A huge controversy has arisen over whether it is correct to handle kids’ psyches with kid (i.e., very soft) gloves. On the principle that no job is too small when it comes to cleaning up our culture, a new profession has been born: that of the ‘sensitivity reader’.
There has been a huge kerfuffle over their suggested corrections to the works of Roald Dahl. In the new, expurgated version, Gloop – who appears in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ – is no longer described as fat. Instead, ‘enormous’ is considered more appropriate.
Elsewhere, ‘beastly’ rather than ‘ugly and beastly’ is used to describe Mrs Twit in ‘The Twits’. A sentence was added to The Witches, who are bald underneath their wigs, explaining there are many reasons why a woman might wear a wig and that it’s not a bad thing.
As Francine Prose has pointed out: ‘It's the kind of sentence that loses readers. When you’re reading to a group of kids, you can watch their attention drift away and never come back’
I still remember the first time I heard of sensitivity readers. It was in relation to adult fiction, and the proposal was for books to be run past such people, even as their authors were writing them, to make sure they did not contain anything that might be deemed offensive. Since no one would ever know if what they removed could raise a tut from any ordinary person, no one batted an eyelid.