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Thread: Sensitivity Readers

  1. #101
    The Fox Smith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squalid Glass View Post
    "Personally, race is lower down on the the list of things that move me in a good piece of art."

    ?!?!?!?!?! This is literally the issue here. For you, it's not high on the list. For a lot of people, it is. For a lot of people, it's high on the list because it's real for them. Because it makes up a distinct part of who they are. If there is something in your life that makes up who you are, wouldn't you want it portrayed with fidelity in the books you read and the media you consume?
    Yes, and I'm against going out of one's way to make race important, and being racist. So naturally I do not support the woman in the article, or her politics, or her advocacy group and their politics which are part of progressive politics that I disagree with for a whole host of reasons.

    And I'm biased from personal experience because I've watched / continue to watch the same rhetoric, these same kinds of people, corrupt the other hobbies that I love and were largely apolitical until they came along.
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  2. #102
    Global Moderator Squalid Glass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smith View Post
    The story was about her daughter in law, and if I understood the story correctly, Megan explained that she had suggested to her daughter in law that her feelings may be mistaken, and that she may have misinterpreted some of the things. Not ALL of the things.

    And it sounds like her daughter in law reacted the same way you reacted to me.

    Here, I'll make a concession (or a clarification), because I've dealt with narcissists and I know what it feels like to have someone gaslight you.

    I'm not saying I know for a fact that you're imagining things. I'm saying that you did not provide enough evidence to me to show that you know why all those people were looking at you, or that you didn't just happen to look at people and they looked at you and they weren't wondering "what the fuck is he looking at me for?" I don't know why those people were looking at you, and generally speaking with perhaps some exceptions, you don't know beyond a doubt either.

    And you also told me that your wife is Mexican. When you love somebody and spend a lot of time with them and learn about their past experiences and so forth, I suspect that will begin to change your perspective, for better or for worse.

    So again, I want to be clear that I'm not saying I know for a fact that you imagined things. And when I say imagine I don't mean hallucinate. But sometimes a cigar, is just a cigar.
    I'd be happy to give you a concrete example if that is what you are lacking.

    A few months ago, my wife and I met up with her parents and little brother (he is 7) for his birthday party at Chuk E Cheese. They were already at the restaurant when we got there, so we sat next to them and waited for her cousins, aunts, and uncles to show up. When I'm with her immediate family, they speak English because my Spanish is not very good, so we all started talking and laughing and whatever. When the rest of her family arrived, they sat next to us and started speaking in Spanish because most of them don't speak very good English. It was only when the Spanish started that the family in the table to our left, who had been sitting there the entire time, literally put up their menus to form a wall between us and them.

    Now there are two explanations here: 1. They didn't like the extra noise that the rest of my wife's family brought. -or- 2. They didn't want to listen to all the Spanish. I find explanation 1 laking considering Chuck E Cheese is a loud restaurant with music and kids running around screaming all the time. I find it a bit too convenient that their "wall" went up as soon as the Spanish started.

    Or another example. My wife and I have been trying to get in shape, so when we eat out, we have stopped going to Taco Bell and Wendy's, and instead we're going to Subway (still not that healthy, but better!). We were there on Saturday, and my wife's mom called her as we were sitting in a booth eating. When on the phone with her mom, my wife always speaks Spanish. There was a lady in line just in front of our booth. When my wife pulled the phone out and started speaking Spanish, the lady in line turned to my wife and rolled her eyes. She was with what I presume was her husband, who was a big dude. They did that thing that couples do when they are sharing an inside joke or an inside insult (is that a thing?), and both shook their heads. For the next few moments while they were in line, the man would periodically turn his head to look in our direction, then turn back to the sandwhich line and shake his head. I wondered if he might turn and get upset at my wife for speaking Spanish. I pulled out my phone ready to record him just in case because, as I'm sure you know, that kind of thing goes viral and usually results in the person getting called out for their racism.

    Or another example. I teach for a living. This semester I'm teaching creative writing. One of my students (who is black) brought in a poem the other day that was pretty depressing. When we started workshopping the poem and discussing its genesis, she told us she wrote it because, just the other day, a white kid in the hall told her, "Move out of the way, slave."

    Do you want more concrete examples?

    The point is that people experience these things every day. People also experience this kind of thing when it comes to media and art. The example in the article was the use of the N word when reading Twain in class. I have taught Huck Finn multiple times. I've always taken the lead of my high school teacher, who taught us a lesson about the N word's history before we started the novel, and then told us we would read it as it was written without censoring ourselves. That's how I have taught it, and I can appreciate that approach. But I can also appreciate the approach of one of my best friends (we played college football together) who is black and who has given me the exact same example as the article gives. He too was the only black student in his class when they read Twain, and he said that continually hearing the word spoken by white people was rough for him. He told me he'd rather students read the book with the N word not being said. I can appreciate that too, and honestly, in the future, I'm not really sure how I should teach the book. I think I need to hear more opinions from more people about it to really get a better sense of the impact of it. And that's kind of the point. I'm not going to sit here and assume that everything I have experienced is exactly what everyone else has experienced. I am going to listen to people who have had other experiences, and I am going to trust that what they feel is real and not something they make up in their head because they have a victim mentality.
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  3. #103
    Global Moderator Squalid Glass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smith View Post
    And I'm biased from personal experience because I've watched / continue to watch the same rhetoric, these same kinds of people, corrupt the other hobbies that I love and were largely apolitical until they came along.
    I'm sorry, but in the grand scheme of things, your hobbies mean nothing next to people's lives and dignity and human rights.
    "I don't do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision."

    "America I've given you all and now I'm nothing."

  4. #104
    Member Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smith View Post
    Thanks for sharing your personal experience. I'm sorry to hear that your relationship with your daughter in law is a bit rough, and that she's had bad experiences. Even if I were to acknowledge that her feelings are mistaken, it doesn't mean her feelings aren't real, and this is an important distinction to remember.
    Yes! My thoughts exactly! I wonder if that's sometimes the case when someone, let's say a writer, is accused of misportraying a person in a potentially culturally sensitive situation. The feelings of the offended person are very real, even if the situation in print does not truly support the offense. (And here I've purposefully skewed the cause-and-effect to be one of an honest mistake on the reader's part, as it's in parallel with my personal example. But, as Luckscars pointed out, we do want to do what we can to not purposefully perpetuate such a response. Philosophy aside, real people have real feelings. )

    Quote Originally Posted by Smith View Post
    I agree with you that the argument is a political one that reaches the philosophical very quickly. That's why we don't often see the debate going on in common public discourse. The usual conversations you'll hear about are economic or something. But this is very ideological, slippery, cerebral.
    And why a lot of the discussion here often reads like 'this person' is talking past 'that person'. I just let it slide. I could start taking it apart and try to give it a deeper analysis, but I think it would bore people to death. And besides, I don't really think it's necessary. But I am glad you developed this thought better and not me. Besides, I've been learning that there can be a disconnect between that which is debated theoretically and that which is out there on the street. I have a great interest in this yet recognize that too much academic commentary down here just won't help solve this problem today or tomorrow. I'm afraid we're in it for the long haul.

    Quote Originally Posted by Smith View Post
    I'm not saying that doing justice to a culture isn't important. Coco is a good example which was brought up earlier. I didn't see the film but I know enough about it from news or seeing the trailer to get a general idea of what it's about. I can understand why somebody who is Mexican would be very moved by that film, as was mentioned.
    Loved Coco! (Think I cried!) An Indian friend recommended it to me because it very endearingly promotes the importance of honoring/remembering family, something that is important to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Smith View Post
    Personally, race is lower down on the the list of things that move me in a good piece of art. I wasn't moved by Dunkirk because all of the characters were white. Sure, I did feel a sense of connectedness in terms of feeling like I'm descended from that, but that was so far in the back of my mind compared to the suspense, the heroic actions of the citizens to come rescue their boys, the stress that turns friends against one another, and the sacrifice made by the pilot. You don't have to be white to appreciate any of those things.
    Missed seeing Dunkirk. But I think I can add that there was also the historical aspect, too, albeit one from Hollywood's perspective. It was an event that made world history. Even if there were no living representatives today, I think the well-researched writer can capture the essence of any historically real event for today's audiences without referring to first-hand experience. But that's the crux, isn't it? Some of us want to sell what we write, and that means knowing and being sensitive to the needs/tastes of a potentially fickle audience. I think Shakespearean actors had something to say about this...but the quote is just beyond arm's reach.
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
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  5. #105
    Sidestepping a lot of the personal arguments here, I'd like to point out that race isn't the only thing sensitivity readers deal with.

    LGBT representation is a big one, too.

  6. #106
    The Fox Smith's Avatar
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    Yeah, I acknowledge that there are racist people, people that hold prejudice.

    I get annoyed when people don't speak English, whether it's Mexicans, Slavs, you name it. Do I *do* anything about it? No. And it has nothing to do with your race.

    Could those two people in line have been racist? Quite possibly. But I wasn't there. Was your wife talking loudly? Were they just annoyed at not hearing English, and didn't care about the skin color of the person it was coming from? I've noticed the exact same reaction you got with people from Spain who often look "white" but speak Spanish.

    I don't know why those people put up their menus in Chuck E Cheese. The Spanish is certainly a possibility, it could've been the added noise that was much closer proximity, but nobody knows and life goes on.

    There have been many times where race was made important to me by other people. I didn't get a job at a restaurant owned by Chaldeans, and it was the same restaurant that my friends and I always felt we were tolerated at, rather than welcomed. Now, I could've had a hissy fit about it, but life goes on. It's ultimately up to me whether to get all wrapped up and bent out of shape about race, especially when I have no evidence that I was even the victim of racism. Just an assumption.

    I've also played soccer with Mexicans. I can tell you I feel exactly the same way. Tolerated, not welcomed, in spite of never treating a Mexican or any non-white that way, ever.

    Albanians around here close themselves off in gated communities on their own volition. That's their choice. Nobody's out to get them, and if anything segregating themselves has done them more harm than good.

    In any case, my question is still so what? I don't support progressive politics, I don't support racism or arbitrarily inflating the importance of race, and sensitivity reading has so far proved to be nothing about accuracy and everything about advocating ideology. I don't want their sinister bullshit imposed on me or the hobbies I am a part of. They're hobbies to me, but they're actual jobs and careers and artistic mediums for millions of people, and I don't want their sinister bullshit imposed on them, either.

    EDIT: And respectfully I'll wager the LGBTQ+ sensitivity readers will be no different.
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  7. #107
    Global Moderator Squalid Glass's Avatar
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    I don't know where you are from, but race plays a bigger role in America because race (and racism) has been a central aspect of what America is all about. Race is a huge part of our Constitution. We fought a war about race. We had revolutions around race in the 20th century. And now, the racial divide in our culture is an undeniable fact, as poverty, incarceration, housing segregation, and other things clearly show.

    The problem with claiming that "even white people experience exclusion in some form" is that, in America, white culture is the dominant culture. Feeling excluded from a minority group when you are the majority is not a traumatic experience because, regardless of how many minority groups exclude you, you still belong to the dominant culture. For a person in the majority, it is no problem to just shrug and move on. But for someone in the minority, there is always the underlying issue that they are not part of the majority, and there is always the stress of not belonging. It is a constant.

    You said one other thing I found interesting: "It's ultimately up to me whether to get all wrapped up and bent out of shape about race." This isn't what is happening with sensitivity readers and with people who talk about these things. Instead, what these people are looking for is equal footing. That is an important thing for people who are not provided it. If you already have it, then how can you appreciate what it is like to not have it?

    And Kyle is 100% correct.
    "I don't do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision."

    "America I've given you all and now I'm nothing."

  8. #108
    Global Moderator Squalid Glass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smith View Post
    In any case, my question is still so what? I don't support progressive politics, I don't support racism or arbitrarily inflating the importance of race, and sensitivity reading has so far proved to be nothing about accuracy and everything about advocating ideology
    The only ideology at play is that it is important to represent people and groups correctly instead of turning them into caricatures.
    "I don't do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision."

    "America I've given you all and now I'm nothing."

  9. #109
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    Sidestepping a lot of the personal arguments here, I'd like to point out that race isn't the only thing sensitivity readers deal with.

    LGBT representation is a big one, too.
    I agree obviously, however in the interest of broadening the field further I actually don't think LGBTQ issues are nearly as problematic these days as disability issues.

    I don't mean to say proper representation of LGBTQ characters aren't still a major minefield and that there's a way to go to achieve equal standing...but speaking from personal experience I think disability still gets screwed up the most. At this point most mainstream fiction has moved away from the prominent gay stereotypes and while there is still a problem with how people talk about sexuality (especially trans issues) I see it as improving hugely year-on-year. I'm old enough to remember how that used to be and I feel comfortable with the progress that has been made and the overall trend - acknowledging others may not be, of course.

    Disability is a real gray area for me because most of what I write concerns some form of mental disorder, whether one that is identifiable or not. Worst still is I don't really know how to improve that without screwing with the fundamentals. I mean how do you write psychological thriller fiction concerning warped views of reality while being respectful to those who actually do suffer from schizophrenia, psychosis, etc?

  10. #110
    Global Moderator Squalid Glass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    I agree obviously, however in the interest of broadening the field further I actually don't think LGBTQ issues are nearly as problematic these days as disability issues.

    I don't mean to say proper representation of LGBTQ characters aren't still a major minefield and that there's a way to go to achieve equal standing...but speaking from personal experience I think disability still gets screwed up the most. At this point most mainstream fiction has moved away from the prominent gay stereotypes and while there is still a problem with how people talk about sexuality (especially trans issues) I see it as improving hugely year-on-year. I'm old enough to remember how that used to be and I feel comfortable with the progress that has been made and the overall trend - acknowledging others may not be, of course.

    Disability is a real gray area for me because most of what I write concerns some form of mental disorder, whether one that is identifiable or not. Worst still is I don't really know how to improve that without screwing with the fundamentals. I mean how do you write psychological thriller fiction concerning warped views of reality while being respectful to those who actually do suffer from schizophrenia, psychosis, etc?
    A friend of mine is a neurologist. The recent release of the film Glass has really pissed her off, as she primarily works with issues of mental disabilities. It's just another example of something that could have used a different voice to avoid the stereotyped portrayal.
    "I don't do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision."

    "America I've given you all and now I'm nothing."

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