Many publishers and authors are now hiring sensitivity readers to vet manuscripts for “stereotypes, biases and problematic language” and offer perspectives on how to authentically represent different groups of people. This practice has been met with mixed reactions; while many authors appreciate the feedback, others call it “censorship.” Some sensitivity readers note that publishers use them as “shields” to “sell a book as having got the all-clear, even if it still contains stereotypes.” However, author Anna Hecker reports a positive experience using sensitivity readers for her upcoming young adult novel, When the Beat Drops. After receiving feedback on her representation of a mixed-race character, Hecker expressed, “I welcomed the opportunity to dig into my creative reserves while still being mindful of hurtful tropes and cliches…I also feel like these enhanced descriptions made my characters more nuanced and complex. It’s stuff that’s honestly hard to even conceptualise if you haven’t lived it. I think that’s the real value in hiring a sensitivity reader—they have the lived experience, so they can offer perspective on often-overlooked details.”
Last week, Judge John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Department of Homeland Security provided no “adequate rationale” for why the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is unlawful and should be discontinued. Bates wrote: “Each day that the agency delays is a day that aliens who might otherwise be eligible for initial grants of DACA benefits are exposed to removal because of an unlawful agency action,” and that the Trump administration’s decision to end the program is “arbitrary and capricious.” He has given Homeland Security 90 days to “better explain its view,” and if that explanation isn’t convincing, incoming DACA applications must be accepted and processed. This is the third time a judge has ruled against the call to end DACA—federal judges in New York and California made similar rulings. Since Bates’ decision, six states have filed lawsuits against the Trump administration, calling for an end to the program.
Fran Hauser, author of the book The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate, discusses how societal expectations for women to be “people-pleasers” limit their opportunities to lead. She says she’s met countless women who are afraid to speak up or take credit for their ideas and contributions for fear they’ll be labeled anything from rude to pushy to angry or worse. As Hauser writes, “Taking a stand will inevitably alienate someone—or so we assume—so instead we play it safe, act as people pleasers, and keep quiet.” She cites research by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., who found that this “camouflaging” behavior starts in girls as young as eight years old. When it comes time to build a professional presence in adulthood, many women are left with the options of either being quiet and “likeable” or outspoken and “aggressive,” so they often choose to be seen as the former. Hauser concludes that it’s possible to “make room for others” while also taking up “an appropriate amount of space” for oneself. She also notes that when women speak up, it inspires other women to do the same, which slowly works to unravel the gendered expectations imposed on them.