This is today's blog post, but I wanted to get Crimespacers both male and female to weigh in on this topic so I thought I'd post it here in the forum.

Yesterday’s encounter (at an MMA expo) with Fight Chix sexy fightwear for women really got me thinking. While the old-school Catholic Madonna/Whore dichotomy has never really had much of an impact on my life, there is another more complex, modern version that vexes me daily. It’s the sexy/legit dichotomy.

It’s bad for female writers (or artists of any stripe) and even worse for female fighters. The idea that being appealing to men and being taken seriously are mutually exclusive. Sure, you’ll get ahead quicker if you’re sexy, because you’re easier to sell, but nobody’s gonna take you “seriously.” When I saw the Fight Chix booth, my first sarcastic thought was, “Yeah, that’s really gonna help female fighters get taken more seriously.” Then I stopped to question my own reaction. Why can’t a sexy woman be taken seriously?

Why do women feel the need to neutralize their sexuality in order to keep the focus on their art, craft or athletic ability? Why do actresses only get critical acclaim when they ugly down for a role? Why do people snipe at a beautiful writer like Mo Hayder or a gorgeous fighter like Gina Carano, claiming they only get ahead because of their looks? Why do I worry that being sold as a “curvy crime writer” and a former Times Square peep girl is somehow eclipsing the legitimacy of my work?

What do you think?

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Yeah, I think Ardai's real wife Naomi would agree.
I'm with Sandra. One good thing about free speech, morons tend to shout their stupidity from the rooftops.
"playing a tambourine in your boyfriend's band" mentality behind?

Is this still around very much? I mean, we all put up with the Rush Limbaughs of the world, but are there really that many of them?

Is there something like playing tambourine in your boyfriend's band in publishing?

I know I have a skewed view of this because the entire publishing industry in Canada is run by women and pretty much all our top authors are women, so if anybody's playing tambourine here, it's me.

As for sports, the main reason women's sports aren't "taken seriously" is because it's too hard to bet on them. No one really takes male sports "seriously" as athletic events, it's just the betting. I'd like to bet on the Canadian Women's hockey team, but either they'll win the gold or the US will so no one will take my bet.

(okay, I'm mostly kidding about the sports stuff)
Is there something like playing tambourine in your boyfriend's band in publishing?

Actually, from what I understand male authors are reviewed more often than female authors, and I think tend to receive more promotional dollars from publishers - not positive about the second, but I know the first was given to me as a reason behind the creation of Sisters in Crime. The official purpose of the group is:

"To combat discrimination against women in the mystery field, educate publishers and the general public as to inequities in the treatment of female authors, raise the level of awareness of their contributions to the field, and promote the professional advancement of women who write mysteries."

Certainly the inference is there, that discrimination exists. Whether there's been a significant change since the group started in 1986 I can't say.

I do think that the tambourine mentality is one that women are conditioned with (speaking generally here) and it does have a negative impact, which can affect those in publishing and outside the business. I know you have a strong wife John, an educated, professional woman, but I have a six-year-old daughter who's already on her second "boyfriend" this year, and talks about who she's going to marry when she grows up. By comparison I have a seven-year-old son who thinks girls are "gross". I'm concerned about a girl already thinking that she needs a boy to have a crush on. That's followed by thinking she always needs a boyfriend, and that she isn't important if she isn't in a relationship... ie, she always needs a man. It's really unhealthy.

And while I'm at it, I know that some women have been encouraged to use initials so that they won't be readily identified as female authors.
When I buy a book it's because I want to read a great story. I don't care if the writer is sexy or not since my intention is to look at more than the back cover. I don't care if the book is written by a woman, a man, or a two headed green alien from the Planet Zog. Any writer - male or female - should feel free to just be who they are, and not neutralize any part of themselves, rather than toning anything down or putting on a front. If the work is good it will stand on its own merits. If it's shite and has been built up to be something it isn't, it will slip away into the oblivion it deserves. An author can be sexy and legit, or unsexy and shit, or any combination of those. At least, I like to think so (since I fit squarely into the latter category!) :o)
Donna, you are both sexy and legit and the fact that you don't seem to know it makes you that much more legit in my book ;-)
I think we need to be recognized for our literary or other skills -- not just the packageing. So I agree with you on how it can be frustrating.
Either you grab me as a reader on the first page or you don't. Doesn't matter what you look like, what image you present, age, gender, whatever.

Have an adverb in your first page, and I'll put your book down and all the looks in the world won't keep me reading, even if it's Sebastian Junger (a hot guy w/a hot image who is also taken seriously as a writer, BTW.)
The anti-adverb campaign is as silly as looking at the author's picture to make sure he/she is hot.
During my formative years there were only two kind of girls recognized by the 'morally correct' segment of the population that made up the majority of the middle class. There were the ones you married and the 'other' ones, that you might want to date, but never marry. Obviously this was a day or two ago. Girls were expected to get married, stay home and raise the kids.

This social behavior was hard wired into the brain of many generations. It was just the way things were and at that time no one thought too much about it because it was expected. Career women were an aberration, not the norm. Then we blinked and all that changed.

I suspect that some of that still exists at some level in our brains, even in this modern and more balanced world. Probably not at a conscious level, but somewhere just below the surface. It wasn't that long ago when you look at it in the larger scope of history.

Marketing an attractive lady writer in a provocative layout may trigger that suppressed good girl, smart girl, 'other' girl circuitry in the prospective buyer and create impulse buys, particularly from guys, but they will also be the first to tear off the back cover, pin it to the wall and throw the book in the bottom drawer. But they did buy the book.

We may see a lot more of this kind of marketing and promotion in the near future. The publishing industry is facing the prospect of competition from sources that they never even knew existed twenty years ago. There has to be some scrambling going on in some boardrooms and marketing offices. As conventional Publishing starts to lose market share, they may resort to more heavy handed sales and marketing techniques.

I really believe that once the market shakes out, and it will, content will once again be the selling point. It might take a while, some of you younger writers will probably see it happen.

As for me, I'd gladly take my shirt off and strike a pose if it would sell a book. I just have serious doubts about anyone who would buy it. If a picture of a 65 year old man with a pony tail and a pot gut sells my books then I hope they don't get my email address.


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