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Thread: Sensitivity Readers

  1. #71
    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Pearson View Post
    What if someone is writing about a potentially sensitive topic, one in which they know they will be broaching some social issues head-on? Let's even go so far as to say that this supposed, hypothetical story is meant to challenge a facet of culture?
    From experience from me and a lot of people I deal with from minority communities?
    Say you want to write about history from a minority perspective. You will need to add an absurd amount of hedging language to coddle readers and reassure them that they're not part of society. Even then, you will need to be ready for lots of reviews declaring that you have an obvious anti-Christian agenda and that you are trying to convince readers that everybody who believes in God is evil and that you are a racist who hates white people, because that's what my friends who teach history or sociology or anything that covers minorities get painted on all their reviews and shouted in their faces multiple times every semester and what I get told when I mention the Boarding Schools that traumatized a lot of my living relatives.

    You might want a more experienced editor to work through the sheer quantities of coddling language you will need to include.

    And then consider also if that work is meant to be semi-autobiographical, or if the work is meant to address a social injustice. Would any of those considerations change your response?
    No. It takes a lot of special skills to confront injustice without being blasted on every conservative talk show as an anti-Christian racist for weeks. With lots of care and experience, you might get some people who aren't minorities to read it first.

  2. #72
    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Pearson View Post
    Hmm. It seems to me that you're talking it out just fine. I've enjoyed your posts here as much as the other posts.

    Returning to the OP, Dluuni's comment brings up a thought I think may best be stated as a question. What if someone is writing about a potentially sensitive topic, one in which they know they will be broaching some social issues head-on? Let's even go so far as to say that this supposed, hypothetical story is meant to challenge a facet of culture?

    Would you (i.e., anyone here) think either a sensitivity reader (or a technical advisor) would or would not be beneficial in this instance, and why?
    And then consider also if that work is meant to be semi-autobiographical, or if the work is meant to address a social injustice. Would any of those considerations change your response?



    As for myself, I am wondering if there is a conflict of interest with the semi-autobiographical writer or the writer wanting to call out social injustice and the emerging role of the sensitivity reader. While I can see it (the sensitivity reader) as being useful in certain genres, their purposes just seem too much at odds to me to be useful in true literary social criticism.
    I think a sensitivity reader would absolutely be useful in that context. They're not censors, they're not in control of what you write... they're just another perspective. The more controversial my topic is, the more I want to be sure my position is defensible. And the closer a story is to my own life, the more I want an outside perspective to help me see the experience from another direction.

    I found myself writing "perspective" over and over again as I drafted that paragraph, and I think that's because it's exactly what sensitivity readers provide, to my way of thinking. They give a different perspective on the work. I can't think of a time that wouldn't be valuable.

  3. #73
    The Fox Smith's Avatar
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    As long as it doesn't become a mandated step and yet another gatekeeper in the publishing process, I don't care if people spend their own money on it. If they're happy with the results then more power to them.

    They couldn't have picked a worse title for their job though. How insensitive to the political landscape of our time do you have to be to use the job title "sensitivity reader" and then get flustered at the mixed, confused reactions? Ironic.

    I'm also curious as to how this is supposed to work. Obviously they're only going to be able to give you useful feedback on what is or isn't true. As in, "Your character has autism but x has nothing to do with autism scientifically" or "y isn't possible for somebody with autism". Something *factual*.

    I'm not going to need a self-appointed representative telling me "well axtually not all black people eat fried chicken". I mean seriously. I don't care what "most black people" do, or how "most black people" act, as if those also aren't implicitly stereotypes or pre-judgements. There's a black person eating fried chicken in my story because I wanted there to be. Not for some malevolent purposes that you've imagined I hold.

    What's next? An asian person doesn't have to be smart? How profound. I mean, at least the underlying assumption here would be one of ignorance rather than one of malevolence, I guess. There's always a silver-lining.

    And honestly, unless they're an expert in some sort of field or have studied a culture and have the work and experience to show for it (like an anthropologist), I'd rather just find several black individuals or asian individuals than pay a significant amount for the... super opinion?... of one person to speak on the behalf of their racial monolith.

    If you have this become a mandatory stepping-stone in the publishing process, and it's anything BUT "the facts ma'am", you're going to have serious problems. That's not my opinion. That's a promise based on a logical conclusion, just like 2+2=4.
    Last edited by Smith; January 15th, 2019 at 05:03 AM.
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  4. #74
    There are a lot of articles about the topic, a quick Google search awayŚmany of which address the arguments in this thread.

    Here's oneŚan inside glance at what a sensitivity reader actually does (hint: it's mostly just pointing out racial/cultural inaccuracies that have gone unnoticed by the author).

    https://www.vulture.com/2018/01/sens...ally-like.html

  5. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    There are a lot of articles about the topic, a quick Google search away—many of which address the arguments in this thread.

    Here's one—an inside glance at what a sensitivity reader actually does (hint: it's mostly just pointing out racial/cultural inaccuracies that have gone unnoticed by the author).

    https://www.vulture.com/2018/01/sens...ally-like.html
    After reading that, I’m more convinced than ever that being upset about sensitivity readers is the literary equivalent of the old man on the porch yelling at the kids on the street.
    "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."

  6. #76
    Member Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    There are a lot of articles about the topic, a quick Google search away—many of which address the arguments in this thread.

    Here's one—an inside glance at what a sensitivity reader actually does (hint: it's mostly just pointing out racial/cultural inaccuracies that have gone unnoticed by the author).

    https://www.vulture.com/2018/01/sens...ally-like.html
    Excellent article, Kyle R, thanks for sharing it. What really stood out to me was that she had studied children's literature and found it wanting, which is why she decided to take action. A fine example of someone with the necessary expertise doing something about social injustice. Plus, it brings a concrete example of application to this conversation.
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
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  7. #77
    The Fox Smith's Avatar
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    "There was her realization in fifth grade that all the black and brown characters in Middle Earth and Narnia were evil."

    This is patently untrue. Not a good look for a sensitivity reader to go out of her way to contrive racial prejudice that isn't there. And then she goes on to complain about how a Times article didn't correctly portray her line of work. Which, admittedly, they may have.

    This sets the tone for the article, which to me, reads with a typical leftist slant. "White" is a problem, marginalized groups (collectivist terminology in common parlance since the emergence of communist philosophy in Europe toward the end of the 1800s), diversity, encouraging of identifying by one's race or sex rather than the merits of a character and the deeper meaning of what it means to be human.

    "The systematic erasure and blockage of people of color from the publishing industry."

    Source, Clayton?

    And what the Hell... her manuscript gets declined because they've already taken on one that's similar to hers (if I read this right) and the detail she's upset over is that the author was a white woman? The emphasis on the white?

    Let’s take The Black Witch and American Heart – two controversial books that each tell the story of a prejudiced white character becoming woke. Is there a way to do a story line like that well? Of course. Even I could have told you this. The answer was right where it says "becoming woke". If they don't "go broke, get woke" in the end, I would wager the answer is a resounding no.

    A sincere, non-snarky thank-you for sharing; it would seem my suspicions are confirmed. It all comes back to leftist talking points about race, diversity, and muh bad white people (and occasionally a patronizing comment about "the well meaning white-folk"). The same thing has been ruining the gaming industry since GamerGate and has been ruining comics for longer, and is starting to sink its poisonous teeth into anime.

    ---

    "
    but the way that Rutkoski does it is that she takes away the white girl’s power"

    "two controversial books that each tell the story of a prejudiced white character becoming woke"

    The specific use of "white" here is not an accident.

    "found out that the author was, indeed, a white woman who’d written a story with a black girl in it"


    The problem here, according to Clayton, is that it's a white woman.

    The trend isn't hard to spot, honestly. And the fact that she went out of her way to make Lord of the Rings and Narnia something it's not really let the cat out of the bag.
    Last edited by Smith; January 15th, 2019 at 05:42 AM.

  8. #78
    Global Moderator Squalid Glass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smith View Post
    "There was her realization in fifth grade that all the black and brown characters in Middle Earth and Narnia were evil."

    This is patently untrue. Not a good look for a sensitivity reader to go out of her way to contrive racial prejudice that isn't there. And then she goes on to complain about how a Times article didn't correctly portray her line of work. Which, admittedly, they may have.

    This sets the tone for the article, which to me, reads with a typical leftist slant. "White" is a problem, marginalized groups (collectivist philosophy), diversity, encouraging of identifying by one's race or sex rather than the merits of a character and the deeper meaning of what it means to be human.

    The systematic erasure and blockage of people of color from the publishing industry.

    Source, Clayton?

    And what the Hell... her manuscript gets declined because they've already taken on one that's similar to hers (if I read this right) and the detail she's upset over is that the author was a white woman? The emphasis on the white?

    Let’s take The Black Witch and American Heart – two controversial books that each tell the story of a prejudiced white character becoming woke.

    Of course. Even I could have told you this. The answer was right where it says "becoming woke".

    I couldn't finish reading the article. Sorry. But thank-you for sharing; this is exactly what my educated-guesswork thought it would be, and I'm glad to have my suspicions confirmed. It all comes back to leftist talking points about race, diversity, and muh bad white people (and occasionally a patronizing comment about "the well meaning white-folk").
    ...or, possibly, she had a different experience from you where she felt excluded and marginalized, and now she wants to make sure it doesn’t happen to other people.
    "I don't do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision."

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  9. #79
    Member Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dluuni View Post
    No. It takes a lot of special skills to confront injustice without being blasted on every conservative talk show as an anti-Christian racist for weeks. With lots of care and experience, you might get some people who aren't minorities to read it first.
    Thanks for that, Dluuni. I can see you've worked very hard to overcome the biases of your audience. I find that trying to see things from another's viewpoint is perhaps the most important component for finding the common ground necessary from which to hold a productive conversation about...just about anything. For one, it's respectful, and for another, it shows we are willing to investigate and to listen to that which we disagree. At the very least, it can lead to a fruitful conversation based on respect, even should we still choose to disagree.
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd


  10. #80
    Bayview touched on it but the reason it's so silly to whimper about this stuff is...it's voluntary!

    Sensitivity readers are not required to be "a writer".

    Sensitivity workshops (never even heard of those to be honest) are not required to be a citizen.

    Learning the "correct" terminology and etiquette for getting by in life is not tantamount to being required to use it.

    It is all there to help you and help others.

    Seems to me the goal with this stuff is pretty much to avoid misunderstanding. If you don't need it, fine, but how can you be sure? How do you know your writing isn't turning potential readers ($'s!) off because of how you handled something that did not seem important to you but is to them? What kind of astounding genius doesn't screw up once in awhile?

    So the goal is to achieve a kind of universal understanding concerning certain terms and language and characterizations and understand how it all fits together and how to, hopefully, write in a way that appeals beyond whatever small demographic group you would otherwise appeal to. That seems pretty harmless. Could even make you a better writer...

    For the most part the concept of political correctness does not exist. What exists are social mores and changes in culture, mostly none of which if you are in any western, liberal democracy are mandatory. If something is not mandatory, it doesn't really make sense to object to its existence.

    Therefore being in passionate disagreement with such things is, at best, a pointless piece of hand-wringing and, at worst, about something more sinister. Whatever it is, it is not rational.

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