WHAT IS GIRLWASHING?
I don't advise you to google that term unless you want to see a whole lot of videos of car washes. Girlwashing is a term that I coined with the help of the lovely and talented Kalen O'Donnell. Basically it encompasses that dreaded topic that gets brought up again and again when talking YA lit: is it girl-centric? Are there enough stories for boys? Are girls with pretty dresses on covers turning off male readers? Are we GIRLWASHING YA?
And if we are, is it a bad thing?
I intended to write this post last week and then I realized it wasn't one post, it was a couple of them. Maybe 3 or 12. I'm not really sure. You see, I have a lot to say on this topic. But today, I'm focusing on covers.
We wait for them. We drool over them. We devote entire posts to their beautyousness. And I will be the first to admit that when I see a cover with a girl in a pretty dress on the cover, it catches my eye. But then inevitably, Kalen and I have this conversation:
Me: Did you see the cover for Must Have New Book of April?
Me: What did you think?
Kalen: It's really pretty.
Me: I agree. I thought it was _____ (insert steampunk, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, other though).
Kalen: Yeah, it is. Apparently there isn't a shortage of ballgowns though.
Then Kalen will inevitably read the book before I get to it, because he is unencumbered by minions, and I'll ask:
Does she wear that dress in the book?
Kalen: No, she spends most of her time in rags in a basement caught in a nuclear winter.
Me: Huh. Well, it's a pretty dress.
Does this conversation sound familiar to anyone else? I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I'm actually pretty neutral on the topic of covers and girlwashing. But I am not the norm. It seems like most bloggers/readers/writers/editors/agents have definite opinions on the topic of girlwashing. I see Waiting on Wednesday after Waiting on Wednesday post filled with girl in pretty dresses covers. Then I watch debate after debate via twitter about how all these pretty covers are alienating boys.
I have to pause to say something that I will come back to later on: If a picture of a girl in a dress causes a boy not to pick up a book or makes him scared to be seen reading it, we have much bigger problems than pretty covers, people.
Back to the topic at hand, girlwashing seems rampant when you walk through the YA section and check out the covers. Are publishers trying to girlwash YA? Are we marking YA as girl territory? And when did books become so gender-centric anyway? What think you, dear readers?
I have so much more to say on this topic, but I want to let the idea percolate with you for a bit. Next I think we shall talk about male v. female sections of the bookstore and where YA stands (be prepared for me to put on my WGST hat!).
And please click that little comment button and tell me what you think!