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Sensitivity readers?

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brianvds
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« on: December 25, 2017, 09:07:10 AM »

Apparently a thing nowadays: writers and editors have members of minority groups comb through manuscripts to make sure they're not offensive. Here are two longish articles about it:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2017/02/how_sensitivity_readers_from_minority_groups_are_changing_the_book_publishing.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/24/books/in-an-era-of-online-outrage-do-sensitivity-readers-result-in-better-books-or-censorship.html

Yet more opportunity for the social justice warriors to strengthen their stranglehold on society, perhaps? But what I find particularly interesting here, is that a lot of the writers who get their work shot down in flames by sensitivity readers are themselves SJWs, who are trying to "reach out to" or "highlight the issues" of this or that minority group. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.

To me, a work of art should be a work of art, first and foremost. Perhaps just my taste, but I absolutely detest any literature in general, and children]s literature in particular, that's about little moralistic life lessons. In the good old days it was about such things as always listening to mom; nowadays it's about diversity. But the basic intent remains the same: using a story to teach the young reader some or other little lesson.

I never liked those books when I was a kid. I didn't read books to be preached to. I read them to have fun, so I liked fun or scary adventure romps rather than sermons about diversity or respecting authorities or whatever. Perhaps kids today are different. I'm not so sure: it strikes me that none of these sensitivity reader they talk about here are the intended audience of the books. Every last motherfucking one of them are adults, presuming to know what may or may not offend young readers. It's pretty condescending to kids, if you ask me.

Anyway. All I can say is this: no sensitivity reader will get within ten parsecs of any of my manuscripts. They are most welcome to blast the hell out of them after the fact.
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Mefiante
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« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2017, 12:21:29 PM »

It’s nothing more than a sneaky attempt to smuggle in censorship via the back door, no matter what mealy-mouthed label they wish to attach to the practice.  In any case, where is it written that giving offence is always and everywhere a bad thing, even if a minority is involved?  For now, they’re talking about this as being about kids but I’ll bet good money that it won’t be too long before this idiocy spills over into adult material.

I’m an atheist, which is a minority group.  As such, I am often deeply offended (wink-wink) by the abject stupidity, irrationality, and absurdity of god-belief by otherwise intelligent people who seek, by subtle or unsubtle means, to convince me of the “error” of our ways whenever the subject arises.  Do we get a sensitivity reader?  Or are the majority’s converse sensitivities weightier in this case?

'Luthon64
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brianvds
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2017, 03:53:53 AM »

I’m an atheist, which is a minority group.  As such, I am often deeply offended (wink-wink) by the abject stupidity, irrationality, and absurdity of god-belief by otherwise intelligent people who seek, by subtle or unsubtle means, to convince me of the “error” of our ways whenever the subject arises.  Do we get a sensitivity reader?  Or are the majority’s converse sensitivities weightier in this case?

Yes, whether you are part of some misunderstood minority group is also pretty much an arbitrary thing. I notice they exclude pedophiles from being a marginalized group. But I can think of very few groups that are quite as marginalized; it is precisely because they are so marginalized that they end up molesting kids.

It occurs to me now that being "offended" is actually an inevitable by-product of precisely the diversity that these SJWs want so much in the first place. Have a society with a melting pot of cultures, and misunderstandings are going to happen.

Well, there are many shades of gray here anyway. I have nothing against having some beta readers go through a manuscript to ensure accuracy and authenticity. If I want to have, say, a poor black kid from a rural township play an important role in my story, then I don't at all mind the idea of giving the manuscript to people of that background to check that I wrote the character accurately. I would actually be very reluctant to write at all about the experiences of people way outside of my own culture (the first rule of writing is "write what you know about"), but if I did, I would actually be pretty paranoid about getting things embarrassingly wrong.

But this is not all that the sensitivity readers are checking for. Have a white character even think something bad or stereotypical about the above-mentioned township kid, and they jump down your throat about it (unless, of course, you have your character corrected at some point). I think the whole purpose here is actually just to make sure that only white males can be bad guy characters. Having a bunch of white characters beat up our hypothetical township kid is okay; having said township kid steal something or murder a farmer is "offensive."
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