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There Is Nothing Redeemable About Sensitivity Readers

Why must the publishing world advocate for sensitivity readers- which are a waste of everyones time and money? This new censorship trend must stop.

‘Hire some Sensitivity Readers,’ the YouTuber suggests, blissfully unaware that they cost alot and stiffle creativity. Usually I ignore such comments. I plan to publish my novels one day, and if I’m told to use sensitivity readers, I will shop elsewhere. I make no apologises in my opinion that ‘sensitivity reading’ is essentially, taking money that should be going in the author’s direction. By making books go through such services, it delays publication and can make an authors advance less.

All so a book doesn’t offend the Twitter mobs. Honestly, that’s pathetic. Books are meant to change the world. Sometimes that means sometimes upsetting people or causing them to think in different ways. Sensitivity Readers, who are mostly from the United States of America, often reduce oppression to buzzwords.

If you are writing a fantasy series with a Korean protagonist, chances are the sensitivity reader you’ll hire will be an American-Korean. However, they will have a different experience than a Korean in South Korea or Japan. So how can a single Korean ‘sensitivity reader’ speak for all these groups? It’s quite frankly, a very offensive way to view races.

This may shock American publishing houses, but there are people outside of the States who love literature and don’t want to see it censored. I was disturbed to hear the story of Blood Heir written by Amélie Wen Zhao. Apparently, according to the book Stasi agents, Zhao was unqualified to write about slavery because she was Chinese. Like slavery never existed in China! Sensitivity Readers have a strong connection to cancel and outrage culture. And I’m sick of it. It has no place in literature- a field that should be accepting to alternative viewpoints. I really wish the best for Zhao.

This article was inspired by the Washington Post. In a recent article, titled ‘Is it ok for a white author to write black characters? I’m trying.’ While the author’s perspective is understandable- she does not want to offend anyone- this whole article is frankly, pathetic. If you are an author, you can write whatever you want. Making rules on who can write what is fascist and would only exist in an unfair society. Literature should not be segregated by the colour of your skin. Have we really reached a point where we judge books- not by content or literary merit- but by the author’s race? Do I need to explain how racist that is?

Laura Lippman, who wrote the article, ends it saying that authors have to be open to readers saying their feelings were hurt. To be honest, I understand this point. Readers are under no obligation to like or read a book. On the other hand, having your feelings hurt by literature doesn’t make the book an evil piece of trash that needs to be destroyed. Just because you had your feelings hurt, doesn’t mean you are in the right.

I’m going to be brutally honest now. An author’s right to freedom of speech and expression is more important and worth protecting than anyone’s feelings. There, I said it. Sensivity Readers water down the authors perspective, until the author is no longer talking. It’s corporate, it’s dull and it doesn’t result in good literature. Name one literary masterpiece that used sensitivity readers. You can’t, because great literature doesn’t require the permission of others. It has a mind, and an attitude of its own.

Those who look at literature and just see it causing societal problems are the sort of people who blamed the Columbine shooting on video games and Marilyn Manson. I should also write that sensitivty readers are a new addition to publishing. Literary greats such as Cormac McCarthy never used them for ‘Blood Meridan‘ and thankfully, neither did Rushdie for ‘The Satanic Verses.’ You can’t convince me that those books would have survived sensitivity readers.

I know alot of authors, who write in a variety of genres, follow me. And what gives me strength as a writer is knowing that I don’t need the permission of a sensitivity reader. Instead of wondering ‘is this offensive?’- I just write. I don’t care if I’m ‘not qualified’ to write about rape, because it is no ones business if I’ve been a victim of sexual assault. Why can’t we judge books by their merits and not by the traits of the author? Are we, as a society, that regressive and tribalistic? Sensitivity Readers don’t just produce worrisome books, but also bland ones as well.

Here’s to literature that rocks the boat. Here’s to authors having empathy and good judgement with their own writing. Overall, here’s to trusting authors with their own work.

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2 comments

  1. I think sensitivity readers are just letting the author know what may hurt sales? I’m not sure they actually advocate changing the story against an author’s ethics. They simply point out what may offend readers. This is part of an editor’s job anyway…

    1. Hi! Thank you for commenting, you raise some interesting points!

      My problem is that detecting potentially offensive content should be the editors job, and that a sensitivity reader is a waste of time and money (that could be devoted to the author). Another issue I have is that sensitivity readers promote the idea that you need to be a certain race / gender / sexuality to write about an experience. Personally, I believe in the power of empathy and the author doing their own research.

      If an author really wants to use a sensitivity reader, then that’s fine. Big believer in personal freedom. But if authors are forced to use sensitivity readers then that’s a problem. Considering sensitivity readers tend to have no marketing or publishing experience, it’s hard to see what value they add.

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