Book publisher Ladybird Books has been reviewing book content through the use of “sensitivity readers” to examine stories for problematic content, according to the Telegraph.
The publisher, a subsidiary of Penguin, has used the reviewers to look at its back catalogue that consists of classic fairy tales such as “Snow White” and “Cinderella,” finding certain themes potentially troubling.
The company has not yet commented on the information obtained by the U.K. outlet from company insiders, which reveals that some of the older books are receiving cautions as not adhering to equity and inclusion principles.
One example is that portraying old witches and other withered characters as evil can be seen as “ageist” because they associate old age with evil.
The Telegraph also says that insiders have said that there is a lack of racial diversity among the books’ protagonists, with too many white princesses with blonde hair and blue eyes.
It is also alleged that the presumption of gender pronouns in the books is an issue and that princesses use the term “man” when they meet a prince for the first time. The explanation given is that the princess would not know the preferred pronouns before getting to know the prince and therefore should be using gender-neutral language at first.
Allegedly, the idea of love at first sight is also an issue. According to the report, a character such as Cinderella should not be falling in love without formally speaking to her counterpart, as that would be basing her feelings solely on physical attraction. As such, she is placing the privilege of beauty over character traits.
This would apparently suggest to readers that those who are considered beautiful are entitled to happiness, and that represents only a certain demographic. It is reported that this refers to a white, heterosexual man and woman as being those who are depicted as being worthy of romance.
Which of course begs the question: What is beauty?
It doesn’t matter, according to the outlet’s insider. Phrases such as “handsome prince” and “beautiful princess” place too much emphasis on physical attractiveness, particularly in “Rapunzel” or “Sleeping Beauty.” As such, it would be a problem for these stories to suggest that physical beauty or being handsome is worthy of attention.
Sensitivity readers have also suggested that the female characters should have more personal agency and not rely on male characters for happiness or safety.
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