Are Sensitivity Readers Really Necessary?

Are Sensitivity Readers Really Necessary?

In the search for an all-inclusive (and politically correct) story, some authors are writing from the perspective of “marginalized” characters. While I understand authors tend to be students of human nature, and want to reach outside their experiences, I think writing from a multicultural viewpoint you do not understand is just pandering to the current social trend.

Groups such as  Writing in the Margins, claim they are “most interested in helping authors from marginalized backgrounds get their stories published.” A nice sentiment. But instead of offering training, guidance or support for new authors, visitors are advised to hire someone from their “sensitivity reader” database to ensure their writing is free of “internalized bias and negatively charged language.”  Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to write their own stories?

On her debut author blog, Mary Robinette Kowal advises authors to understand the difficulties involved if you want to “represent people who are outside your experience.” She also states that since authors are in a “position of privilege” they can’t possibly understand how severely they “are reinforcing …oppression in the public consciousness.” I am,frankly, insulted by this piece of trivializing nonsense.

Take a look at Steve Sailer’s post on thought police to see more details of how this process can affect writing of all types. Author Becky Albertalli mentions she had to rethink a character because two independent readers told her he was unbelievable. Depending on the setting of the story, a change like this one can end up with a character that feel completely out of place to most readers.

If we allow ourselves to cater to ultra-multi culturally sensitive readers, I fear we will not produce books that withstand the test of time.

So my advice is to write what you know about.  If you really do want to step outside your zone, find appropriate people to collaborate with before you write.

 

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