Posted by lisagbrown on January 27, 2008
I recently found myself in the photocopying room of a Boston-based publisher. In the room there was an impromptu wall of shame where employees had hung particularly egregious client requests, humorous writing errors and other amusing tidbits. One in particular caught my eye. It was an 11×14 color copy of a textbook chapter cover for a math book. The students would learn how to measure height differences. To illustrate the point the editors had chosen a charming photo of a meerkat mother and her offspring, each animal more diminutive than the next. I noticed proofreader’s marks on the paper, flippant strikes of pen that indicated something should be deleted. But these marks were not on words, they were on the image itself. I stepped closer to scrutinize the notations and then saw what was being removed. Each proofreading mark encircled a single brown nipple on the mother meerkat’s chest and scrawled in pen were the words, “can we get rid of the nipples?”Now, these were not engorged nipples. Nor were they obscene or overtly sexual in any way. In fact, they were barely larger than my male cat’s nipples. This led me to wonder why the editor had determined that they must go. Would the editor have deleted the nipples of:
- any animal?
- only female animals?
- only mothers?
- mothers of any species, or only those that appear upright?
- animals in science text books?
I find it astounding that even the suggestion of something as natural as suckling would be deemed inappropriate or somehow unacceptable for school children.