Sensitivity Readers

This baffles me. Why hire someone to read your work and ensure you don’t offend anyone? Actually, not “anyone,” but those who live and breathe by whatever current form of political correctness is in place. As a writer, there is no guarantee, no matter what you write, that you will never offend someone. That truth alone should make the practice of hiring a “sensitivity reader” a poor investment, but pour on top of that the increasingly shrill culture of offense today and the question becomes: Why write in the first place? How in our overly sensitive PC culture can one hope to be any sort of artist without offending that culture at some point? And the rules of what is “offensive” are changing all the time.

It used to be a badge of honor for writers and artists to offend the prevalent narrative or world view. Why the heck would any writer want their stories or essays to be so lukewarm that they offend no one? How far down the rabbit hole have we gone even thinking that’s it’s possible to never offend. What about the readers who want exciting stories that challenge how they view the world? What about the offense they take at a boring story with feminists rants they’ve heard a hundred times already? No, no, let’s give them more drivel toeing the PC line. Keep to the status quo, everybody’s doing it. Marxist collectivism, when it’s not murderous is actually really boring. Everyone must be the same all the time with no differences, whether in dress or viewpoint. Used to be that artists were the ones holding this stuff back. Now, they share in the oppression of anything remotely interesting.

Fellow writers, if it’s authenticity you’re worried about, hire a good researcher, not some “sensitivity” tool.  If your book sparks a reaction, great, that means that people are reading it, that they care about it, and that they will tell more people about it who will spend their money to read it and will also be talking about it.  Twilight had a lot of mockers and offended many, but they were all talking about it and you couldn’t walk anywhere for months without hearing about sparkly vampires. Guess who now has enough money to continue writing and getting better at her craft? Uh, huh, that’s right.

Should our goal be to offend? I suppose that depends on what kind of writer you want to be. Satirists thrive on offense. If you’re just a storyteller like me, though, the goal is to tell an exciting and engaging story and often that involves challenging readers’ sensitivities. So what?  They are reading, and that is the point.

 

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