[T]he iconic librarian’s desexualizing dress and hairstyle was intended to allow her to move freely and invisibly through the male public sphere. Under the conquering gaze of the man-as-dominator, though, this desexualization only serves to highlight the sexuality thus contained. Just as the North African woman was assumed to know secrets of pleasure far beyond those of The West (secrets worthy of being hidden), the sexy librarian is seen as not just a woman underneath, but a super-sexual being, a “freak”, a “wild one”. She is a prize to be taken, a treasure to be captured, an exotic animal barely tamed beneath her bun and shapeless cardigan.
If I’ve learned anything in a lifetime — and I’m prepared to argue that I haven’t — it’s that looking at the cover is at best a half-assed way to judge a book.
(We will not discuss the highly fictional dalliance with a librarian that I wrote about a couple of years ago.)