Cris Mazza stops at HTMLGIANT as part of her virtual book tour…
I was prepared to sit here and rant about having to change my author photo to a more friendly, smiling image, certain that practically zero men ever get told they need a smiling photo (or to “look cute” as another writer wrote about being advised). This advice (and that I felt pressured to follow it) was particularly troubling this time, for this book: because the book is nonfiction, because part of it is about female sexual dysfunction, about not feeling sexy in a sex-hungry, sexiness-demanding world. The photo I had chosen, a selfie, showed the mood I thought the narrative conveyed.
When the smiling photo was requested (not by my publisher), I didn’t have the time (and was very low on inclination) to create another photo, to “try” to smile for it without appearing conscious it had been requested. So I went back to the most recent photo I had where I was smiling (also containing my dog, the same dog, so not that long ago). Unfortunately, it was taken in the summer and I was wearing a tank top. I truly and firmly did not want to be showing skin in the author photo for this book.
I’ve seen too many books by women recently where the author photo is beyond “you’re pretty when you smile.” From seductive to downright trampy, wearing a lacy slip or camisole, professionally made-up, professionally applied cleavage (if none was readily available). Why do we have to look ready for sex to have our books respected, or just read?
Did I say respected? I was pleased to be reviewed recently in an esteemed review vehicle, but I’d like to assume the header was not written by the reviewer, because the title completely trivializes the three books covered in the review. “On Losing It And Other Chick Stuff.” I can’t imagine a book by a man that reveals a lifetime of erectile dysfunction would have been devalued as though it was about boys snapping towels in the locker-room.
Ok, so I did start my rant. I was going to say I didn’t need to write it because before I did, Rae Bryant posted this:
I find it interesting when editors or presses promote an International Women’s Day when their aesthetic really only promotes women writers writing about sexy sex. Don’t get me wrong. I like the sexy sex in literary fiction when it’s done well and witty (toooo many times it’s not) but International Women’s Day really requires a sense for GENDER EXPLORATION, including sex in all its sexiness and dark and nasty. Just aren’t a whole lot of editors who really know what that is. A few who really do.
There also seems to be a collect of editors/publishers who publish the “sweetheart crowd.” Male run/fraternity like publications who have decided upon their “fraternity sweethearts.” These fraternity sweethearts must have the following attributes:
- DO NOT bitch about our maleness in any shape or form.
- You MUST entertain us by sexy words on page and more preferable, a willingness to perform your sexiness at readings and other such events.
- A constant sense of humor about your gender. If you get PMSey at any point in time, we reserve the right to oust you, our boy club friends will oust you and you’ll never again be on the fraternity sweetheart list. Blacklisted. Or Blackballed.
Of course no one’s going to name names, me included, but … over a drink somewhere, I’d love to hear the experiences that brought this out on a Friday afternoon. My little author photo misery might have to take a smaller role in a larger conversation.
Cris Mazza is the author of over 17 books, including Various Men Who Knew Us as Girls, Waterbaby, Trickle-Down Timeline, and Is It Sexual Harassment Yet? Her first novel, How to Leave a Country, won the PEN/Nelson Algren Award for book-length fiction. Mazza has co-edited three anthologies, including Men Undressed: Women Writers on the Male Sexual Experience. In addition to fiction, Mazza has authored collection of personal essays, Indigenous: Growing Up Californian. Currently living 50 miles west of Chicago, she is a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.