You just stop seeing it

Wait, what? There’s such a thing as sexist sci-fi and fantasy book covers? Really? I thought only ugly feminists said that. Surely the BBC isn’t an ugly feminist.

Science fiction and fantasy novels routinely portray scantily clad woman on their covers – a device that draws the heterosexual male eye but may turn away women readers. Lynsea Garrison finds one fantasy author aiming to zap gender

By doing the poses himself, to amusing effect.

Hines, a fantasy author, is posing like some of the female characters on science fiction and fantasy book covers he says objectify women.

He gets into character by twisting his body into the same contorted positions as the female characters on the books.

“The way women are portrayed is just so ridiculous, so often, you just stop seeing it,” Hines says.

“I think posing has made people see it again – you see how ridiculous it is when a 38-year-old fantasy writer is doing it.”

Well, a 38-year-old male balding glasses-wearing fantasy writer with stubble and armpit hair, at least.

Many science fiction and fantasy readers are disappointed to encounter everyday sexism in a medium that is supposed to offer an escape.

Covers frequently exhibit women’s bodies with revealing clothing unsuitable for combat, and fans argue that sexualising female characters sends a message to readers that women are sex objects.

And that the only women who are of interest are the pneumatic hottie type.

Gallo thinks part of the problem is that male artists greatly outnumber female artists in the industry.

“You go to art school, and it’s 50-50,” Gallo said. “But professionally, it’s overwhelmingly male.

“This is an unfortunate fact of the industry. These artists grew up with comics and gaming, so it’s easy to perpetuate these things without thinking them through.”

Ah no no no no no!! You can’t say that. No no no. That’s Nazi witch-hunting inquisition stuff. It never happens that anyone perpetuates these things without thinking them through. Never never never!


  1. says

    BBC: Well, Ms. Gallo, is there some reason why the artistic profession is overwhelmingly male?
    G: It’s who wants to be paid for it, who wants to get hired for it, who’s artistically active, you know, it’s more of a guy thing.
    BBC: …
    G: You know, it’s unreasonable to expect that equal numbers of men and women will be attracted to every sphere of human endeavour. Science has shown that. Or something.

  2. hypatiasdaughter says

    Trying to appeal to both the boob men AND the breast men. It’s a thankless job, but they try, they try.

  3. says

    Eh… don’t look at me, I’m more into the ElfQuest end of things. Okay, the bodies are still kinda ridiculous, but the characters — male, female, young, old, Wolfrider, Go-Back, Sunfolk or Glider — each is a individual, with strengths, weaknesses, and all kinds of flaws and quirks and personalities, and each and every one is welcomed and embraced, even Winnowill, the Big Bad of several story arcs, is presented as more than just evil. And, um, as far as the elves go, this is a case of “everyone is bisexual” — sharing pleasure with a loved one (or two, or three, or four, or more) is a Good Thing, regardless of gender, “marital” status, or societal niche.

    Clothing is, yes, kinda skimpy and revealing, especially among the Sun Folk (who live in a desert), but it’s always environmentally appropriate (e.g. The Go Back’s always wore heavy furs, because they lived in the freakin’ mountains).

  4. Francisco Bacopa says

    What always bothered me is that almost none of the women on fantasy novel covers could have been the mothers of the heavy-boned muscular male heroes on those covers. You want to see a woman who can bear those sons? Just watch the movie Rushmore. Max’s homeroom teacher after he was kicked out of Rushmore is such a woman. I knew her and her family and her kids back when the movie was filmed. Her kids were three barbarian gods and one tall mistress of basketball.

    The women in fantasy art cannot be from the same communities as the men in fantasy art. Their mothers and sisters must surely look like the teacher from Rushmore. I think there could be many ways they could be presented as sexually desirable, but why don’t we see it?

    Probably because that would make the woman seem like an equal of the hero, and for some people that would be a turn off. Not sure why, maybe Roosh could explain it to me, but I’m not really interested. I’ll stick with my barbarian queen fantasies.

  5. O P says

    lol, have you seen the covers of romance novels? Do you think they are “sexist” toward men? I’m not sure why depicting women or men in sexual provocative apparel or positions is “sexist.” Nor do I understand why sexualizing humans is sexist… Humans are sexual, right? If we depicted men always wearing lab coats, would we be creating intellectual objects out of them? My idea of “sexism” is when people are degraded with stereotypes of gender norms, like saying something about women being less intelligent than men.

  6. Rumtopf says

    O P needs to have a look at Escher girls, for a start. Twisting female characters into spine-breaking, impractical(for fighting) poses purely to show their tits and arses and leaving them vulnerable from lack of proper armour, all done to appeal to the hetero male gaze… is pretty degrading and off-putting to many women, especially when you consider that this styling is what represents the vast majority of women characters in comics.

    Here’s where you’re going totally wrong: Sexualised depictions of men and women where sexy art is expected, such as the covers of romance/erotic novels, does not compare to the hyper-sexualised depictions of women in comics where they are supposed to be fighting! Context, yo. And hell, some sexiness would be absolutely fine, just not EVERY damn time a woman character is in the panel, no matter what she’s doing and how impractical it is.

  7. iknklast says

    Ummm…if guys are the ones who grew up with it, and that’s why they’re in the field, then why is it 50/50 in the schools? Oh, wait, I’ve got a “girl brain”, so maybe I can’t, like, understand math or statistics or science or reality…

    Science classes are mostly women, too, but men dominate the field. If it were truly a “guy” thing, women wouldn’t be seeking these degrees. They’d be in Home Ec or English. Women want to be scientists, artists, mathematicians, journalists, etc. That’s why they go to school for those fields. But they don’t show up in huge numbers later…can someone say…obstacles?

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