfortable in their own skin for a photo of their natural selves, we should, at all costs, support this.
Sometimes, when I’m reading a particularly fucked up horror book or dark thriller, I like to turn to the author's photo to see the face of the human responsible for such sinister thoughts. The reason is to put a face, an identity, to the words on the page I am mentally connecting with. This never needs to be conflated with attraction. Any suggestion by the author that it should isn’t necessary or invited.
Writing this is triggering. I remember being in a large cast for a high school performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played multiple roles. One of which was one of several amazon women who were a part of Queen Titana’s entourage. Backstage, a male cast member circulated a ballot for everyone to vote for the hottest amazon. It completely changed the dynamic among female cast members, an unwanted competition and an unnecessary introduction to feelings of inferiority. We were already insecure in our leopard print body suits-this list suddenly brought a negative awareness of how our bodies were on display. Does everything have to be seen through the male gaze? Does everything have to be sexualized? Must we tirelessly promote attractiveness among peers and colleagues?
My last thought on this is simply to explain that people are allowed to present themselves to the world however they want. If dressing up and feeling pretty or attractive makes a person happy, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and I’m not discouraging behavior that emphasizes one’s looks or posting selfies, cosplay, or haircuts. I post pictures of myself all the time. The damage is when people center attractiveness for everyone and perpetuate the lie that anyone should care about it. I worry about sensitive people who struggle with putting themselves out there at all, let alone this idea that they need to look a certain way. The book industry should remain uncorrupted from the patriarchal stain of vanity we see in the film industry. Beauty does not equal success. And I hope this social media trend is fleeting.
I just want to judge books by their cover.