– Heather Conn photo
It shocked me this week to discover that BC Ferries has banned the sale of Annabel Lyon’s award-winning book The Golden Mean on its ferries. That’s outrageous!
The novel, which tells of Aristotle serving as tutor to Alexander the Great, has a cibachrome photographic image on its cover: a naked man lies face down and bareback on a white horse, viewed from the side and overhead.
Deborah Marshall, a BC Ferries spokeswoman, told the Aug. 27 Vancouver Sun (they were actually scooped by Agence France-Presse) that the private, British-Columbia-wide company chooses “non-controversial” and “family appropriate” books in their gift shop. I guess that must be why they carry so many fashion magazines with covers showing women’s cleavage popping out and men’s sports magazines that show jocks in such form-clinging swimsuits that they might as well be nude.
An artsy photo on the cover of a creative work is deemed obscene, while magazines sold on BC Ferries carry photos of barely clad models, both male and female? This is a case of ridiculous censorship.
A BC Ferries committee apparently chooses the books that appear in the ferry bookstore. Do its members also choose the magazines for sale in the same area? I haven’t looked lately, but I’d certainly guess that they carry Playboy and similar publications. Images of nude women are okay but not ones of men?
BC Ferries reportedly has a tradition of banning books that feature any nudity, according to The Vancouver Sun. In recent years, this has included Wreck Beach, a history’s of Vancouver’s nude beach, and Stephen Vogler’s Only in Whistler, which includes a historical photo of four nude female skiers shown from behind.
It’s time to grow up, BC Ferries. The image on this book cover is innocuous and not presented in any context that suggests lewdness, pornography, exploitation, or abuse. If you ban this book, then you’ve got to ban every media ad in your magazines that objectifies a man or woman and depicts him or her either partially or not-at-all clothed.
Banning Lyons’ book for any reason is preventing potential readers from enjoying a well-researched and top, original piece of historical fiction. Her book won Canada’s Rogers Writers’ Trust award and was nominated for our country’s two other highest literary recognitions, the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award. Lyon and her publisher, her book and its readers, deserve far better treatment than what BC Ferries has given them. Shame on you.