Sensitivity: A New Round of Edits?

Read the above article today, very interesting and prompted quite a few thoughts.

The first being a general concern that I may typical to human development may be becoming more conservative and less compassionate as I grow older. Not in the sense that I’m forming white rallies or starting to agree with a certain U.S. Politician but conservatism has an interesting commonality in all people where we tend to be most comfortable in the world that we grew up in, to have mainstays of our existence questioned in the name of compassion can be challenging.

Or in normal speak. If we’re used to books being a certain way the suggestion that they may be contributing to prejudice and should be edited/changed can be hard to swallow.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying the blatant stuff, I’m referring to a new suggestion that many authors are now hiring (or is it their editors source unclear) to ensure their work is sensitive to the groups it depicts, not just looking for racial stereotypes but even accurate portrayal of for example chronic pain.

The reason I’m wondering if I’ve fallen into the pit of conservatism is that I tend to think that while stereotypes are a lazy way to write, and definitely ought to be challenged I am happy for this challenge to be the response to a published work causing uproar, rather than a sensitivity edit prior to release. I’m also concerned that this might simply be “easy for me to say” after all there are very few books depicting white, middle-class, men as a stereotype and even if there were I would still hold an advantage, its not like I ever have to worry people might actually think X about be because book Y said Z about my ethnicity.

All that aside I do tend to respect book readers as more than just passive recipients of ideas and information. Movies in my opinion could definitely get this sensitivity treatment, I really don’t need to see another beloved transformer reduced to a cultural trope. When books contain concerns, such as an apparent pair of YA novels essentially promoting white supremacy:

I still feel that its better to have the work out there to discuss, I don’t have the data to back this up but I consider the medium to be one of careful thinking and reflection, whereas television, particularly blockbuster franchise movies are literally shoving racism/sexism/everything else in our faces.

My final word is I find it a little perplexing that people are offering their sensitivity editing for a fee, admittedly its pretty low for manuscript reviews, but isn’t the whole deal perpetuated by the idea that just one person of a minority can review your manuscript?  I mean it makes sense if I were to write about Mâori (indigenous people of NZ) that I might get someone from a local iwi to have a look, but can they spot sexism, or prejudice towards disabilities?

In conclusion my stance is that writers should be intentional in all they do, stereotypes in writing often represent lazy writing, just as they represent lazy thinking in real life. I don’t think sensitivity editing is the way to go, because we want people to ‘be’ sensitive not just produce sensitive books.


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