Dear Seal Press

UPDATE: Amanda has publicly apologized:

I didn’t pick the offensive imagery in my book, but I should have caught it sooner than now. I didn’t and there’s no excuse. It was my first book, I was excited and happy, but I needed to have a more critical eye. I would do anything to remove racist images from the first printing of the book if I could, and I am relieved and happy to say that they will be removed from future printings.

Seal Press has apologized, as well.

I don’t mean to say “well, that’s over with; no need to worry about this anymore!,” when I say that I’m relieved and happy that Seal and Amanda have taken this step.

Original post follows.

* * *


The above is one of the illustrations from Amanda’s new book. Sylvia, in the comments of Feministe, suggested writing Seal Press about it.

Dear Seal Press,

I’ve been a fan of Amanda Marcotte’s writing for years — since before she was on Pandagon. I think of Amanda as a friend. I’ve been looking forward to her book for many months. I regularly buy and read nonfiction books, including feminist books, and recommend them to my friends.

But I simply can’t buy a book that blithely uses blatantly racist illustrations. I can’t. Nor can I recommend to anyone else that they buy it.

It’s not funny. It’s not hip. It’s just racist.

Please, stop it.


Barry Deutsch

This was a painful post for me to write; I am mindful of the fact that at a time when huge portions of the feminist blogosphere were writing me off, Amanda did not. That means a lot to me.1 I don’t want to hurt Amanda, and I genuinely want her to have a great career.

But there are more important issues at stake here.

Curtsy: Dear White Feminists, who has more commentary and more illustrations; Maia’s post, and Mandolin in Maia’s comments.

UPDATE: Read Holly’s post, as well. Here’s some of what she suggests Seal Press needs to address:

So I would like to call on Amanda Marcotte and Seal Press to do the following — while also keeping in mind that nobody should be making assumptions about exactly who was responsible for what, saw what parts of this book while it was in progress:

1. Please explain what process led to the selection of these images for this book, and what the intentions of those involved in decision-making were.

2. Please tell us whether you think it’s appropriate for a book about feminism, which the author describes as not really covering race issues, to include depictions of white heroines beating up stereotypical violent, spearchucking dark-skinned people, who apparently represent the “politically inhospitable environment.”

3. Please tell us what steps, if any, you hope to take to address the criticisms that have been raised.

NOTE REGARDING COMMENTS: Feminists or WOC (or both) and allies are welcome to comment. No comments from right-wingers, please.

  1. It may be relevant to mention that BFP also didn’t write me off, and that means a lot to me, too. []
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20 Responses to Dear Seal Press

  1. Pingback: Women's Space

  2. ….. I give up. All done now!

  3. 3
    Sailorman says:

    I believe in the concept that ideological peers get more attention than ideological opponents. So that said:

    I am by no means one to jump on the “that’s racist” claims at first glance; I’ve gotten in plenty of arguments where I was unwilling to agree that something was as racist as other said it was. I don’t sign on to the same reading of the LeBron James cover as did some.

    So having established my non-bashing credential sufficiently that Amanda may listen, I’d like to say that this is ridiculous.

    White people can obviously opine and write on race issues. But there’s some stuff that we just shouldn’t do. Using racism as “irony” is one of those things that we need to avoid, whether it’s blackface, old Tintin cartoons, or things like this. It is just entirely inappropriate.

    I have no idea who was responsible for this–as Holly notes, it was quite probably completely out of Amanda’s hands–but it needs to be fixed.

  4. 4
    Fred Vincy says:


    I am also a big fan of Amanda’s and agree that I am very disappointed in these images.

    Has Amanda addressed this issue directly? I would like to hear her thoughts on this.


  5. 5
    Kevin Moore says:

    I think it’s a no-brainer that images like these derive from a history of racist depictions of indigenous people. When I saw the front cover, I had no problem, because I could appreciate the irony of embracing the Sheena-style white Amazon. But the editors should have used more care in selecting images for the chapter sleeves. I would not assume any intentions on their part, but then intentions are not relevant here; effects are. I think any well-educated high-level person involved in marketing and publishing should by this late date in history have figured out that images like these have seriously offensive connotations.

    But Seal Press seems to have problems demonstrating sensitivity to people of color, anyway, so I can’t say as I’m surprised.

  6. 6
    Mandolin says:

    This was a painful post for me to write; I am mindful of the fact that at a time when huge portions of the feminist blogosphere were writing me off, Amanda did not. That means a lot to me.1 I don’t want to hurt Amanda, and I genuinely want her to have a great career.

    There’s no need to personalize this. It’s not about Amanda, it’s about offensive illustrations. You’re not trying to hurt her. You’re trying to get a printing of her product that does not involve racist imagery.

    If a second printing doesn’t come through, I figure I’ll buy the book used, and then donate some portion of the original cover price to Amanda to approximate royalties. That way I can support her writing without giving money to Seal Press.

    If Seal Press refuses to in some way atone for the illustrations, and Amanda retains the appropriate rights, she might consider releasing the text of her book as shareware a la Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars. The online run of that book has earned Scalzi a significant amount of money, he says, and I imagine Amanda’s traffic is comparable to his.

    Edited to add: I buy stuff with equally or more offensive racist and sexist content to these illustrations all the time. I suspect we all do. If Amanda didn’t feel like part of my “community” so that I was giving this book 100x more thought than I would most casual purchases, I would almost certainly buy this and grouch about the racism of the illustrations afterward, in the same way I watch a movie with racist content and rail against it after I’ve seen the movie rather than boycotting the movie. However, Seal Press is attempting to market itself as a progressive, feminist press. It therefore racks up certain obligations. Also I feel that it may be small enough, and specialized enough, for raised progressive voices to have an appreciable effect.

    (It may however be small enough for a reprint with different illustrations to be financially prohibitive. They could consider an alternative method of handling the situation, although as Sailorman noted on Feministe such a thing might be difficult to envision. Perhaps, as he suggested, an insert — using the opportunity to explain the dangers of how white privilege can blind people to obvious racist imagery, which happens to be conveniently and literally illustrated in the text.)

  7. 7
    Mandolin says:

    I’m going to repost a comment I initially made at Feministe:

    I don’t find the images problematically sexist in the context in which they are presented.

    However, as Holly says, “I cannot automatically extend that same benefit of the doubt to a feminist book’s take on racism and use of racist images.”

    Particularly because of the book’s heading “It’s a Jungle Out There” which implies that what feminists must fight is whatever is represented as being the enemy in the jungle. Crocodiles? Okay. Although one can still make the argument that using colonialism/expansionism as the underpinning for a metaphor to describe the “battles” of feminism is inherently problematic (as kiki makes). But racistly depicted indigenous peoples? This clearly crosses the line. It suggests that what feminists need to conquer is dark people; it reinforces the displacement of white male patriarchy onto brown men, a dynamic we see as clearly politically relevant in current events where white men’s patriarchal leanings are depicted as less bad and pervasive than those of looming outsider brown men. (Be glad for our {purity balls, polygamous rape farms, lack of representation for white women and WOC in government, enablement-through-war of the rape and murder of hundreds of thousands of brown women}, at least they aren’t {machismo, brown men raping white women, mandatory headscarves, etc.})

    The context of the book and its title itself underscores — not ironicizes — the problematic racism of these images.

  8. 8
    matttbastard says:

    Nice to see the trolls still have trouble with comprehension (both visual and reading).

    Edit: I see mandolin already cleaned up ed’s mess.

    Thank you.

  9. 9
    Mandolin says:

    Ed, if you post in this thread or any other feminist/anti-racist/no-outsiders/no-right-wingers thread again, ever, even once, you will be banned.

  10. 10
    Rachel S. says:

    Okay, in case y’all don’t remember the original illustration for the cover was going to be a blonde haired white women being carried away by a gorilla–it looked like King Kong.

    I guess they responded to the cover by putting a croc instead, but I see the inside images are just as bad if not worse that the old King Kong cover.

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  13. 11
    Mandolin says:

    To settle the issue of how much control Amanda had over the images, she writes on Feministe:

    I see the concerns about the images. I didn’t choose them, and rest assured if I had looked them over, I would have said something and had them changed before it went to print. I have sent the concerns onto the publisher.

    My main concerns were always about what I do control, which is the writing.

    Which isn’t to say that I can’t pass concerns along, which I have.

    Several people have said on the Feministe thread that they would have expected Amanda to have seen the pictures during the proofing process. Personally, I’m not surprised. I have a friend who recently published a highly publicized book with a very large press, and she saw the illustrations very late in the game, and had no voice in them at all — and that was at a large operation, rather than what appears to be the shoestring of Seal Press. When I see anthology or magazine proofs, often illustrations and graphics will still be big grey boxes at the time the text is sent to me for one last perusal.

    Of course, now the issue is out in the open, and I hope it will soon be resolved in such a way as to make it clear that the inclusion of these images was completely, utterly unacceptable.

    (ETA: Also, I agree completely with Holly’s comment here)

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  15. 12
    Rachel S. says:

    I seem to remember Amanda saying that she was fine with the original cover idea…and then she followed it up by saying later that she would run the issues that people brought up about the cover by the publisher.

    I seem to remember her suggesting that she did have some influence over the cover, not necessarily the inside art work but the cover.

    However, I also think it is important to not turn everyone of these issues into a purely personal issue. These problems are way bigger than Amanda or Seal Press–it seems to be a systemic issue.

  16. 13
    Amanda Marcotte says:

    I’ve issued a statement. I’m aware that it wasn’t as hasty as some would have liked, but one has to take the time to say what you really mean in a serious situation like this.

  17. 14
    Mandolin says:

    Thanks for the link, Amanda.

  18. 15
    ebog/gary says:

    That apology over at Seal Press’ blog is straight out of the Jane “Blackface Joe” Hamsher school of racial apologies. They should have just gone the full Bill Clinton and wagged their finger at us about how they’re being Mau-Mau’d or race-carded.

    They are quick studies, though. The promise to take a class is nice EEOC/HR jujitsu. By allocating funds to diversity education, they not only get to do public penance, but also get to insulate themselves internally should any colored Seal Press employee ever get to thinking that the place is a racially hostile workplace. (This of course assumes they have any colored employees.)

    Some people really never learn.

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