So let’s call sensitivity readers what they are: diversity editors. Let’s stop associating them with censorship and instead celebrate their role in the editorial process. Let’s afford them the same dignity as copy-editors, fact-checkers, and proofreaders.
Let’s normalize their role in publishing. I think we all dream of a future in which authors no longer rely on stereotypes or write with harmful biases ever. At that point, we won’t need diversity editors anymore, and can safely retire this debate. But I don’t believe anyone suffers under the delusion that this future has arrived.
We’ve made great strides in the past decades, but the slog toward true equality is real, and long, and full of bumps Sensitivity, meanwhile, is a loaded word if there ever was one. It suggests thin skins and easily bruised emotions are potentially dangerous combinations if one perceives these readers as the gatekeepers to publication themes like handsome princes falling for beautiful princesses in classic tales like Snow White and Cinderella could prove problematic, according to the Sunday Telegraph, as they promote physical attractiveness and heteronormative romance.
Characters presuming other people’s pronouns and discussing social class could also be problematic, as could a lack of diversity among protagonists. Sensitivity readers’ have been deployed to examine the back catalogue of Ladybird books, which includes classic tales like Cinderella and Snow White.
Sensitivity readers re-examine classic children’s fairy stories and discover ‘problematic’ material like beautiful princesses, handsome princes, and the concept of love at first sight romances could also be erased due to the protagonists falling for each other before they have spoken.
It is feared that these tropes may suggest to children that good looks alone make someone worthy of attention and romance. The characters’ presumption of gender pronouns, at first sight, has also been raised as an issue. Ladybird Books has used sensitivity readers to re-examine some of its children’s fairytales to check their inclusivity, according to The Sunday Telegraph. The Penguin-owned publisher’s catalogue includes classic tales such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty but the characters and plots have been identified as ‘outdated or harmful Industry insiders claim problematic tropes include a lack of diversity among blonde-haired and blue-eyed protagonists.