Target Corporation’s decision to redact certain words from their books’ product descriptions has been met with dissatisfaction. Specific words such as “queer,” “transgender” and “Nazi” have been erased from their descriptions, with a number of publishers reporting that their descriptions include asterisks instead of the keywords that were intended.
One example was given by Heather Gernenz, a publicity manager at the University of Illinois Press. When Cael Keegan, author of the book Lana and Lilly Wachowski told the press that Monday that the word “transgender” had been replaced three times by asterisks in the description on Target.com. The book is about the transgender film director siblings, and so the word is vital in the book. Gernenz’s complaint meant that the description changed for the paperback edition of the title, although she had to submit another request for the title’s hardcover edition.
According to Publisher’s Weekly, publishers say that Target.com has fixed some descriptions that were initially altered but there are still books that still contain redacted words such as Trans: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability by Jack Halberstam, We Make It Better: The LGBTQ Community and their Positive Contributions to Society by Eric Rosswood and Kathleen Archambeau. Books about Nazi Germany also have words in their descriptions that have been redacted such as World War II: The Illustrated Story of the Second World War by John Burns where “Hitler” and “Nazi” have been erased from the product description.
It was also noted bt PW that Target had redacted from book product descriptions this past December when it was tweeted by Nina Packlebush, the author of Girls Like Me, a YA novel about a pregnant teen who is pansexual and the word “queer” was swabbed.
When a Target representative responded to Packlebush’s complaint by explaining that the company saw “queer’ as a slur and therefore believed that the word needed to be redacted. Packlebush, however, put pressure with the help of her publisher and others the word returned to the product description by January 6th, but Target.com replaced the word with “trans” which left Packlebush pointing out that the replacement was an inaccurate reference to the book’s main character. Obviously ‘trans’ and ‘queer’ are not interchangeable words.
Why does Target keep redacting these words from the book’s product descriptions? Well, Ohio University director Tony Sanfilippo states that it might be a company well-meaning policy gone wrong. However, he adds that if they want Nazis and Nazi-themed products out if their search results there are ways that don’t censor.
“If you can’t say ‘Nazi,’ you can’t stop Nazis,” Sanfilippo says. “And if you can’t search for books about the trans community and trans issues, your search engine and your corporate philosophy are morally flawed.”
Maybe, the company will have to change this policy because if it is not done soon there could be the possibility that publishers could no longer depend on the company for the publishing of other titles.
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