Today, I am done with tired, gratuitous references to the appearances of attractive women writers in discussions of any kind about their books. And also, it’s weird that I have to be done with this in 2013. I literally had to double check my calendar last night, in case I was in a time warp. I was reading a 2013 book preview post on a website where the phrase “fetching author photo” was used and I simply snapped.
The way some people go on about attractive women writers, you would think these great beauties were some kind of exception to the rule of hideous scribbling women. It’s quite odd because any time I’m at a literary event, I’m quite impressed by how attractive and chic the majority of those in attendance are and I’m not saying that from some post-aesthetic place where inner beauty reigns. I’m saying, I have eyes and physical qualities I find attractive and I see all kinds of writers who are absolutely universal standards of hot, all across the country and nearly everyone scrubs up decently for an author photo.
Why then, is there such amazement when beautiful women write successful books? Are we still suffering the mythology that women cannot be both attractive and intelligent? Is it passive aggressive resentment about how far beauty can get a person? At what point will people get over these things? I am ready to fast forward to then.
And then, of course, there is the fact that so rarely are men given this kind of scrutiny. Have you seen the guy who wrote Truth in Advertising? John Kenney? When I saw his author photo on the book jacket, I was like, that is an extraordinarily attractive man! But you won’t hear any discussion of that in conjunction with discussions of his book. Male writers get to be attractive without comment unless, obviously, I am commenting. He is quite attractive.
There is no ideal world and I wouldn’t really want to live in one. We are part of a culture where looks matter. I am not pretending this culture does not exist. I am not pretending looks don’t help. I do think critics and book bloggers can do better. I think we can try and change the culture in small ways. I am guessing we can manage to talk about books by beautiful women without frothing like neanderthals.