They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But you might well be able to sell a book based on its cover. The world of Malay book jackets of the past (circa 1960’s to mid 1970’s) was a different place then, where nude women as decorative elements were apparently no big deal. Nowadays, more chaste illustrations of women in the tudung (headscarves) are de rigeur and few publishers would venture anywhere above the (arbitrary) knee-length axis of morality. Somehow I don’t think the reasons for the change were motivated by aesthetics or feminist consciousness.
The following books were discovered in my library and it is my (dis)pleasure to share with you some recurring themes, both illustrated and suggested in the titles. Because they’re potentially Not Safe For Work, I’ve posted them after the jump:
Naked/semi-undressed women simply for decorative/titillating purposes
Sensationalist/sexually-suggestive titles, Malay-style
Woman as femme fatale
Woman as submissive/passive/defeated object
Of course these are simply selected book covers and not representative of how women are illustrated. I just wanted to show how suggestive Malay book jackets were during a time when local literature and publishing in the 1960’s were experiencing a significant turning point in Malaysia’s cultural history. Perhaps it implicitly illustrated a socially relaxed time – albeit one in which controversial subjects were dominated by male writers – when sex and sexuality were discussed openly and read by the masses.