A while back I clicked on a link that promised "the summer's best reads," and I was disappointed to realize that many of the books had titles that defined a woman by her relationship to a man: Somebody's Daughter, Somebody's Wife. Yet these books are being promoted as women's fiction: romance, chick lit. To me, that's problematic. I don't really want to read about a woman who is defined, whether by herself or by others (including the author), by the men in her life.
Then I realized I had no idea whether I'd chosen reading material, whether consciously or unconsciously, that reflected this opinion. I went through the list of books I've read over the past few years, which is about 375 books.
Lots of them had "girl" or "woman" in the title, including these:
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, by P.D. James
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Who Played with Fire and Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson
The Chalk Girl, by Carol O'Connell
The Blue Girl, by Charles de Lint
However, only two titles defined a woman by her relationship to a man:
The Girl of His Dreams, by Donna Leon
The Spy's Wife, by Reginald Hill
In the Donna Leon book, the girl in question is a murder victim, so almost by definition she's going to be characterized by her relationships with others (including the policeman who investigates the crime). The Reginald Hill book has as its central character a wife who is suddenly confronted with the fact that her husband is a spy, so the book is about her coming to terms with this new information and its impact on her life. Plus, it's Reginald Hill, which means it's going to be a good book no matter the title
I'm a bit surprised, given the frequency of such titles, that I've managed to avoid them, and I don't know whether it's a conscious decision. But given how many book titles describe women, whether they are blue or silent or playing with fire, I think I do have some kind of bias.
For the sake of argument, I did a quick check on the male equivalents. Only The Chimney Sweeper's Boy (Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine) included a relationship in the title.