Image by Sharon McCutcheon

WHAT IS SENSITIVITY READING & DIVERSITY EDITING?

Sensitivity Reading (sometimes also called "Expert Reading" or "Authenticity Reading") is an emerging practice of giving notes (or completing an edit pass) on literary works--manuscripts and film/TV scripts included--focusing specifically on issues with regards to representation, unconscious bias, unintentionally insensitive language, cultural inaccuracies or inauthenticities, cultural diversity and authenticity. Readers often recommend changes that alleviate those issues, or suggest ways to incorporate them with intentionality into the text, so that authorial intent and the work's impact match.

Similar to the concept of hiring real emergency room doctors to consult on medical shows, or a former stripper to advise on a movie like Hustlers, some Sensitivity Readers are hired specifically because of their lived experiences or acquired expertise. As a member of a marginalized group, unfamiliar culture, or expert skillset a client might want to represent but isn't part of themselves, Sensitivity Readers can offer insights in how to make sure characters and cultures are represented authentically, fairly, and without falling into stereotype and tokenism. This almost universally results in richer, more dynamic stories that engage wider audiences.

Sensitivity Readers don't seek to make sure every single character is 'perfect' or even positively portrayed, nor are they censors--all suggested changes and recommendations are up to the creatives to implement at their own discretion. Rather, Sensitivity Readers seek to help writers ensure that all characters are treated with depth, empathy, awareness, so their stories avoid falling into cliché--particularly characters who represent intentionally marginalized and underrepresented groups. They are a beneficial and necessary component in the push for diversity and inclusion, and can be and invaluable tool in helping project creators avoid unexpected criticism and pitfalls. It's been proven time and again that film and television shows who embrace diversity and inclusion are more profitable--and increasingly so. A Sensitivity Reader can be hired at any point in the writing process, from pitch/treatment to script stage--it's never too early or too late to get a read, but it is best practice to begin and you mean to proceed.

Alex's worldview is one of progressive, intersectional feminism, and they use their extensive personal, educational, and critical skills acquired from over a decade of development experience to detect unintentional bias and problematic content. If your script features a group or culture that needs a more authentic touch, Alex likely knows someone they can recommend to get you the Expert Read you need. Their areas of focus and expertise broadly include (but are not limited to; please contact with specific needs):​​

  • gender representations

  • queer representations

  • LGBTQIA+

  • asexuality

  • “alternative” lifestyles and sexualities

  • Southern culture

  • politics and activism

  • trans/Non-Binary identities

  • reproductive rights & issues

  • endometriosis​

  • infertility

  • chronic illness & pain management

  • comparative religions 

  • Christianity (Southern)

  • Atheism

  • pop/internet culture

  • tokenism

  • mental health

  • systemic oppression

  • world building 

  • petty art beefs

Here is some additional reading if you'd like more information about what Sensitivity Reading is:

Vetting for stereotypes: meet publishing's 'sensitivity readers'

What the Heck is Sensitivity Reading?

Sensitivity reading: what you need to know, and why it matters

What the Job of a Sensitivity Reader Is Really Like

There’s a Simple Way for Movies to Make Much More Money

See What Happens to Movie and TV Profits When You Have a More Diverse Cast ...

 

HAVE A QUESTION?

If you have a questions about Sensitivity Reading, please feel free to ask! If you'd like a reply directly, please include your name and email, otherwise answers will likely be published in a blog post.

Thanks for asking!

 

*Please note: everyone has biases, including me. I do not represent the single voice of authority for any one group, on any subject. While my services do not guarantee a bias-free end product, it is incredibly helpful to get an objective, outside opinion on any work of art. My engagement with a project is not an endorsement of the themes in your script, nor does it exempt you/the project from criticism. I will be forthright with you if I don't think I can help you and why that is; at my own discretion, I may refer you to other Readers who would be more helpful.