Trigger: Not Just a Horse

trigger This is for everyone who was bitching about trigger warnings in the comments on my last post. I’ll outsource the rest to Dan Savage, here and here:

So what purpose, then, do trigger warnings serve? It seems to me that they exist not to protect the reader, but to draw attention to the writer. You’ve heard of false consciousness? Well, trigger warnings are false conscientiousness. The writer who uses trigger warnings isn’t saying, “I care about you.” The writer is saying, “Look at meeeeee.” It’s narcissism masquerading as concern.

(Image from Liar Town USA)

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit






261 replies
  1. 1
    Chyron HR says:

    “Look at these losers, CARING about something that I don’t care about. What a bunch of lame-os.”

  2. 2
    Elmo says:

    @Chyron HR:

    Thank you. Well put.

  3. 3
    constitutional mistermix says:

    @Chyron HR: “My sensitivity to all things is displayed by my liberal use of trigger warnings. Only lesser beings refuse to use them — or worse yet, mock them.”

  4. 4
    Chyron HR says:

    Balloon Juice’s next running gag should be a series of hilarious japes about African-Americans being “redlined” from the site. HAW! Get it? It’s funny because anything that doesn’t affect white men is irrelevant and stupid.

  5. 5
    Cacti says:

    “Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct,” reads Oberlin College’s draft guide on trigger warnings, “but also to anything that might cause trauma.”

    Well, that’s not impossibly broad now, is it?

  6. 6
    Phylllis says:

    Nothing should ever be outsourced to Dan Savage, Insufferable Ass.

  7. 7
    NotMax says:

    Wherever there’s a horse, there’s bound to be a horse’s ass.

  8. 8
    Morbo says:

    @constitutional mistermix: “I’m a jerk, you say? No, you’re a jerk! And you’re arrogant. And you smell.”

  9. 9
    Schlemizel says:

    As a partner to a rape survivor I have to tell you you are way fucking out of line.

    Yes, I suppose it is possible that some people are a bit overly sensitive or perhaps using the warnings too often or for what YOU see as unnecessary items. But it might, just might, be possible to discuss that without coming off as an inflamed asshole if you tried a tiny bit -mmmmmmmmkay?

  10. 10
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    I suddenly feel like going on a mass murder shooting spree.

  11. 11
    constitutional mistermix says:

    @Chyron HR: The irony of the chief of the sensitivity police accusing a non-white front pager of white privilege is not lost on me.

  12. 12
    constitutional mistermix says:

    @Schlemizel: If you read Savage’s piece, he points out why the overbroad use of trigger warnings is a disservice to survivors of rape, sexual abuse and other traumas, because the current movement is to slap a trigger warning on everything.

  13. 13
    Cacti says:

    Thomas Bowdler (/ˈbaʊdlər/; 11 July 1754 – 24 February 1825) was an English physician and philanthropist, best known for publishing The Family Shakspeare, an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare’s work, edited by his sister Henrietta Maria Bowdler, intended to be more appropriate for 19th century women and children than the original

    The trigger warnings folks have always been with us in some form.

    I wonder what sort of trigger warnings the Bible should get.

  14. 14
    NotMax says:

    Didn’t make a note of the brand, but really, truly, cross my heart saw a bag of peanuts in the shell at the supermarket which sported a prominent warning label reading: “Product May Contain Peanuts.”

  15. 15
    rikyrah says:

    Can we have a morning Open Thread

  16. 16
    some guy says:

    is it still OK to get our panties in a bunge?

  17. 17
    MikeJ says:

    On the one hand I don’t have a problem with telling people in advance about particularly graphic depictions of violence. There are plenty of assholes out there who post intentionally shocking things and justify it by saying that the shock is necessary to convey the true horror blahblahblah, ignoring that there are plenty of people who already know first hand about the true horror of war/rape/murder/etc.

    On the other hand. the example in the post that started all of this was a racism trigger warning on a post about Brown v Board. I can’t imagine that anybody who is actually concerned about racism is going to be shocked or need a warning about how racist people were then or are now.

  18. 18
    some guy says:

    Cacti, good news from Syria today, your pals in al Qaeda lobbed some mortar shells at a tent, killing 20 people in southern Syria.

    Go Team al-Qaeda, brave jihadi’s fighting the infidels!

  19. 19
    Geeno says:

    The problem with trigger warnings as they’re evolving is that they’re going to become the boys who cried wolf. It’s getting to where they’ll be on everything everywhere, and no one will even read them anymore.
    Graphic depictions and discussions of particular topics – fine, but the whole thing is on the verge of going overboard.

  20. 20
    Cacti says:

    @some guy:

    Good morning groupie. No need to throw your panties at me this early in the morning.

  21. 21
    some guy says:

    @Cacti:

    the people of Deraa thank you for your support of their murderers.

    Go Team al-Qaeda, brave jihadi’s fighting the infidels!

  22. 22
    Cacti says:

    @some guy:

    Now the bra, too?

    Really Penny, this is getting a little embarrassing.

  23. 23
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Geeno: Precisely Savage’s point – which people would know if they read the link.

  24. 24
    Baud says:

    I propose the following for every blog:

    Warning: May contain nuts.

  25. 25
    Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill says:

    @constitutional mistermix: Then Savage is in ass mode, as he sometimes is — it’s part of why I have avoided reading him. He’s so busy handing out advice that sometimes is excellent, he fails to actually have empathy about a lot of critical topics in the communities he tends to speak for. It’s not a great trait of his.

    The “current movement” isn’t to “slap a trigger warning on everything”. That he thinks so shows how disconnected he is from the actual discussions going on around when, and how, to apply these things. Of course there are people who seek to warn on everything, but the “warn on everything” people are a minority to the “hey, let’s think about how to manage this issue” people who are the majority of social justice folks I’ve dealt with.

    Note, for example, that he quotes with approval someone who manages to conflate a warning with actual censorship — you know, actually stopping someone from saying and/or discussing something! His idea that you should just “write more sensitively” about issues is far more potentially censorious than someone writing and putting up a “hey. there’s some tough ideas in here”. We should have both — but sometimes, you have to Write Hard about a topic, and that’s a great place to warn folks about your content.

    It is, in fact, the nice thing to do. But that’s not Savage’s style, and that says a lot.

    And I have to confess, after this, and some of the stuff John’s posted of late, I’m more and more uncomfortable here. Not as a trigger, but as a matter of policy and political stance. I think there’s a reflex to mock “our side”, rather than understand the shifts that are going on in our cultural. I wonder if there’s a “let me post on this now!” mentality that’s part of why, but I don’t think it’s to this blog’s credit — remember Magical Unity Pony? Peak Wingnut?

    There’s a case for mockery, of course. But sometimes, there’s also a case for fuckin’ listening before opening your pie hole.

  26. 26
    FlipYrWhig says:

    I raised this on the last thread on the subject, but I’m still curious. If the point of trigger warnings is to avoid inducing someone to re-live a traumatic moment — especially unprepared — I get that. It makes a lot of sense in the context of rape and sexual assault, which happens to many people (far too many!) and is represented fairly frequently. But how many other kinds of things are “triggering” in similar ways, where the thing to avoid seeing/reading is a fairly directly transposed version of the thing that happened to you? Child abuse probably counts. There are plenty of terrible things that get depicted, but fortunately very few of us “re-live” those. To wit, a depiction of torture may be unsettling, but it can’t be triggering per se unless you’ve been tortured yourself. What else is there?

    Re: wartime PTSD, I have to share an insight from Ms. Flip, after having seen similar scenes in too many war movies: “Ya know, at a certain point you’d think they’d stop putting ceiling fans in the VA hospital.”

  27. 27
    Cacti says:

    @Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill:

    The “current movement” isn’t to “slap a trigger warning on everything”.

    Did you read the draft language for Oberlin College’s trigger warning policy?

    I’d say “slap a trigger warning on everything” is a pretty apt description.

  28. 28
    Morzer says:

    @some guy:

    If you put your panties in a bungee, you might just get the thrill of your life.

  29. 29
    lol says:

    @Cacti:

    Savage’s first impulse on Twitter was to claim that “no one” actually used trigger warnings and that articles about them were more common than actual usage. He compared to them to the “Rainbow Party” hysteria. He got challenged on that and then dug up some obscure ridiculous policy to justify the earlier stuff.

    So let’s not pretend he’s coming from a well-informed place here.

  30. 30
    Morzer says:

    @Cacti:

    Sure, but Oberlin college isn’t the whole of the debate. I have even seen people discussing the topic on the internet, of all places.

  31. 31
    Dave says:

    @Geeno:

    The problem with trigger warnings as they’re evolving is that they’re going to become the boys who cried wolf. It’s getting to where they’ll be on everything everywhere, and no one will even read them anymore.

    QFT.

  32. 32
    lol says:

    One thing’s for certain, we should be taking pointers on trigger warnings from people who think we don’t need to use them.

    Next up, pointers on racism from people who think it doesn’t exist, pointers on sexism from people who think broads shouldn’t be in the workplace anyways and pointers on gay marriage from people who think you should just marry someone of the opposite sex if you want to get married.

  33. 33
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @lol: We don’t have universal respect for that rule around here, though. We atheists give pointers on religion all the time. And let’s not even get into how many pointers we get on surveillance from people who think there shouldn’t be surveillance.

  34. 34
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    Jesus, I’m battling narcissism. Can I get a fucking trigger warning?

  35. 35
    constitutional mistermix says:

    @lol:

    Savage’s first impulse on Twitter was to claim that “no one” actually used trigger warnings and that articles about them were more common than actual usage. He compared to them to the “Rainbow Party” hysteria. He got challenged on that and then dug up some obscure ridiculous policy to justify the earlier stuff.

    So let’s not pretend he’s coming from a well-informed place here.

    By “obscure”, do you mean the New York Times article that he quoted at the start of the first piece I linked?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05.....quirm.html

    You’re right – nobody reads that minor rag.

  36. 36
    MomSense says:

    @Cacti:

    Did you read the draft language for Oberlin College’s trigger warning policy?

    And you do know that Oberlin’s “policy” as you call it was in a resource guide for professors and not mandatory. It was meant to explain to professors why they can be useful and provide examples of how they can be used.

    My experience on this site discussing the issue is that the commenters immediately began insulting the people who use/advocate trigger warnings. Is that really necessary? We are talking about people who have survived terrible things and who are trying to deal with it while finishing their education often while seeing their rapist in class, in the cafeteria, in their dorm because the whole controversy is about using trigger warnings in an academic setting.

    Try reading this article. http://www.xojane.com/issues/w.....r-warnings

    Idon’t find trigger warnings particularly useful, but our conversations about them tell me a lot about what we think about trauma survivors.

    But I’m always surprised when the idea of a trigger warning comes up for public debate, because the resulting conversations are almost nothing like that. Instead, they reveal the sheer, knee-jerk contempt with which this culture seems to view trauma survivors.

    This was exactly my experience on this site the other night. Trauma survivors were treated with contempt. It was ugly, really really ugly.

  37. 37
    Laertes says:

    @lol:

    One thing’s for certain, we should be taking pointers on trigger warnings from people who think we don’t need to use them.

    Your heart’s in the right place, obviously, because you’re on the sensitiver side of the question, but try not to explicitly spell out that we’re ruling the other side’s opinions invalid simply because they’re opposed. That gives the game away. A little subtlety is called for here.

  38. 38
    Joel says:

    False consciousness just about sums it up.

  39. 39
    Morzer says:

    When Dan Savage says:

    Someone who uses a trigger warning before writing about rape or sexual violence will probably write about rape and sexual violence with enough sensitivity that the trigger warning wasn’t necessary.

    This makes some very dubious assumptions about how writing works and how it affects us, as well as begging the question of whether you can (or should?) write about rape with sufficient sensitivity to make a trigger warning unnecessary. I am not someone who has experienced racism, nor have I had a child killed in a school shooting, but I do know that a sensitively written depiction of say “polite” racism can enrage me, similarly I can feel horror at the cruelty of people who mock the bereaved parents after a school shooting, not to mention descriptions of the event itself. If we can feel such visceral reactions to events depicted on the page, I would imagine that such reactions go double for people who have actually experienced something like rape. I think Savage is making a bad argument here and it’s not one that front-pagers should be endorsing with such sneering disdain for those who think otherwise. Trigger warnings are a complex issue and not something that is easy to get right, but we should debate the issue and take it seriously, rather than turning it into a question of the sophisticated (in their own minds) versus the naive.

    I would suggest that bloggers ought to take the power of the written word seriously. More seriously than some of them seem to be doing.

  40. 40
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @MomSense: I doubt that many people around here would sneer at a statement like “People who have been sexually assaulted may react strongly to depictions of sexual assault, so be considerate to them and warn them.” IMHO all the skepticism (and then ridicule) kicks in when the definition expands beyond rape to trauma. As Cacti pointed out above, Oberlin says “Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct, but also to anything that might cause trauma.” What do we collectively know about the similarities and dissimilarities between rape-trauma and non-rape-trauma and how people who endure those react when reminded, directly or indirectly, of the traumatic event? Because “reading this rape scene made me relive my rape, and I would have appreciated a warning” is crystal clear to me, but “seeing this ceiling fan made me relive my medevac helicopter experience, and I would have appreciated a warning” is much less so, even when the trauma itself is respected, not disrespected.

  41. 41
    Morzer says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Because “reading this rape scene made me relive my rape, and I would have appreciated a warning” is crystal clear to me, but “seeing this ceiling fan made me relive my medevac helicopter experience, and I would have appreciated a warning” is much less so, even when the trauma itself is respected, not disrespected.

    Right, which is why this is such a complex subject overall and something which is hard to do well. People understand that actions have consequences, but seem much less willing to understand that words have power. Ironic, really, in a forum that depends for all of its impact on the written word.

  42. 42
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Morzer: I know this wasn’t your point, but I think it’d be helpful to distinguish between “reliving” and “feeling horrified by.” Because of the link to trauma, trigger warnings are aimed at people with direct experience of similar events. The “trigger” makes them relive their own experience. At least that’s how I understand it.

  43. 43
    Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill says:

    @Cacti: Yeah, I know about it. I also know about this:

    Oberlin officials note that the policy was to recommend trigger warnings, not to require them. Critics saw even a non-mandatory policy as raising issues about academic freedom.

    And that, after lots of discussions and media attention, from the same article:

    Faculty members criticized the policy from within, saying it had been drafted largely without their input, even though they stood on the front lines of such a policy.

    And criticism flowed in from outside Oberlin as well, with outlets such as the Los Angeles Times and the New Republic questioning the policy’s implications for academic freedom and for the liberal arts, so central to Oberlin’s mission.

    Now, Oberlin has tabled the policy, pending additional faculty input.

    Which goes back to my point around balance — Oberlin rightly got their tailed pulled for not providing that balance. It’s worthy they did, and will hopefully continue to, recognize that there are critical issues to people in this process. It’s not just “fee-fees” at risk here.

  44. 44
    Morzer says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Actually,that is part of my point: if I, as someone who hasn’t experienced something, can be so strongly affected by a written depiction of e.g. a school shooting, I can only imagine that for someone who did experience it the emotional impact must be far worse. In effect, I live the experience through the depiction of it, but in a somewhat detached way. Someone who relives it without the detachment of non-experience must have it far worse than I do – whence the “triggering” effect . That’s why I think that the front-pagers on here need to rethink their apparent refusal to take words and the power of reading seriously.

  45. 45
    libarbarian says:

    [Trigger Warning: This Comment Contains Discussion of Trigger Warnings!]

    WOULD YOU PLEASE Include trigger warnings on posts that discussion Trigger Warnings!!!!

    I find discussion of Trigger Warnings to be TRIGGERING!!!!!

    I’m starting to question if Balloon-Juice really is the kind of safe space where I can avoid unpleasant discussions of triggers and safe spaces!!!!!

  46. 46
    delosgatos says:

    Trigger warning: Contains trigger warning.

  47. 47
    delosgatos says:

    Libarbarian got there first. Dang.

  48. 48
    MomSense says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I doubt that many people around here would sneer at a statement like “People who have been sexually assaulted may react strongly to depictions of sexual assault, so be considerate to them and warn them.”

    Actually sneering, mocking, ridicule, and insulting was exactly how people here reacted in the discussion the other night.

  49. 49
    ruemara says:

    @constitutional mistermix: because it’s not about the individuals who have survived, it’s about what Dan savage wants. That’s great. You’re both asses at this point. Glad trigger warnings are to be roundly mocked nice work.

  50. 50
    Morzer says:

    @MomSense:

    Some people did, but not all. Let’s not lump everyone in together.

  51. 51
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Morzer: I still think there’s a sort of sliding scale: likelihood times intensity. It is likely, sadly, that a classroom full of people reading a rape scene will include people who have been raped, some of whom may react intensely. It is unlikely, fortunately, that a classroom full of people reading about a school shooting will include people who have been present at school shootings. People who haven’t suffered in the specific manner in question may be horrified, but they haven’t been triggered per se. If I assign a work that includes graphic depictions of torture, it might disturb the students, but it doesn’t trigger them, by virtue of the commonly accepted definition of “triggering.”

  52. 52
    NotOnScript says:

    If you’re not writing for an audience that might appreciate “trigger warnings”, then don’t use them. Using them doesn’t make one a saint either.

    Shit, how is this any different than the hippy-punching against political correctness that began in the nineties? “Gee, Murphy Brown is right: if this political correctness gets carried away, the Redskins will have to change their team name!”

    Let me give an example from one of my blog entries where I felt a content note was in order. It involves a General Conference delegate of The United Methodist Church in 1988 justifying The United Methodist Church’s “official position” regarding “homosexuality”:

    I have my fingers to a place in the Scriptures. I’m not going to read it. You know the Scriptures, I think, as well or better than I do. Rolla [sic] May, I believe it is, who says that our instinctual drives are like wild horses; they need to be put into the harness with the bridle. He also says that it’s like flood waters. Flood waters are very damaging and destructive if not under the control of dams and conduits and irrigation ditches, which make more productive use of that water.

    My training in psychiatry would indicate that homosexuality is an arrested development. I’m also told by doctor friends that under psychiatric training and counseling, it can be changed in the vast majority of cases. One gay person in the North Central Jurisdiction over a period of time contributed AIDS to 276 people. I am not talking about the individual; I’m talking about the lifestyle. Now with tongue in cheek, finally, I would say, if it has to be, then please let us make an ordinance of our church that two individuals make a covenant for their lifestyle and stay together forever.

    I’m not going to even pretend that The United Methodist Church is worth taking seriously. (I blog about it partly because I don’t want its recent history to “go down the memory hole.”) I think it was completely appropriate to include the content note because there might be people in my audience who might be inclined to take the above comment personally, and if they’re not having a good day, they might want to read the post some other day. This content note isn’t strictly about how sensitive I am — at I least I hope not — for me, it’s closer to saying that if this blog post is personal, it’s OK to skip it.

    It sure would be nice if Mr. Savage would actually — I don’t know — talk to a real life feminist who disagrees with him on this issue rather than argue with straw feminists.

    I’m not commenting on this issue further.

  53. 53
    MomSense says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    And again, I think that you are trivializing it with statements about ceiling fans-even though they could be a trigger. How about we trust that professors are smart and if they understand how trigger warnings might be helpful to students who are dealing with trauma they can figure out a good way to be helpful. I don’t know like in their syllabus they could say that they will be discussing/viewing/reading graphic depictions of war and violence. That way the students who do better with a heads up can prepare themselves to participate fully in class. Can you imagine how a student exercising choice and feeling like they have some control over a situation might be helpful? Might even help that student to get to a place where they can skip over the trigger warnings just like most of the people in the class.

  54. 54
    lol says:

    @Laertes:

    No, I completely agree with you. We should be taking pointers from people who treat the subject with thinly veiled contempt.

  55. 55
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @MomSense: Well, I feel like there was a lot of talking past each other: in essence, the people who were mocking “trigger warnings on everything” on the one hand, and people who were defending “trigger warnings on some things” on the other. But this is why I think rape is the one clear-cut case where a policy might be justified, and it’s when attempting to incorporate traumas other than rape that everything bogs down.

  56. 56
    MomSense says:

    @Morzer:

    Most people did, but I’m sure they’ve got some rape survivor friends so it’s all good, right?

  57. 57
    RaflW says:

    I think Savage is right: Trigger Warning should be mocked, it’s an absurd moment of self-importance. “I just wrote something so important that you have to read it, even though it will trigger your PTSD! Check it out!!”

    Narcissism 101.

    ETA: The above said, I do think it is fine for a content note at the beginning of articles/stories. NPR will from time to time say “this story contains graphic quotes and may not be appropriate for all audiences” or suchlike.
    I take issue with the overbroad and overblown use of Trigger Warning in this cultural moment. It needs to be reigned in so that it might retain some meaning.

  58. 58
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @MomSense: But graphic depictions of war aren’t triggering unless you’ve been in a war. They might be upsetting, but not triggering as the term is commonly used. You need that “reliving” aspect or it’s something else. It’s when “triggering” gets expanded like this that all the conceptual problems arise.

    ETA: I said in that previous discussion and reiterated in this one that rape is the bright-line case.

  59. 59
    Morzer says:

    @MomSense:

    If you want to trivialize this discussion by making sweeping statements and deciding to put words in someone else’s mouth, that’s your choice.

  60. 60
    Emma says:

    @Morzer: Isn’t that the kind of phrasing we mock when a white person jumps up during discussion of racism to yell “not all white persons are racist! Don’t lump us all together!”?

    The funny-sad part is that everyone here mocking trigger warnings has a statistically significant chance of needing them at some point — either personally or through a loved one.

  61. 61
    MomSense says:

    @Morzer:

    You know what, you can go back and read that shitshow of a thread and then get back to me about how many people were assholes and how many of the non assholes tried to defend the people who were being insulted. I’m not trivializing anything. It was an ugly, ugly thread. “Most” is an accurate description of what took place.

  62. 62
    Morzer says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Right. Triggering is part of a spectrum of imaginative responses to the written word (in this case) or movies, art, even relatively trivial things. You can see the effect in post WW I cases of “shell-shock” or Vietnam veterans. I wish people would understand that when a person is triggered it isn’t a response they can control. Too much of the discussion on here seems to assume that adults are always perfectly in control and, for that matter, can just pull up and stop reading (by reading “word by word” as John Cole put it).

  63. 63
    RaflW says:

    One further ETA: I have been out of academia for years, but I’ve been seeing Trigger Warnings lately on blog posts and even tweets about blog posts. That is what I’ve been reacting to. It seems way too frequently applied.

    If the title or intro paragraph of your post doesn’t give any indication that later in your item you will be describing something traumatizing, then I suspect you may need to rewrite or rethink your piece or its title, rather than Trigger Warning it.

  64. 64
    TooManyJens says:

    @constitutional mistermix: Can you explain why we should listen to Dan Savage instead of actual survivors of trauma when it comes to what’s helpful for people who have experienced trauma?

    Yes, there’s a tendency for “trigger warning” to get expanded past potential PTSD triggers to “I don’t want to see things that disturb me.” But that can be discussed and resisted without the shitshow of assholish mockery that’s gone on here the last few days.

  65. 65
    MomSense says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Ok, so all I’m saying is that the professor can make that determination about the content in her/his class based on who takes the class. I do think there is an assumption that there are not as many veterans of war as there are in academic settings. I also think that the violence that kids experience with the prevalence of guns, substance abuse, and untreated mental illness in our society is a lot more widespread than people think. Granted, I work in the legal field so I may see more of it–but guess what–it is everywhere.

  66. 66
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Emma: What does “trigger warning” get you that “rape depiction warning” doesn’t? Because honestly I think the concept would get a lot more traction and a lot less scoffing if it were linked to rape/assault and not to the hazier concept of trauma.

  67. 67
    Morzer says:

    @Emma:

    I would say that in the case of the thread in question, it’s fair to observe that MomSense did make an extreme and unjustified claim. I don’t much like how some people on it reacted to the discussion of trigger warnings, but I don’t believe that overstating the case adds anything to the discussion. To me, her hyperbolic denunciations are just as bad as the sneering disdain that assumes that trigger warnings are just coddling adults. I guess I am in favor of more light, less heat in this discussion.

  68. 68
    libarbarian says:

    @NotOnScript:

    [Trigger Warning: This comment might hurt your feelings]

    You put a Trigger Warning on THAT!!!???!!! You just proved our point.

  69. 69
    MomSense says:

    @Morzer:

    I would say that in the case of the thread in question, it’s fair to observe that MomSense did make an extreme and unjustified claim.

    In your opinion. In my opinion and in the case of several other survivors who said the same thing in that thread, I would say I am not exaggerating at all.

  70. 70
    Morzer says:

    @MomSense:

    I am glad we’ve reached a bipartisan consensus.

  71. 71
    TooManyJens says:

    @MomSense: I’m with you on this. What went on in that thread was shameful.

  72. 72
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @MomSense: I teach literature and, within that, in a time period that doesn’t represent most of those phenomena. So for me, rape is about the only relivable traumatic experience. I take that part seriously, although in light of these recent conversations I could take it more seriously. But I’m still getting hung up on how many other triggering traumas there would really be beyond that. Not “what other terrible things could a person experience?” but “what other terrible things could a person experience and feel forced to relive when reading about or seeing them represented?” I don’t like to read about animal deaths because I’ve experienced animal deaths. I don’t like to see straight razors in use because it just freaks me out. But I don’t think either of those is triggering in the way the term is generally used.

  73. 73
    ThresherK says:

    Is there a term for the right’s chum-churning crap wherein you hear someone say “Now I’m probably gonna be called a bigot for saying this, but…”?

    Because we need a phrase that describes it.

    (PS I can’t get thru an episode of “House” without looking away from the fantasy trip the camera takes into a patient’s body to some sick or failing organ.)

  74. 74
    different-church-lady says:

    @constitutional mistermix:

    If you read Savage’s piece…

    Oops, I think I see where the problem is.

  75. 75
    MomSense says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I teach literature and, within that, in a time period that doesn’t represent most of those phenomena.

    And I think that is exactly the point. Every professor in every class should not have to trigger for all the things. You are perfectly capable of determining what is appropriate for your classes!! That is how this is supposed to work!!

    An ancillary benefit that may result from thinking about the applicability of trigger warnings, is that it may signal to other students in the class that there is a diversity of lived experience they may not have been previously aware. As in wow I never really considered what it would be like to live in a place where I saw kids I went to school with get shot at the park. My life was really different. I wonder how that affects my opinions on a lot of things.

    Of course, a lot of people just skip pass them as happens now where they are used–unless they really do benefit from the heads up.

  76. 76
    Woodrowfan says:

    @TooManyJens:

    Yes, there’s a tendency for “trigger warning” to get expanded past potential PTSD triggers to “I don’t want to see things that disturb me.” But that can be discussed and resisted without the shitshow of assholish mockery that’s gone on here the last few days.

    This. I warn students before I show a violent or disturbing image to my class, such as a lynching postcard. Yes, they made postcards of lynching. I want my students to see not only the violence, but how it was celebrated by the white supremacist culture. But I warn the class first.

    OTOH, a student once complained that I discussed the mental illness of James Garfield’s assassin. The student’s brother suffered from mental illness and my discussing the assassin’s mental illness upset her. Sorry student, we can’t delete every reference to mental illness from material you might hear because you’re upset about your brother. I understand your distress. I hated jokes about death when my Dad was terminally ill, but I knew I’d run across them.

  77. 77
    MomSense says:

    @TooManyJens:

    It really was ugly.

  78. 78
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    This whole thing is traumatic to me. It’s making my head hurt.

  79. 79
    TG Chicago says:

    I’ve seen at least two people (one of them mistermix) complain about “overbroad” trigger warnings. Yet I haven’t seen anyone advocating for overbroad trigger warnings. Makes me wonder if the problem they imagine is, um, imaginary.

    Let’s say a story describes a rape in detail. Maybe a news story, maybe a fiction story, whatever. Does everyone agree that the story might trigger trauma in a rape victim? Can we all agree that this is a very realistic possibility?

    If so, then what is the harm caused by a trigger warning? Can you really say that you are so heavily burdened by having to skim past one sentence that your pain is greater than that of the traumatized rape victim?

    Yes, it’s possible to go overboard with trigger warnings. Yes, I can agree that the “racism” trigger warning on a Brown v Board article was redundant. (though it was also harmless)

    But if a trigger warning on a story about rape helps a rape victim to avoid a panic attack, then how is that a bad thing?

  80. 80
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @MomSense: OK, but I still think Melissa McEwan’s trigger warning for racism (cited at one point in the previous discussion) is bonkers, not because racism isn’t something that is part of the diversity of lived experience, but because racism per se isn’t a trauma per se the way rape, shooting, and cruelty are. You don’t relive racism unexpectedly. And that’s why I keep coming back to “kinds of trauma that can be relived,” which I suspect will be a short and widely respected list, rather than trauma in general, which I suspect might as well be infinite, and once it’s infinite, the trigger warning defeats itself and impatient mockery wins the day.

  81. 81
    Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill says:

    @TooManyJens:

    What went on in that thread was shameful.

    What I caught of that thread was a “slient” partner to my comment about this blog. I checked out real damn early — not out of trauma, but out of anger, and a lack of time to engage asshats.

    @FlipYrWhig: (and others): Rather than try to gauge the bright line, you might be well served by actually reading and talking to the people who are engaged in this discussion. I understand the impulse to manage the “what’s the best way?” discussion based upon your own experiences and readings to-date. I’ve been there, and it took a lot of very patient people, and reading lots of less patient ones, to grasp that I didn’t have the life-experience to grasp the kind of trauma they were talking about.

    I do, however, have the life-experience to compare it to aspects of being Black in America. And there’s a kind of trauma, a kind of trigger, there that although not directly comparable, hurts when people hit it. A bit of cushion, an “are you sure you want a piece of this?”, is very welcome, and can help me shift my mindset in ways that even a good intro cannot.

    Some consideration in discussions around “hard topics” isn’t harmful, and actually helps the free flow of discussion — if nothing else, by warning you can expand the range of topics you can bring up in many cases. (On refresh: both @MomSense and @Woodrowfan say similar things, I think.)

  82. 82
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @MomSense: There also were people who were attempting to have a real discussion.

  83. 83
    different-church-lady says:

    I repeat my comment from last night.

  84. 84
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    “The word is a word the Knights of Ni cannot hear!”

    “How can we stop saying the word if you won’t tell us what it is?”

  85. 85
    FeudalismNow! says:

    Another day of trolling their own readers at BJ. You think they would tire of it.
    I don’t see the concern over trigger warnings. They seem to be a nice tool to inform a reader or student about uncomfortable content. If someone consistently sets off traumatic flashbacks from their writing, don’t read them anymore. Most likely you shouldn’t read them even if they are trigger warning the content a lot, but at least you are forwarned.
    What I fail to see is where people feel they are being trampled by the jack booted thugs of Political Correctness. The Oberlin policy was a recommendation that has been pulled. Are there a lot of people demanding trigger warnings for Cole’s naked mopping or cat posts? What is the onerous demand of trigger warnings? Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is all the time is stupid, because people rarely mean it, but it is greased the social wheels. Giving people a heads up is not a thought crime.

  86. 86
    different-church-lady says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    You don’t relive racism unexpectedly.

    I’d dare to say it’s impossible to relive something that never actually stops happening.

  87. 87
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @TG Chicago: Of course that’s not a bad thing. But it has the clarity that comes from the more or less one-to-one relationship between the thing depicted and the thing personally suffered. And beyond that, it will apply to a large number of people — reprehensibly so. But most other examples aren’t going to have all of those features.

  88. 88
    TooManyJens says:

    @ThresherK:

    Is there a term for the right’s chum-churning crap wherein you hear someone say “Now I’m probably gonna be called a bigot for saying this, but…”?

    Because we need a phrase that describes it.

    I don’t know, but I always think of this bit from Archer:

    Malory: “I mean, look, I don’t want to sound racist, but–”

    Lana: “But you’re gonna power through it.”

  89. 89
    different-church-lady says:

    @FeudalismNow!:

    They seem to be a nice tool to inform a reader or student about uncomfortable content.

    I believe the nut of the matter is that it becomes the kind of game of manipulation some people like to play, where anything and everything becomes “uncomfortable content.” Take it far enough away from the practical and the sensible and it becomes a tool of disruption, rather than a protective mechanism.

    That being said, it seems to me the concern is far out of proportion to the actuality.

  90. 90
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @different-church-lady: Exactly. But that’s why “triggering” isn’t the right frame. Sensitivity, yes, “triggering,” no.

  91. 91
    different-church-lady says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Sadly we live in a world of mental shortcuts, and “trigger warning” is the slang of the moment.

    Which is another unfortunate aspect of their overuse: when you sprinkle them through your life like salt and pepper, what you’re really doing is using them more as a social cue than an actual warning.

  92. 92
    lol says:

    @MomSense:

    NOT *ALL* comMENters!

  93. 93
    Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    You don’t relive racism unexpectedly.

    It’s not like minorities go to school to learn how to deal with racism. We muddle though it, in most cases; in a lot of cases, our flight-or-fight is on all the damn time in “mainstream” society. There’s more than a causal link between that level of constant anxiety and all kinds of mental/emotional situations.

    When something happens that’s a racist act, it’s always, on some level, unprepared for. And frankly, even being mentally prepared doesn’t block out people using “nigger”, even today. Or people throwing bottles (yes, happened to me as a kid). Or, within still-living memory, Jim Crow and it’s waves of horrors. And “horror” is a key term, as people who deal with outcomes from repeated instances of childhood assault will point out how that anticipation impacts their lived experiences.

    I would strongly caution you against assuming that trauma comes about only when someone says “surprise!”

  94. 94
    different-church-lady says:

    @Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill: But you are describing fresh instances of racism, rather than a situation where one person describes racism and as a result another relives their own past instance.

    I won’t pretend to know, or be so presumptive as to guess, how someone who has experienced racism feels in the latter situation. I only intend to point out the distinction between what’s being discussed.

  95. 95
    lol says:

    @different-church-lady:

    “Out of control” trigger warnings are the new “out of control” political correctness.

  96. 96
    TG Chicago says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    But most other examples aren’t going to have all of those features.

    Agreed. From what I’ve read from you in the thread, I imagine you and I aren’t that far apart.

    The front pagers who are mocking trigger warnings seem to think that any and all warnings are ridiculous. I’m trying to get those people to explain how “preventing a rape victim from suffering further trauma” is a bad thing.

  97. 97
    lawnorder says:

    Dan Savage is completely full of shit. Trigger warnings help readers with PSTD.

    As someone who has been through child abuse I have a lot of things that trigger bad memories and trigger warnings are appreciated.

    To be brought back to that time when I was defenseless against an abusive dad is like getting punched in the stomach. If you know the punch is coming you can flinch and tense your muscles, so it doesn’t hurt as much. Or you can leave the area and avoid the punch altogether. What really sucks is getting a punch on the stomach completely by surprise, out of nowhere.

    Trigger warnings help me decide if I’m going to read something or not, and help me prepare mentally for the pain that is coming.

    Not all my triggers are easy to identify, even for me. I can be triggered by the most trivial things and this is something I have been working on all my adult life to erase. It isn’t pleasant to be brought to abject terror and tears by smelling a particular brand of aftershave. I don’t want to be triggered by it but I am.

    To be triggered by things leaves me feeling broken and weak and I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t like the fact that my abusive dad can still ruin my day from beyond the grave. I don’t like feeling like a wilting flower who can’t handle life.

    That is why I love trigger warnings. They let me decide if I’m strong enough to read / watch that thing on that particular day. No unpleasant surprises. Because my life is already full of those unpleasant surprises and triggers as it is.

    Dan seems to think that any writer sensitive enough to his readers would use trigger warnings. That is not so. I’ve asked people on tumblr to tag their writings before and 9 out of 10 times the writer had no idea it was triggering me or other people who had been through child abuse. Most people don’t, unless you know someone who has been through it or you have been through it yourself.

    And if it is terribly imposing to a particular writer to think about what he is going to write, and who might be affected by it, then I don’t think I care to read what he has to say. Why should I ?

  98. 98
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill: As d-c-l mentioned, those are acts. Dismal and awful acts. But trigger warnings are for representations, no? The representation “triggers” you to relive a past experience, especially if you’re unprepared.

  99. 99
    Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill says:

    @different-church-lady:

    But you are describing fresh instances of racism

    You’re right, I didn’t — I simply said that racism is oft-traumatic.

    I didn’t go into triggers because my point was specific; I got a sense from the comment that somehow acts of racism don’t impact the same way as acts of, say, sexual assault. And they aren’t “the same” — but I wanted to point out similarities in the situations, and how they impact one’s sense of the world.

    From there — to lay it out — I’d hope someone would grasp that maybe situations other than sexual assault can have repercussions on the psyche. “Trigger-y” or not, it’s not something to be dealt with lightly in many cases.

  100. 100
    different-church-lady says:

    @Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill:

    I didn’t go into triggers because my point was specific…

    And it was a valuable point to be made. I was only hoping to help keep things from spiraling into the kind of stupidity that happens when people talk about complex topics without acknowledging all the individual constituent parts.

  101. 101
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @lawnorder: What kinds of stories would you want trigger warnings on, so as to avoid that (totally understandable) pain? How close does it have to be to your own experience? I can think of a lot of awful fathers in literature, and I’m sure I’ve had a lot of students who suffered through awful fathers who don’t need new-old stress from their reading for lit class, so I’m curious, that is, if you don’t mind explaining it a bit more to me.

  102. 102
    chopper says:

    @lawnorder:

    They let me decide if I’m strong enough to read / watch that thing on that particular day. No unpleasant surprises.

    yet you admit that you can be triggered by “by the most trivial things”. how would trigger warnings be comprehensive enough to leave ‘no unpleasant surprises’ in your case?

  103. 103
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill: The case I was bringing up was a post on Brown vs. Board of Ed tagged with an alert that seemed to suggest a trigger warning for “racism.” I would want to say that people who have been traumatized by racism can indeed be triggered by certain depictions, but discussions _of_ racism probably aren’t going to work that way. You need an unsettling image that’s close to home, and, in the classic case, that you encounter by surprise. But if I’m wrong, I’m wrong.

  104. 104
    chopper says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    this sort of thing is part of the problem. a lot of people are focusing on rape, because that situation is relatively easy to warn against in literature and the victims garner a great deal of sympathy. but a lot of people have PTSD from a lot of different situations. i guess we shouldn’t go down the slippery slope when in reality all that’s necessary is a ‘reasonable’ attempt to warn people about common triggers (as opposed to the opposition argument that we’d have to warn against every single thing in the world which is pretty stupid).

    but child abuse is super-common. and abusive parents are a very, very common trope in literature.

  105. 105
    cleek says:

    Who? Who does not want to wear the ribbon?

  106. 106
    BethanyAnne says:

    Alrighty, I’m late to the thread, so it’s probably dead. I’ll skip back up to the top and read, but I wanted to add – are you arguing about movie ratings? Because that’s exactly what trigger warnings are. A letter to rank the intensity, followed by some extremely brief description of what topics the letter applies to. That’s it. A signpost of what’s ahead. I don’t get what’s so awful about them.

  107. 107
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @chopper: True, but even on the subject of abuse I assume there’s an experiential difference between reading about Abraham and Isaac, reading/watching _King Lear_, and watching _Mommie Dearest_, even though all include cruel parents. That’s why I keep coming back to the necessary degree of likeness between the depiction and the experience to set off a true “triggering” reaction.

  108. 108
    chopper says:

    @BethanyAnne:

    i think a lot of people are weirded out by the prospect of putting those sort of things in books as well. should all forms of art come with warnings?

  109. 109
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill:

    I could well be talking out of my ass about this (and feel free to tell me if I am), but one example I brought up in the other thread was PG Wodehouse’s light comic novel, Thank You, Jeeves, which has repeated references to “nigger minstrels.” Not even in a disparaging way, but as a matter-of-fact description. Some editions change it to “negro” or “black,” but others don’t.

    I will sometimes recommend the book to people because it’s funny, but I’ve never done it without mentioning that the n-word is thrown around casually, because I don’t want people to stumble across it unexpectedly like I did (and I’m white, so it was more Aw, crap, why’d you have to go there? than anything else).

  110. 110
    chopper says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    that’s the thing about literature. movies, well, it’s easy in film to depict a horrible act in a very visceral way. in writing it can be done amazingly well but that also depends on the reader (not just the reader’s experiences, but their imagination).

  111. 111
    Mnemosyne says:

    @chopper:

    i think a lot of people are weirded out by the prospect of putting those sort of things in books as well. should all forms of art come with warnings?

    Why not? I frequently see nudity or NSFW warnings online. Why are warnings about rape/molestation or violence censorship but warnings about nudity A-OK?

  112. 112
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: But if triggering involves reliving trauma, Wodehouse having characters say “nigger” is upsetting, but not triggering. If Wodehouse wrote about a confrontation between racists and black people, in which the racists used slurs, that might be triggering if it rekindled personal experiences involving racist confrontations. So that’s a different kind of warning — a “strong content” warning rather than a “trigger warning,” you might say.

  113. 113
    BethanyAnne says:

    @chopper: Wouldn’t bother me – I ignore the ratings as I don’t get triggered reliably. I have a friend that relies on movie ratings pretty heavily. I don’t get why warnings I can easily tune out are any danger.

  114. 114
    BethanyAnne says:

    And hell, to be honest, I was *way* more bothered by the shit-ton of ads before the latest movies than by the ratings screens before the trailers.

  115. 115
    JustRuss says:

    @NotOnScript: Not to get off into the weeds, but 1988 is hardly “recent history” when it comes to LGBT issues, given how much has changed in the past decade. I’m a recovering Methodist who got sucked back into the church for family reasons, and have been pleasantly surprised on how progressive our local church is on a range of issues, including gay marriage. It’s true the church hierarchy opposes gay marriage, but there’s a strong movement within the church to change that.

    As for your point about content notes, seems reasonable to me.

  116. 116
    DavidTC says:

    Someone who uses a trigger warning before writing about rape or sexual violence will probably write about rape and sexual violence with enough sensitivity that the trigger warning wasn’t necessary.

    Does anyone think this is the dumbest argument ever?

    Yes, a writer could, before describing a rape, explain he was about to describe a rape in the text.

    That would be a trigger warning. It’s just later than trigger warnings that are most useful, and, in fact, wastes more time, because it’s a sentence or two dancing around the issue instead of just saying ‘Trigger warning: depictions of rape’ at the start of the article.

    I swear to God, Dan Savage is an idiot. He’s arguing against tagging, against properly describing things. It’s like he thinks everything is a damn movie and doesn’t want spoilers for it.

    Seriously, people. Do people objecting to trigger warnings object to movie genres? Or article titles? Or article summaries? Or author names? What a fucking stupid hill to die on. It’s damn tagging, you idiots. Tagging, the concept that is making the internet much much more useful.

    ‘I demand the right to hide information from my readers about what I will be talking about!’

    If asshats like you people would stop running around hippy-punching people, we could have it already built into the tagging system of blogs and just be a damn checkbox during article posting for common warnings, and a little option that users could turn on in the preferences to see them, and oh, I’m sure that would completely destroy society, having to check a fucking box.

  117. 117
    MomSense says:

    @lawnorder:

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  118. 118
    lawnorder says:

    @chopper: I’m not asking or expecting for the outside world to change and never trigger me again. As I explained before, not even I, myself know in advance all the things that will trigger my bad memories.

    I work on my own self daily, trying to be more resilient. Is part of surviving trauma.

    I don’t expect makers of “that” aftershave to put trigger warnings on their labels, and wouldn’t expect ceiling fan makers or movie directors from putting trigger warnings on fans, if they triggered me.

    But it wold be nice if the writer of a piece with a potentially painful topic put a proper title on it, or at least a trigger warning.

    Would you like to click on a link that says “cute kittens” and see kitten skulls bashed ?

    That is how I feel when I click on a link that says “Wonders of parenting” and go read expecting to see an uplifting tale – I’m a mom so I read parenting articles – and instead see a tale of horrific child abuse that leaves me shaking in a cold sweat wanting to barf.

    Is it so hard to think about what you just wrote and think who might be affected by it ? To label it “child abuse” or “rape” or “war” imagery ?

    You wrote a piece that means something to you, taking 2 seconds out of your busy time to think what it might mean to others, to the best of your ability is too much to ask ?

    Good grief!

  119. 119
    MomSense says:

    @chopper:

    how would trigger warnings be comprehensive enough to leave ‘no unpleasant surprises’ in your case?

    We deal with “unpleasant surprises” all the time. We are not expecting a world with “no unpleasant surprises”. How about fewer? How about we be able to perform/function in an academic setting where we are paying good money and being graded.

    And just to sort of clarify, this is not about being “uncomfortable”. It seems like that word is used to describe a physiological response that is not uniform and not always just “uncomfortable”.

  120. 120
    chopper says:

    @MomSense:

    that’s my point. trigger warnings in artwork are not going to lead to ‘no unpleasant surprises’. people have to understand that for many they won’t be a ‘fix’, rather just an aid.

  121. 121
    DavidTC says:

    Oh, and I just have to mention: (Image from Liar Town USA)

    Why did you include that completely pointless line, mixmaster? Worried someone would complain if left it out?

    And since the blog is apparently so low on space that including one additional line of text is such a hardship, what’s with the ‘119 Responses to “Trigger: Not Just a Horse”’ line? Why is that there?

    Are you pandering to the innumerate who can’t count the comments? Wasting our precious, precious space?

    And what about ‘Blogospheric Navel-Gazing’. And that blog sharing line?

    And that huge title? Seriously. Why do we need that?

    I demand no trigger warnings. And no tags. And no pointless lines about comments. And no titles.

    And, preferably, no completely stupid articles.

  122. 122
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @MomSense: There’s still a difference between a trigger warning that successfully prepares the traumatized person for what he or she is about to read or see, through which the person can gamely complete the assigned work — which is what most people have been describing — and, on the other hand, a trigger warning that results in the traumatized person being unable to complete the assigned work. What’s the best way to accommodate the person in the latter case?

  123. 123
    lawnorder says:

    @MomSense: You took the words right out of my mouth.

    Someone up thread gave a good example. Tagging something NSFW is very common and not controversial at all

    To click on something at work and be presented with content that might get you in trouble is such a noble goal, right ?

    Well, at my work I also might get in trouble for being on the verge of tears and shaking in terror, just because I clicked on a link where the author was too busy to put a decent title and tags on his essay.

    I will read articles and books depicting child abuse and can watch movies about it, but on my own time, with plenty of preparation and a loved one to help me through the inevitable memories jogged by it. Not as a surprise at work.

    To me child abuse articles are NSFW and I’d love if writers who write on this topic would be kind enough to label / tag their work so I can avoid their articles when I’m in a setting where I can’t deal with the topic.

    Does that make it clear ?

  124. 124
    Paul in KY says:

    @lawnorder: Good explanation.

  125. 125
    ThresherK says:

    @TooManyJens: Some random BJer knows my weak spot: Almost any quote from Archer!

    (To wit: I won’t post this here, but I will link to it, from the episode “Diversity Hire”. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt15.....=qt1204809)

  126. 126
    lawnorder says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I would suggest you just keep your door open to students and they will tell you they couldn’t complete the assignment because it triggered them.. and you are smart enough to see if they are being truthful or trying to weasel out of homework ;)

    @chopper: Aid is what we are asking. Most of us have realized there is no ‘fix’, you just live each day as best as you can, trying to get stronger for tomorrow…

  127. 127
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @chopper: And that the extent to which this is going to work is IMHO fairly limited. People who have been traumatized by rape will be prepared before reading vivid depictions of rape, people traumatized by child abuse before vivid depictions of child abuse, and so forth. But if — and this applied to a student in a course I was teaching — you read a book about a haunted house and it triggers you, not because you’ve had a personal experience of a haunted house but because there’s a kind of psychological similarity to another moment of extreme fear, no warning is going to anticipate that. So it’s not like we’re going to find a way to avoid triggering people. And, that said, people who would be triggered aren’t expecting to be forewarned about everything. They’re not spoiling for a fight.

  128. 128
    MomSense says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    on the other hand, a trigger warning that results in the traumatized person being unable to complete the assigned work. What’s the best way to accommodate the person in the latter case?

    Again, I think that is up to the discretion of the professor and hopefully the professor is a thoughtful person. I don’t think that advocates of trigger warnings are expecting not to have to complete assigned work but it may be that there are a few situations where it is just not possible because the situation is acute or some other really good reason. I think professors are capable of evaluating the credibility and needs of a student when it comes to doing course work. Don’t students ask for extensions sometimes for all sorts of reasons? Do students ever ask to make up class discussion time in some comparable fashion because of absences related to illnesses like mono or measles or whatever? I think that professors can figure this out.

  129. 129
    Paul in KY says:

    I am fine with ‘trigger warnings’.

  130. 130
    MomSense says:

    @lawnorder:

    Very clear.

  131. 131
    chopper says:

    @lawnorder:

    sorry then, i was confused as to your statement that trigger warnings let you avoid ‘unpleasant surprises’. it made it sound like something other than what you’re saying now.

  132. 132
    artem1s says:

    @DavidTC:

    thank you for your comment. I have no idea why the concept of triggers produces so much outrage, but it does. It reminds me of the rage displayed when the world discovered that sexual harassment was a real, daily thing in the work world for many, many people. not outrage that someone would try to alleviate harassment, but outrage that anyone would need to discuss it, because obviously, no such thing could possibly exist.

    It is weird.

  133. 133
    MomSense says:

    @chopper:

    I guess I didn’t think there were any proposals to put them in books. I thought the context was putting a trigger warning in a syllabus about a book that is assigned in the class.

  134. 134
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @lawnorder: OK, point taken. But about the “war” example… I’m assuming that a combat veteran doesn’t really need a trigger warning before reading the Iliad, even though there’s a war in it, because that war is not very much like her or his war. Rape, though, seems different — medieval rape isn’t that different from 21st-century rape (although their notions of consent are even more jacked up than ours). Is there a way to gauge sensitively the degree of close-to-home-ness that warrants the warning?

  135. 135
    chopper says:

    @MomSense:

    indeed. i think the thing most people are missing is that this is something in a class. maybe i’m being a douchebag here but i hope to god we never get to the point where we have MPAA-style ratings printed on the covers of books. but that isn’t what’s happening here – this is a professor providing this information to his or her class. there’s no need for warnings in the books, something on the syllabus is sufficient. the difference ultimately is that these readings are being assigned, i.e. required to read for a grade. so a warning makes sense.

    the slippery slope argument is real because we’ve seen lots of attempts at censorship in america over the years. i just don’t dig the childish ‘hurr hurr’ arguments against them. likewise, people have to understand that these warnings will work better for some people than they will for others.

  136. 136
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    But if triggering involves reliving trauma, Wodehouse having characters say “nigger” is upsetting, but not triggering.

    Having a character say “nigger” unexpectedly couldn’t possibly trigger someone’s memory of being called that?

    I think you’re using an extremely restrictive definition of “trauma” that no one else here is using.

  137. 137
    cleek says:

    @BethanyAnne:
    movie studios spend a lot of money working their stories and films to get just the right kind and amount of ratings and warnings. they are without a doubt a commercial consideration.

    if warnings were to become commonplace for books, publishing houses would apply the same kind of pressure on authors that studios do to directors in order to avoid earning certain warning labels.

    personally, i like the idea that authors are a bit more free to write what they feel the story needs without having to worry about how many warnings the cover of their book will have to have.

    we really don’t need warnings on every single thing in life.

  138. 138
    Paul in KY says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I think in medievil times, the ‘consent’ was the consent of the man to getting some nookie.

  139. 139
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @MomSense: If a student gets sick and misses discussion of a work, she’s still responsible for what we talked about, and has to catch up and do the reading. But if a student is triggered, honestly triggered, I can’t expect her to do that reading. It’s a very different situation. Sure, clever and well-intentioned people can figure something out, but it’s an extra set of things to have to write into an official policy, were there to be one. I can imagine a stalemate between a student who cites a traumatic experience as a reason why she or he can’t complete part of the coursework and a professor who says that there’s no acceptable substitution. Then what? These are the kinds of questions that would need to be answered before promulgating an official policy. I don’t envy the people who’d have to work it out.

  140. 140
    chopper says:

    @MomSense:

    i heard people talking about jacket-printed warnings in the previous threads, tho i didn’t wade too deep in them.

    when people bring up movie ratings like in this thread i wonder, as those are of course printed on the box and usually shown at the beginning of the feature. so it made me wonder how far others want these warnings in literature to go. mnem’s ‘why not’ response had me wondering further.

  141. 141
    different-church-lady says:

    Mulling it over, I think the way I’ve seen trigger warnings used is to mean, “I’m about to discuss something personal and traumatic, and in detail, and there’s a reasonable possibility it will make you go back to a place in your own experience that’s traumatic for you to relive.”

    I didn’t think it meant “heavy sledding ahead” or “serious subject matter”, the mere topic of which might open up a whole host of associations that might trigger something.

    I think the latter is a cheapening of the warning — an abuse of the former, if you will. The first is a trigger warning. The second is more like a hair-trigger warning.

  142. 142
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Having a character say “nigger” unexpectedly couldn’t possibly trigger someone’s memory of being called that?

    Are you warning your black friends, or are you warning everyone?

    I think you’re using an extremely restrictive definition of “trauma” that no one else here is using.

    I think I’m using an extremely restrictive definition of “trigger” because nothing else makes any sense. The purpose of a trigger warning is that, if not for the warning, you may read or see something that makes you relive a traumatic experience. A word isn’t an experience. I’ve been called “faggot” but just reading a casual use of the word doesn’t make me relive the experience. If I was called “faggot” and then beaten up, and then I read a scene where someone was called “faggot” and then beaten up, then I might relive the experience. The word is repugnant, but it isn’t triggering per se. It requires a different kind of warning, more like your NSFW warning than a true trigger warning.

  143. 143
    lawnorder says:

    @chopper: I see it as ramps for people on wheelchairs. You are not expected to make people in wheelchair able to walk like “normal” people. But making it possible for handicapped people to have access to areas they need to through some minor adjustments is part of being a fair equitable society.

    Labels, tags, trigger warnings, titles that describe the content accurately help us PSTD navigate the web, books, articles, the written word or movies. You won’t cure us but you will aid us in our day to day quest to get better.

  144. 144
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @different-church-lady:

    there’s a reasonable possibility it will make you go back to a place in your own experience that’s traumatic for you to relive

    But are you supposed to have had a similar experience, or is one personal and traumatic thing equivalent to the next? If I write about a suicide attempt and someone else has had an eating disorder, and both are harrowing, am I warning them too, or am I warning only the people who have attempted suicide?

  145. 145
    WaterGirl says:

    @constitutional mistermix: I’ve been away from BJ for a few days. Sounds like there’s a story there. Which of the zillion threads that I missed is the one you are referring to?

  146. 146
    different-church-lady says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I’m going to restrict my answer to the way I’ve seen trigger warnings used: in the context of focused discussions in forums where the subject matter is understood.

    For example: if one is having an on-line discussion in a forum, or sub-forum, where the category is surviving childhood sexual abuse, then it’s reasonable to assume that most people in that forum can reasonably expect to be genuinely “triggered” in some form or another. Not everyone will be triggered, but the warning makes perfect sense — it’s benign and in context. If you’re in danger of being triggered, the warning is valuable. If you don’t wind up being triggered, the warning is transparent.

    That works when things are focused. The silliness comes in when that tool becomes co-opted into a general “touchy subject” warning, further complicated by the game some people play with insisting every subject is touchy. I mean, we could just slap a “Trigger warning: life is difficult and depressing, and we all have buttons in unexpected places wired in unexpected ways so let’s be careful out there” on literally everything, but would there really be a point in that? How are we supposed to pre-account for every unexpected association? “Warning: human beings communicating”

  147. 147
    different-church-lady says:

    @WaterGirl:

    I’ve been away from BJ for a few days.

    So how is the real world? I’ve heard it’s a nice place — thinking about visiting it some day.

  148. 148
    Cassidy says:

    Yup. Just gonna sit over here and chuckle. I may be an asshole, but I end up being right. Lol

  149. 149
    Felinious Wench says:

    So, here’s a crazy idea…let’s ask people who have been through some hell and actually have triggers?

    I’m a rape survivor. I hate the term “trigger.” God, I hate it. But I definitely appreciate a writer putting a simple note at the top of a piece that warns there’s sexual violence in it. I’ll still read it, but I’ll brace myself for it. It’s when you get surprised that the flashback happens. It’s not to PREVENT you from reading it, it’s to let you know it’s in there and to get a grip before you wade in.

    My closest friend writes horror and there’s often sexual violence. He podcasts as well. He’ll put a simple, basic warning, “This book has sexual violence.” No big freaking deal. There are plenty of people who prefer Jane Austen who are not rape survivors. IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL.

  150. 150
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @different-church-lady: Ah. I guess my interest comes from trying to ascertain how this would be implemented in the context of college courses, which is where John and mix were taking it. I think it’s a bit silly to put “trigger warning: war” on the syllabus for the week we start the Iliad, but there are other circumstances where it wouldn’t be silly at all, and trying to sort through it is… complicated.

  151. 151
  152. 152
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Felinious Wench: How modern and/or “realistic” does the depiction have to be for the trigger effect to occur? I recently taught a book from the 1700s where, in what’s supposed to be a running joke, the main character is preoccupied with the idea that strange men will abduct and rape her. It doesn’t happen, but she thinks about it and is scared by it. Would rape survivors in my class be likely to be put on edge by that? Because it certainly hadn’t occurred to me, and I’d like to have a better idea for the future.

  153. 153
    Mnemosyne says:

    @chopper:

    My “why not?” was more of a hypothetical. I honestly don’t get what the horrible imposition of putting a content warning on a book would be. I realize that’s not the original topic of discussion, which was content warnings in an academic setting, but I’m still wondering why some people have such a visceral reaction against it.

  154. 154
    Cassidy says:

    @Mnemosyne: it’s the same as the welfare argument. Wingers always say, when shown to have been on public assistance, “we just needed a little help, but everyone else is faking”. That’s what our beloved progressive brothers and sisters are doing; they have felt real pain, everyone else is being a pussy and needs to get over it.

  155. 155
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Are you warning your black friends, or are you warning everyone?

    I’m warning everyone, though for different reasons. People can find things offensive that aren’t triggering.

    The purpose of a trigger warning is that, if not for the warning, you may read or see something that makes you relive a traumatic experience. A word isn’t an experience.

    Can we ask some of the Black posters here if “nigger” is just a word or if it brings up a whole lifetime of experiences?

    As far as being called “faggot” goes, I did not think you were gay. Have I misremembered?

  156. 156
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: I’m not gay, but the slur has been used against me. As far as “nigger” goes, I absolutely did not say it’s “just” a word. “Booze” may bring up a whole lifetime of painful experiences for alcoholics and children of alcoholics, so the word has effects, but would someone put “trigger warning: alcohol” on the syllabus before assigning Bukowski? Not all pain is encompassed by PTSD-like trigger effects. That doesn’t mean there can’t be other kinds of warnings, NSFW-ish in nature, but I don’t think those are trigger warnings. A trigger warning is a very particular thing. A warning that a book includes the word “nigger” isn’t a trigger warning, it’s a content warning of another kind.

  157. 157
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I’m not gay, but the slur has been used against me.

    So? If someone called me a “kike,” it wouldn’t really bother me, because I’m not Jewish. I would be offended that they used an ethnic slur, but it wouldn’t hurt me the way someone who was actually Jewish is. So, sorry, I reject your example that a straight guy being called a “faggot” is just as likely to be a trigger as it is for a gay guy. Not The Same Thing.

    That doesn’t mean there can’t be other kinds of warnings, NSFW-ish in nature, but I don’t think those are trigger warnings. A trigger warning is a very particular thing.

    It used to be. Now it’s used more like you’re using content warning. You’re clinging to an old definition of it that doesn’t seem to be the way the students arguing for these warnings are using it. That may be part of the problem here — they’re asking for content warnings but using the term “trigger warnings” because that’s the term they’re familiar with, and you think they’re asking for something else.

  158. 158
    Cassidy says:

    @FlipYrWhig: What people are having a hard time wrapping their brain around is You don’t get to decide what is the appropriate threshold of pain and trauma. Those kinds of experiences are subjective. So, just making a habit of adding, when you’re teaching or whatever, hey, this has some strong material, maybe some triggers of this nature, etc. and that’s it. That’s all anyone has suggested from the very beginning of this whole shitshow.

  159. 159
    different-church-lady says:

    @FlipYrWhig: As is common with many of these things, it might be all about semantics. A trigger warning is a specific thing that is becoming generic through over-use, frequently by people who don’t really comprehend what the concept is really all about.

    I guess what I’m fumbling towards is that trigger warnings aren’t very useful if they’re not reasonably targeted or individualized. If the book you’re teaching in your class deals with war, it makes far more sense to say, “This book has graphic depictions of war” and let the individuals take what they will of that, rather than assuming people will be triggered. Give people what they need to manage their own emotions — don’t assume what those emotions will be for them. That’s probably why “trigger warning” seems absurd in many circumstances; it’s presumptive. Instead of saying “this is heavy”, it’s saying “I assume you can’t handle heavy.”

  160. 160
    Mnemosyne says:

    @different-church-lady:

    If the book you’re teaching in your class deals with war, it makes far more sense to say, “This book has graphic depictions of war” and let the individuals take what they will of that, rather than assuming people will be triggered.

    And, ironically, that’s all we’re arguing for on the “pro” side here. Just tell people, This book has a rape in it, or This book has racial slurs in it. If someone knows the potentially troublesome content ahead of time but still ends up being triggered, that’s a different issue.

  161. 161
    different-church-lady says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    they’re asking for content warnings but using the term “trigger warnings” because that’s the term they’re familiar with, and you think they’re asking for something else.

    DING DING DING DING DING WE HAVE A WINNER.

  162. 162
    different-church-lady says:

    @Mnemosyne: Indeed. And what a lot of people don’t seem to be getting (and a lot of this is Cole’s fault) is that we’re not making fun of trigger warnings as much as we’re making fun of people who don’t really know what a trigger warning is and use the term anyway.

    If we stop doing that, we also have to stop making fun of Sarah Palin. And I, for one, am not willing to go that far.

  163. 163
    Marc says:

    There is an enormous danger of censorship here. As a professor, I’m supposed to read through every line of every text to make sure that nothing, anywhere, could possibly be upsetting to anyone who has had a trauma. The incentives here are pretty obvious: make your readings as bland as possible. Yes, there are actual people with actual traumas. But they aren’t the only people who can use rules like these. There are people who are actively looking to be offended – see, for example, conservatives like Donaghue who are always screaming about anti-Catholic bias. There is a history of rules intended to protect perceived vulnerable audiences being used to suppress any frank discussions of human sexuality.

    And there is also no recognition of the burden being imposed on others – namely, to screen every possible source for anything that might bother anyone who is sensitive to something. There are real costs to demanding this. It plays into the absolute worst stereotypes of liberals, and it really can deserve the label of thought police.

  164. 164
    Marc says:

    @Cassidy:

    The problem is that these thresholds do vary. So you’re putting teachers in the position of having to screen books and readings for anything that someone could potentially find to be a problem. You either end up with severe censorship (it’s easier to default to safe and bland) or you end up with blanket warnings that are applied to everything and are thus useless.

  165. 165
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I reject your example that a straight guy being called a “faggot” is just as likely to be a trigger as it is for a gay guy. Not The Same Thing.

    Hey, so, you know how people say you have a particular tendency to twist things to score points when you’re arguing? Now you’re doing it to me. I obviously didn’t say that. I obviously said that a slur isn’t a trigger in itself but a slur as part of an event might be.

  166. 166
    lawnorder says:

    @Mnemosyne: Precisely

    I never needed trigger warnings for movies or books because I could always read a summary about the themes in it on the syllabus, the book jacket, Amazon, book section of my newspaper / magazines (all of them ;) ). Movies also have the ratings and themes listed so no big deal.

    I imagine someone getting to college would know there is war in Iliad but if they didn’t know, the world “war” on the syllabus might be silly but is a helpful warning to someone.. and harmless.

    I do see water bottles labelled with “0 calories” at my supermarket and chuckle at the silliness.

    Yet for product labels you could make the case it is an unreasonable cost to demand caloric content printed on water bottles. What exactly is the absurdly immense effort and cost incurred in typing “war” when you recommend Iliad on a college class ?

  167. 167
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I obviously didn’t say that. I obviously said that a slur isn’t a trigger in itself but a slur as part of an event might be.

    And I obviously said that, for some people, a slur can be a trigger. So we seem to be disagreeing on whether or not a slur can be a trigger, yes?

  168. 168
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Marc:

    As a professor, I’m supposed to read through every line of every text to make sure that nothing, anywhere, could possibly be upsetting to anyone who has had a trauma.

    Wait, so professors are assigning texts they haven’t actually read?

    I don’t think anyone is saying you have to re-read every text line-by-line for every possible measure of offense. But if you never noticed that Tess in Tess of the D’Urbervilles is raped — not seduced, but raped — by her “cousin,” that could be a problem in teaching that text, don’t you think?

  169. 169
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @different-church-lady: @Mnemosyne: Well then they’re asking for the wrong thing, because the whole reason why people take “trigger warning” seriously is that it relates to traumatic experiences that deserve respect and sensitivity, like rape, and not to things that make people uncomfortable, like obscenity or blasphemy. Using the phrase “trigger warning” to describe all strong content completely obviates the special circumstances for which “trigger warnings” were initiated, to wit, the feeling of reliving a terrifying experience. So, yes, I can put a “trigger warning” on a depiction of rape, but I’m not going to put a “trigger warning” on the use of the word “fuck,” although I might still warn students that it’s in there and they may be taken aback by it. Even if the word “fuck” makes them have flashbacks to their abusive alcoholic stepdad, the trigger warning doesn’t apply, because that’s not what it means, or does.

  170. 170
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: Of course a slur can be a trigger — but so can a lot of things, and when you’re issuing warnings about the presence of slurs, like your example about the n-word in Wodehouse, the chances are that you’re not doing it because of “triggering,” i.e., because you expect that the word may dredge up traumatic memories, but because of NSFW content, which is a different kind of shock or tone-switch, especially in an academic context.

  171. 171
    lawnorder says:

    @Marc: I see why you are dreading this but to screen every possible source for anything that might bother anyone who is sensitive to something. is not what is being asked.

    If you fear that so much, I’d suggest transferring the onus to students: At the start of the semester they could inform you of what they need triggers for and you can then tell them which of the course’s required reading has any of it ?

    Of course someone triggered by “foul language” or “emotionally charged situations” should get asked what are they doing taking an English Lit class, just like someone allergic to peanuts would get asked about why he / she wants to work at a peanut butter company.

  172. 172
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    The student activists may be asking for the wrong thing or using the wrong terminology, but if you shut down the discussion before it even gets started, then you’ll never know what they were actually asking for, will you?

    (Not “you” you, but “academics in general” you.)

  173. 173
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: That’s still a case of a story about rape and a warning that the story is about rape. I don’t think anyone’s arguing about that. Even the people who scoffed at “trigger warnings” would admit that that was the clearest case where a warning would be appropriate. The other potential triggers that have come up, taking “trigger” in the strict sense, are abuse and war. To that I’d maybe add suicide. These are relivable traumas. But even then I think there are judgment calls. Putting “trigger warning: war” on the Iliad is going to be comical even — especially? — to a classroom full of Afghanistan veterans.

  174. 174
    Marc says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Now expand this to include a broader and broader set of potential triggers, and eventually you will hit a place where it becomes an issue. Do you want the Catholic League deciding on what may offend or upset Catholics, for example?

  175. 175
    Cassidy says:

    @Marc: Not really. “hey, we’re Bout to read (blank) and it had a graphic scene of sexual violence/ war/ child abuse” And done. That’s it. I just gave you your solution in a single sentence, modify as needed.

    Now, teaching material you haven’t taken the time to familiarize yourself with? That’s a problem you have to address.

  176. 176
    Marc says:

    @lawnorder:

    This sounds like an excellent way to get a very, very, very safe reading list. No controversial books, no controversial topics. A professor designs a reading list before a class has its first meeting if they are competent at all.

  177. 177
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    That’s still a case of a story about rape and a warning that the story is about rape.

    Well, sort of. It may not happen as often nowadays, but when I was in college twenty-cough years ago, you would sometimes get professors who insisted that Tess totally wasn’t raped, that it was consensual. No, seriously. I don’t know if it was because they were uncomfortable discussing it or if they really didn’t see it, but, man, it was frustrating.

  178. 178
    Cassidy says:

    @FlipYrWhig: You’re still trying to decide if someone else’s experience meets your arbitrary threshold of what is appropriately traumatic.

  179. 179
    Marc says:

    @Cassidy:

    No, there is a difference between reading material that I have to be familiar with and reading material that I have to screen for any potential triggers for a wide and growing set of potential problems, as perceived subjectively by an easily offended audience. These tools don’t just end up being used properly under sensible conditions. Reactionaries can claim traumas and demand triggers too.

  180. 180
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Marc:

    Now expand this to include a broader and broader set of potential triggers, and eventually you will hit a place where it becomes an issue. Do you want the Catholic League deciding on what may offend or upset Catholics, for example?

    Ah, the old “slippery slope” fallacy. Yes, warning students ahead of time that a novel or short story contains a rape is a slippery slope to censorship because … why, again?

    And if you’re having to be constantly on watch for censorship by your university’s administrators, isn’t the problem with your university and not with the students who want to be warned before they’re surprised by a rape scene in a story?

  181. 181
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: I don’t want any discussion shut down, but I’d like some attention paid to how it would work. Someone in the other thread, maybe MomSense, was talking about “accommodation,” and that’s the part I need to know more about. Because we accommodate things that are like disabilities. That’s why the PTSD frame applies, both diagnosed and quasi-metaphorically.

    And I kind of want to know what kinds of content are likely to evoke the kinds of reactions that rise to that level, as opposed to the kinds that make people squirm in pedagogically useful ways, like, say, poems that use obscene language. Do I have to warn students that a text might address evolution or atheism? What if someone says he’s been traumatized by it? Clearly bullshit, right? What about nudity? NSFW rules probably apply there, but not trigger warnings, even if someone in the class may have traumatic memories about having been naked. This is why kinds of warnings and kinds of content need to be matched up and differentiated, rather than all lumped together.

  182. 182
    different-church-lady says:

    Don’t you hate it when a Balloon Juice thread starts out sneering at something and then devolves into a valuable discussion?

  183. 183
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Marc:

    No, there is a difference between reading material that I have to be familiar with and reading material that I have to screen for any potential triggers for a wide and growing set of potential problems, as perceived subjectively by an easily offended audience.

    I know, God forbid you should actually have to take the sensitivities of your women students into account. Weird how it usually seems to be women who want some warning before stumbling across a rape or molestation scene who are “easily offended” and can be ignored.

    Reactionaries can claim traumas and demand triggers too.

    You understand the whole “warning” part of “trigger warning,” right? It’s not a free pass to skip the assignment. It’s a warning, just like you would say, Hey, watch out for that pothole in the sidewalk rather than letting someone walk into it.

    If you’re not familiar enough with the material you’re teaching to know if there’s a rape, molestation, or torture (human or animal) scene in it, why are you teaching it?

  184. 184
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Cassidy: Well, if I’m teaching it, I can’t very well anticipate a classroom full of individuals’ unique experiences with trauma in order to provide suitable warnings ahead of time, can I? I need categories that are likely to apply to some number of people. (ETA: For instance, rape, abuse, war, suicide.) Someone who feels triggered, un-warned, can come to me afterwards — that’s what happened in the haunted house example I gave before — but that doesn’t help answer the question of _warnings_, which is what we’re talking about. Otherwise the disclaimers get circular, like in those commercials for drügs where you shouldn’t take the pill if you’ve had allergic reactions to the ingredients in the pill. How can you know that in advance?

  185. 185
    Cassidy says:

    easily offended audience.

    The crux of the problem. As I said earlier “my pain was real, the rest of you are just pussies”. Whatever. We’re supposed to be the non-judging side, but you go represent.

  186. 186
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    It’s not a free pass to skip the assignment.

    If someone is triggered to the point of panic and can’t go on, and I accept that that can happen, then they have to be allowed to skip that assignment, no?

  187. 187
    Cassidy says:

    @FlipYrWhig: You too may have my sentence from right here@Cassidy: and may modify as needed. You’re welcome.

  188. 188
    lawnorder says:

    @Marc: I see your point. I hope you see mine.

    I don’t really know much about how a professor would prepare a class but speaking for myself, a simple summary would do.

    Or again, put the onus on students: tell them to google the required reading list and bring back a list of topics on each book and discuss first day of class ? This way you can see who gets triggered and what topics could be a problem and you can discuss with your students / supervisor if there is a potential issue?

    I don’t know, I got a BS on engineering and even though my teachers were complete a**holes in the sense of making us work for our grades, none of them were heartless. When a student got sick or had some family emergency most of them had an alternate way fr that student to make up the test or thesis they missed.

    Wouldn’t working with a PSTD student to get through his issue with a book fall on the same category ?

    I myself don’t avoid child abuse books, I just need to be in a good setting / good place in life to read them.

    For instance: I could not deal with anything like it when my father died, but 10 years after I can. And they are actually useful to me, even though reading those things hurt as hell.

    Your student just might need some counseling or extra support, or at least a warning.

    Or he/she may not be in a good place and really need your understanding and be allowed to read another book instead. Only you and your student can decide

    I see the trigger warning thing is just a way to make that conversation happen – we are going to deal with x topic, are you prepared ? – not a way to force you to protect all from anything unpleasant.

  189. 189
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Cassidy: I don’t see how anything I’ve said is different from what you’re saying. You responded to my earlier post that seems to have the exact same list of categories. But then you said I was being judgmental. If your list is the same as my list, I don’t get what I missed.

  190. 190
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    And I kind of want to know what kinds of content are likely to evoke the kinds of reactions that rise to that level, as opposed to the kinds that make people squirm in pedagogically useful ways, like, say, poems that use obscene language.

    Okay, let’s talk about obscene language for a minute. Do you really think it’s completely useless to tell your students, This poem has some strong language in it, but I want you to really think about why the poet did that and what his purpose was . You’ve now wrapped a content warning in with some teaching. Why, exactly, is that a horrible thing that needs to be rejected at all costs?

    What about nudity? NSFW rules probably apply there, but not trigger warnings, even if someone in the class may have traumatic memories about having been naked.

    I know you hate to hear this, but context matters. If you’re teaching an art appreciation class or film class, and there will be nudes, then you say, There will be nude images shown in this class. If you don’t like that, you may want to consider dropping the class.

    Again, people are asking to be given a little warning about what they’re getting into before they read an assignment, not to do different coursework.

    Here’s my (non-“trigger” related) academic story: I saw Alain Resnais’ Night and Fog when I was in community college. When I transferred to film school at a university, I saw that Night and Fog was on the syllabus. The day of the screening, I went to my TA and told him that I had already seen it, had extremely vivid memories of it, and didn’t feel it would be useful for me to see it again. He, having seen it himself, excused me from the screening.

    So, was I wrong to not watch the film again and ask to be excused? Should I have forced myself to watch it again because maybe the death camp footage would be less disturbing the second time around? I went to the discussion section about it, but I didn’t see the purpose of actually sitting through it again.

  191. 191
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @lawnorder:

    Wouldn’t working with a PSTD student to get through his issue with a book fall on the same category ?

    Not if the triggering is so acute that he or she can’t make it through the book (or see the film, etc.). And that can happen, can’t it? I just think we need to continue to think about what the accommodation would/should look like in a case like that.

  192. 192
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    If someone is triggered to the point of panic and can’t go on, and I accept that that can happen, then they have to be allowed to skip that assignment, no?

    Right, but that’s different from the question of warning them ahead of time. If someone has a problem even after being warned, that can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

    Here’s a hypothetical: let’s say that you do no trigger warning on a book that has an explicit rape scene (heck, let’s say you’re a sadistic bastard and assigned Last Exit to Brooklyn with no pre-discussion). Five students come to you afterwards and say they got stopped at that scene and couldn’t finish the book. Now you have five students you have to accommodate. But if you tell them ahead of time, This book has a rape scene in it so they’re forewarned, maybe only one of them needs to talk to you about it, because the others were able to prepare themselves and weren’t caught by surprise.

  193. 193
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Why, exactly, is that a horrible thing that needs to be rejected at all costs?

    Jesus Christ. We agree on virtually everything and have done so for probably 10 years across various blogs. Cut me some fucking slack. I didn’t say it was useless, I didn’t say it was horrible, and you fucking well know I didn’t say that. In fact I said the exact goddamn opposite. I said that it was _a different kind of warning_. I didn’t say that I didn’t or wouldn’t give such a warning. Fucking A.

  194. 194
    Cassidy says:

    @FlipYrWhig: From where I’m sitting, looks me like you want a list of what the suitable traumas are. Arbitrary list is arbitrary.

  195. 195
    Paul in KY says:

    @Marc: I would just very briefly state the specific reading material contains ‘insert bad thing here’ & leave it at that. I would never want you to not include a great work, due to the nasty scenes/depictions that may be in it.

    To me, it helps those who have been traumatized steel themselves before they read it. IMO, they have toi read it to comment on it/get a grade, etc.

  196. 196
    Paul in KY says:

    @FlipYrWhig: There are many, many books/lectures etc. that are fine for academic work that are NSFW.

  197. 197
    Paul in KY says:

    @lawnorder: Good point there.

  198. 198
    Paul in KY says:

    @Marc: To me, you the professor would be the only decision maker on what deserved a ‘trigger warning’.

  199. 199
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: Right, so here’s what we have for one set of warnings ahead of time: rape, abuse, and war. Those are potential triggers. Then there’s another set of warnings ahead of time: obscenity, nudity, violence, hate speech. The classic NSFW stuff. I don’t think those are triggers in the strict sense, but it’s probably worth warning about them. And in my case, I set up obscenity a fair amount, and I set up bigotry a fair amount, even though most of the bigotry is anti-Catholic stuff and frankly I couldn’t give two shits personally about the different kinds of ways Christians think up to hate each other.

    I really don’t think I ever led anyone to believe that my view was that none of this mattered. It matters. I’m prickly about the loose usage of a category like triggering/trauma because I think people personally affected in that way deserve a ton of respect and consideration, and I don’t want their pain getting all blurred together with other people’s vague discomfort.

  200. 200
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Cassidy: You gave the same damn list!

  201. 201
    Paul in KY says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I would guess that the accomadation would be another assignment for them. For me, that would be a high bar to croiss (paniced to point that no reading of assignemnt possible without permanent damage).

  202. 202
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Paul in KY: No shit. But it’s smart to think in terms of NSFW even when assigning those, because if people read them without preparation they might be shocked, and sometimes shock is what you want, and sometimes it isn’t. Which is why “trigger warnings” can make sense _if we make sure we think through what happens next_, for instance, if the triggered person can’t continue, or if someone has a trigger that wasn’t warned against and gets re-traumatized, because that person needs to know how to talk to the instructor about it, and the instructor needs to know that the “trigger warning” statement doesn’t provide failsafe indemnity against all instances of triggering.

  203. 203
    lawnorder says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I posted above, sometimes just some counseling would work.

    Other times the book assigned could be changed ?

    But in any problem like that, I really recommend the student needs to get some counseling and the counselor could let you know how serious it is.

    I can tell you in my personal experience that getting a fair warning about the book/ movie would allow me to “flinch” and muddle my way through it – if I needed to.

    On the very few times I felt that I definitely could not go through something I needed to, then the problem wasn’t just the book. It meant that I was really in a bad place. As in near suicidal, unable to function.

    That is my personal experience, and my advice: If someone says they absolutely can’t go through a book, listen to them and try to help them. Little kindness like that make a big difference when someone is in a dark place.

  204. 204
    Paul in KY says:

    @FlipYrWhig: These are adult college students. It would have to be above Buddy Hackett level of obscenities for you to even mention it.

    You don’t teach at Jimmy Bob Jones Christian University do you?

  205. 205
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Paul in KY: Sounds reasonable, but the last thing you want to do to a student who’s admitting to feeling traumatized is to grill him about whether he’s _really_ traumatized _enough_.

  206. 206
    Paul in KY says:

    @FlipYrWhig: To me, you can ‘let your hair down’ and be more NSFW is a academic setting than you can when working a cubicle at Monsanto.

    So the NSFW stuff is alot different in academia (IMO).

  207. 207
    Paul in KY says:

    @FlipYrWhig: They are going to have to sell me on it. I’m not going to go to the trouble of the different assignment if I think they are BSing me.

  208. 208
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Paul in KY: I often teach a poem about impotence that includes both “fuck” and “cunt” and extensive descriptions of bodily fluids. If I don’t do a quick notice of the NSFW sort, someone, some day, will complain, and I’m not going to get myself fired over it. This is a case of what I’m calling a “content warning.” IMHO it’s not the same as a “trigger warning.”

  209. 209
    Paul in KY says:

    @FlipYrWhig: That shouldn’t rise to the obcenitity threshhold in a college setting (IMO). The poem has literary value, so the obscentities are in context, etc.

    I personally wouldn’t mention anything about that. Now if the poem is about torturing a kid or something, then you would want to mention the poem’s plot. That would rise to a ‘trigger’ threshhold.

    Gotta leave work. Best wishes to all on a happy weekend.

  210. 210
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I said that it was _a different kind of warning_. I didn’t say that I didn’t or wouldn’t give such a warning.

    I’m not really getting why There’s a rape scene in this story and There’s strong language in this poem are categorically different warnings. I know that you see them as categorically different, but I honestly do not understand why.

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I’m prickly about the loose usage of a category like triggering/trauma because I think people personally affected in that way deserve a ton of respect and consideration, and I don’t want their pain getting all blurred together with other people’s vague discomfort.

    There’s another way to think about it, though — by including it with more general warnings about language or other things you consider “non-triggeirng,” you’re not setting those people who may have triggers into a separate category. You’re saying, Hey, here are the things you should know about this work before you read it without singling anyone out or making a big deal about how one specific group of people with a specific experience should be really careful. As far as I can tell, a simple content warning alone would go a long way.

  211. 211
    MomSense says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Just want to say that I appreciate how you talked through this with us. I feel like I learned about the challenges of implementing trigger warnings from the perspective of the teacher.

  212. 212
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: Because somewhere on the continuum of “strong language” is stuff I would consider spurious complaints, like blasphemy. I’ll warn students about misogyny and racism, about words like “fuck,” “cunt,” and “nigger,” because I’m a pleasant and considerate person, but I’m not going to warn them about “God damn it.” And I’m doing that all by choice, and, to a degree, by my interest in self-preservation.

    Triggering, on the other hand, if it can be precisely defined, creates a potential method by which afflicted people can be reasonably accommodated, like Martin was talking about in the other thread regarding diagnosed PTSD. I think there’s a difference between a student coming to me and saying “Taking tests freaks me out, can I have extra time?” and “Here’s a note documenting my anxiety disorder, and the deans have agreed that I get extra time.” The issue migrated from a feeling to a disability, and once it did that, there was an accommodation. If it’s serious business, it deserves serious treatment, not just a patchwork of some things I feel like doing to be considerate and others I don’t feel like bothering to do.

  213. 213
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @MomSense: Well, thanks for that. It helps that I’m the only one around the whole department today! And that I hit a dead end in research until just now. That meant I could devote a day to going meta. :P

  214. 214
    different-church-lady says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I’m not really getting why There’s a rape scene in this story and There’s strong language in this poem

    How many people have been violently, bodily violated by strong language?

  215. 215
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: Thinking back, I think I have been vocal in class about two content areas: obscenity and bigotry (grouping religion with race on the latter). Those got anticipatory warnings: “what you are about to read may be strong stuff, but we’ll talk about it, and here are the rules.” Then I have spent a LOT of time discussing rape and consent in class, but I haven’t issued warnings beforehand. War, never. Violence, never. Suicide, abuse, inçest, never. Although Cassidy was castigating me for it, I do think it helps to have a list. At a certain point, though, I think everyone has to admit that there will always be traumatizing things that aren’t on the list and that weren’t covered by warnings, and that triggerings will happen, and there should be some kind of policy in place for what happens next.

  216. 216
    Cassidy says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I have examples. I’m pretty flexible about what could have traumatized someone in their life. You seem to be saying “this counts, this doesn’t”. Again, trauma and post traumatic stress are subjective. I’ve known non-combat arms troops who were severely traumatized by the one or two rocket/ mortar attacks. Me and mine went on regular patrols, dealt with IED’s, engaged the enemy, etc. and I’m dealing much better. It’s subjective.

  217. 217
    Kevin says:

    my issue with trigger warnings are, if they aren’t specific, how do i know this will be one of my triggers. And if they are specific, then isn’t it already too late?

    “I”m going to talk about something that may be not ok for some people so trigger warning” is useless (as well as bad english…i can’t be bothered to write a proper sentence…)

    “I’m going to talk about rape culture, so trigger warning” already failed, as it mentioned rape.

    I imagine the time before trigger warnings, as people got to a word or phrase and just started dry heaving. Must have happened somewhere.

  218. 218
    Marc says:

    A good teacher should always be prepared to talk to students who come in with their own backgrounds. This can take the form of testing; background; sensitivity to certain topics. It’s absolutely reasonable to demand that a teacher do that.

    This is very, very different from requiring teachers to screen all of their materials for potential triggers. Again, there are certain areas where common sense is a good guideline. But given the potentially infinite list of such things, any such requests had better be well-defined if they are to be actually useful. Does it really serve any purpose to have a blanket warning slapped on every single thing, for example? Who sets the boundaries? This is a real, not imaginary, problem – look at the incredibly broad UCSB and Oberlin examples.

    There is also the matter of the stakes. If you’re asking this, presumably there is a consequence for not doing so. If that consequence is serious, you run the risk of firing people for violating vague and subjective expectations. This really is the road to censorship, and it really can backfire in ugly, ugly ways.

  219. 219
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Cassidy: Are we still talking about course content in college? Because that’s the context here: trigger warnings to alert students to the presence of potentially traumatizing material. So, yes, of course, it’s subjective, and there can be all kinds of traumas and all kinds of triggers. But “trauma is subjective, so please go ahead and consider yourself appropriately warned about whatever you would appreciate having been warned about” isn’t going to work at all. At a certain point you have to put something on the page, and logically it has to be a list. Then you can also say “Anyone who struggles intellectually or emotionally with the course material should feel free to see me in office hours” or something like that.

  220. 220
    cokane says:

    i really found Savage’s comments to be obtuse on this subject, because very few people are saying that individual writers would employ trigger warnings. rather people are demanding that publishers (books and movies) use them. Additionally people were asking that college courses use trigger warnings for their assigned readings or classroom activities. Really Savage’s commentary is just some useless wanking that shows that he hasn’t been paying attention to the discussion.

    FWIW, I’m not in favor of trigger warnings, just saying his comments are annoyingly obtuse.

  221. 221
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    And I’m doing that all by choice, and, to a degree, by my interest in self-preservation.

    But what about the students whose professors choose not to do that? Do they just have to suck it up, or find someone to officially diagnose them with PTSD before they can ask for accommodation?

    Honestly, it seems like courtesy to me to warn students of disturbing content before they read or see something. Shock value is way overrated, particularly when the shock is going to come from something that caused some people trauma. The shock value of an unexpected rape scene in a book is not as important as not further traumatizing someone, IMO.

  222. 222
    chopper says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Wait, so professors are assigning texts they haven’t actually read?

    he didn’t say that. he apparently doesn’t want to have to go through the texts with a fine-toothed comb looking for things that may be traumatic to someone, is what i gathered from his post.

  223. 223
    chopper says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    eh, once the number of comments in a thread hits about 150 the likelihood of mnem stopping reading actual posts and instead starting to light huge quantities of straw on fire is basically 100%.

  224. 224
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: But that’s just it. “Courtesy” is a good idea, but it’s never required. “Content warnings” are indeed courteous. I’d be fine with certain “trigger warnings” becoming mandatory IF we had a list of what was likely to be triggering. Because then even students with discourteous professors would be afforded some degree of protection. If triggering is on the PTSD spectrum, then that’s what we’re dealing with: disability and mandatory reasonable accommodation. If triggering gets fuzzy to the point where it also includes things that are hurtful or offensive but don’t have the same reliving-the-original-trauma component, it’s going to get really big and unwieldy until it includes essentially all innuendo, insults, and harm.

  225. 225
    chopper says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    that’s the problem. you, as a teacher who is assigning these readings, are the one who actually has to give the students a warning. this means that you have to have some semblance of what is and isn’t likely to be a ‘trigger’ for some people as opposed to some broader discussion. i’m not sure many people can give you a viable answer here which is going to make your job pretty difficult unless you want to put some very broad warnings in place.

  226. 226
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @chopper: But not usually to me! That’s what makes it so hurtful this time, that it affected me instead of other people.

  227. 227
    chopper says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    But not usually to me! That’s what makes it so hurtful this time, that it affected me instead of other people.

    hah! you sound like a conservative :)

  228. 228
    Cassidy says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Well, at this point, it’s simply an act of will on your part to refuse to integrate what others have told you. So good luck.

  229. 229
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Cassidy: You can’t at the same time say that lists are ETA arbitrary and too limiting and also that there’s an easy statement that all teachers can apply. So it’s an act of will on my part to bother trying to figure out how there’s any possible way to speak to the concern you raised while also avoiding list-making, seeing as when you attempted to do it yourself, you made a goddamn list.

  230. 230
    Mnemosyne says:

    @chopper:

    he apparently doesn’t want to have to go through the texts with a fine-toothed comb looking for things that may be traumatic to someone, is what i gathered from his post.

    Right, but no one is asking him to do that that I know of. People want a heads-up if something they have to read involves rape, molestation, or abuse (not just sexual). And, frankly, I find it condescending for people to say, Well, if I tell students that there’s a rape in this book, then I have to look for anything else that might be offensive, too! Why?

  231. 231
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I’d be fine with certain “trigger warnings” becoming mandatory IF we had a list of what was likely to be triggering. Because then even students with discourteous professors would be afforded some degree of protection. If triggering is on the PTSD spectrum, then that’s what we’re dealing with: disability and mandatory reasonable accommodation.

    Honestly, I’m uncomfortable with medicalizing this. If someone like my friend who was shocked at the unexpected molestation scene in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert walked out of a classroom screening of it, would she have to prove diagnosable PTSD to not be marked down? Because it sounds like, That reminded me of when I was molested and I had to leave isn’t going to be good enough for most professors.

  232. 232
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: _Adam Bede_ includes a fairly nasty fistfight scene. Someone who grew up around physical abuse might cringe at depictions of physical violence or at the notion that winning a fight makes you the better man. Does that merit a warning? If triggers are infinite and enumerating them is minimizing their reality, as seems to be the Cassidy theory, then you’d sort of have to, even though it’s hardly the point of the work.

  233. 233
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: It’s going to be very hard to tell the difference between a student who walked out of _Priscilla, Queen of the Desert_ because it included molestation and one who walked out because it involved cross-dressing. I’d want to be considerate in the first case and utterly dismissive in the second. That strikes me as a moment where the trigger _warning_ isn’t going to do much good, but a policy about what to do when unexpectedly triggered might go pretty far.

  234. 234
    Marc says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    And the net effect is that its easiest not to show anything remotely controversial at all.

  235. 235
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    That strikes me as a moment where the trigger _warning_ isn’t going to do much good, but a policy about what to do when unexpectedly triggered might go pretty far.

    Actually, telling my friend This movie has a molestation scene in it would have gone a long way. One of the reasons she had to turn off the DVD and walk away was that she was not expecting to see one in what had been billed as a wacky comedy.

    If you haven’t seen it in a while, there’s a flashback scene of one of the characters as a little boy in the bathtub getting molested by a creepy uncle. You probably didn’t pay much attention to it because it was a comic scene where the molester gets his comeuppance, but my friend was unable to watch to the end of the scene. So, yes, that really is a case where I think a quick heads-up about a molestation “trigger” scene would have defused the problem.

    ETA:

    I’d want to be considerate in the first case and utterly dismissive in the second.

    Right, but what if that student had never told anyone what had happened to him/her, and now s/he has to explain to the professor why s/he walked out or be marked down? Better to just drop the class and never go back.

  236. 236
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Marc: We don’t have to do only what’s easiest, of course. But it seems like, Cassidy to the contrary, there’s an emerging consensus short list of what kinds of scenes would always merit warnings, as long as we also remember to build in a category for everything that isn’t listed, and what a student should do if he or she has an experience like that.

  237. 237
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Right, but what if that student had never told anyone what had happened to him/her, and now s/he has to explain to the professor why s/he walked out or be marked down? Better to just drop the class and never go back.

    I guess that might happen. But there are deans and counselors for exactly that situation. I get notes that say “Student has spoken to us about a personal problem,” or “a traumatic event,” and “we hope that you afford him extra consideration.” I don’t need to know the details unless the student chooses to share. But at some point someone should say something, ETA even vaguely and tentatively, as a justification for why the assignment isn’t completed, no? This is what I mean about the importance of a sort of post-hoc triggering policy.

  238. 238
    Mnemosyne says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    This is what I mean about the importance of a sort of post-hoc triggering policy.

    You will probably need some of both, if only to cover all bases, but I really do think that if you can cover the most common ones (rape, molestation, abuse, violence) in your initial discussion before the students start reading, you can avoid a lot of having to deal with it post-hoc since, as others have said, it’s often having to deal with the scene unexpectedly that’s upsetting, not getting to a scene that you knew was coming.

    And, yes, some people probably would find Adam Bede triggering. Oddly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was your veterans with combat PTSD — they would pretty much know what they were in for with The Red Badge of Courage but might be caught by a surprise trigger with non-combat violence.

  239. 239
    chopper says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I get notes that say “Student has spoken to us about a personal problem,” or “a traumatic event,” and “we hope that you afford him extra consideration.” I don’t need to know the details unless the student chooses to share.

    that must be frustrating. ‘extra consideration’ for what? i mean, i know you shouldn’t be automatically privy to a student’s private issues but a bit more specificity in what exactly you’re supposed to do would be nice.

  240. 240
    Cassidy says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I gave examples. I wouldn’t even try to make an all encompassing list.

  241. 241
    EthylEster says:

    @Mnemosyne wrote:

    …NSFW warnings online…

    Thanks for bringing this up. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

    Speaking broadly, I don’t have a problem with what some folks label political correctness. I tend to think of it often as just trying to be polite or to avoid being offensive. I certainly don’t have any problem with someone issuing a trigger warning although I sometimes wonder why it was necessary. But that’s not something I could whip myself into outrage over.

    People can be really mean. People here can be really mean. Sad but true. It’s one reason I feel no community at B-J. It’s a place to come and read things that are sometimes smart and sometimes stupid. No granfallooning for me!

  242. 242
    DavidTC says:

    I love how every time that trigger warnings come up it always turns into a idiotic talk about some specific policy might be bad. And the serious people opposed to the policy ignore the fact that 90% of the people on their side seem to have no consideration at all for anything.

    It is entirely reasonable to have a discussion about what levels of accommodations should be given to students, and in fact other people who’s job it is to read content that other people have generated.

    That has precisely fuck all to do with trigger warnings. Trigger warnings do not magically grant the ability for students to opt out of assignments, and a lack of trigger warning is not going to make a lawsuit when a student is failed due to PTSD not happen. (In fact, lack of a trigger warning probably would help the plaintiff in such a lawsuit.)

    Trigger warnings are, in fact, signs. They do not magically make rules appear out of thin air. It’s like you’re arguing against ‘Caution: Wet Floor’ signs, because you don’t want to get sued. Uh, those signs aren’t what’s going to get you sued.

    You want to argue about the rules, or the laws, that’s something else entirely.

    And then there’s the other people. The people say that calling rape ‘triggering’ implies specific things about victims of rape that might or might not be true. You are entirely correct, but…look, just be quiet. We understand what you’re saying, but you’re standing next to assholes.

    Once we actually get everyone agreeing that we should warn people in advance about certain things, no one’s going to have a problem if you argue we should use the term ‘content warning’ instead of ‘trigger warning’, and in fact your term makes more sense, because there’s stuff that should be included under there that is clearly not triggering, just NSFW.

    No one is arguing against you, no one has a problem with your proposed name. Feel free to start using your name. But by arguing, you are giving aid and comfort to very people mocking the entire idea we should warn people about content.

  243. 243
    chopper says:

    @DavidTC:

    oh, well i guess the discussion is over. see you next week everyone!

  244. 244
    Not Adding Much toe the Community says:

    “I know, God forbid you should actually have to take the sensitivities of your women students into account. ” Fuck you, you melodramatic slattern.

  245. 245
    muddy says:

    @FlipYrWhig: It’s exactly the same thing from the point of view of the one giving the warning. It ought not matter to you for what reason and what specific term is used –

    A CONTENT WARNING IS A PERFECT TRIGGER WARNING.

    Perhaps we ought not use a term that is so “loaded” (not sorry for pun) and then it would not seem so scary.

  246. 246
    muddy says:

    @chopper: He can use his fine-toothed comb to search for True Scotsmen.

  247. 247
    Not Adding Much to the Community says:

    Just remember, the next time you discuss Brown v. Board of Education, a racism trigger warning would be nice.

  248. 248
    muddy says:

    @Kevin: You are a silly person. Reading the word “rape” is not the trigger. The entirety of the depiction of the rape in question is the trigger.

    Else how could people argue in favor of trigger warnings without saying it? Clearly all those people would already have left the fucking internet, sniveling no doubt.

  249. 249
    slag says:

    Looking forward to the next Stranger-Balloon Juice jihad against spoiler alerts. You all are spending way too much time showing your asses on this issue.

    If you just did your thing and left other people to do their thing, you would be much better off. No one’s forcing anything on you. If people come complaining to you about your content, just tell them to fuck off because you’re too good for them. Do you really have to preemptively convince people of your extreme superiority again and again and again?

    You should do what you’re telling all those trauma survivors out there to do and just get over it already. Christ.

  250. 250
    Bruce Baugh says:

    This post is not an argument or anything. It’s just a personal ramble from someone living with PTSD.

    Most Balloon Juice regulars have a pretty good handle on the degrading realities of poverty – the trap of never being able to save or plan and count on it ever being enough, and how all those sneering conservative bits of “advice” simply don’t take the practical realities of not enough money into account.

    Trauma makes you poor in spirit.

    You go through your life, day by day, and you have to spend energy and time – sometimes a lot of both – dealing with random incidents that set off the bombs and damaged machinery inside you. The time you spend watching for likely trouble zones, bracing yourself to deal with the crap you can’t avoid, and recovering from that and the falling buckets of crap you couldn’t foresee is time you can’t spend on…anything else. Job. Love. Entertainment. Sleep. Exercise. Healthy eating. Whatever. So the rest of your life suffers, and the physical and mental toll of that makes yo more vulnerable to future incidents.

    There are reasons a lot of people with trauma end up periodically just collapsing altogether. It’s not impossible to recover and recover and recover and keep up a routine life, but it’s very hard and most of us fall short of 100% success at it.

    The experience of a traumatic episode is generally humiliating and degrading. Here you are, an adult, presumably someone with some brains and skills, reduced to utterly reflexive actions based on now-past stuff, and there’s so damn little you can control about any of it.

    Most of us already get how mean it is to laugh at people in need because of poverty. The same kind of meanness makes trauma worse. It’s really fucking depressing to be struggling along and have random strangers confidently assert that your problem doesn’t exist and/or that it exists only because you’re a wimp. There are moments when you wish they could suffer some of it, in much the same way you might think briefly how good it would be for Dick Cheney to get a shovel in the face. You know it wouldn’t cure anything, but if fucking assholes weren’t randomly mocking you and denying your existence, it would be easier to deal with the rest.

    Trigger warnings (and content warnings generally) have a sort of meta-meaning: they mean that the people who put them on take your problem seriously enough to want to do something constructive. That shouldn’t be as big a deal as it is. But in a society too crowded with bullies and ignorant scumbags, it is – it’s like an oasis in a desert full of land mines sometimes for someone to say “I don’t really know a lot about whether this will help, but I want to. Will you work with me to make it better?”

    It’s taken me all day to write this, and I wouldn’t have continued if not for the good comments by others preceding me, about the reality of the problem and the nature of the relief. It’s still hard, knowing that it’ll be greeted by more than one moral cretin who has as much understanding of and sympathy for trauma as, say, Focus on the Family does for being gay.

  251. 251
    Bruce Baugh says:

    This post is not an argument or anything. It’s just a personal ramble from someone living with PTSD.

    Most Balloon Juice regulars have a pretty good handle on the degrading realities of poverty – the trap of never being able to save or plan and count on it ever being enough, and how all those sneering conservative bits of “advice” simply don’t take the practical realities of not enough money into account.

    Trauma makes you poor in spirit.

    You go through your life, day by day, and you have to spend energy and time – sometimes a lot of both – dealing with random incidents that set off the bombs and damaged machinery inside you. The time you spend watching for likely trouble zones, bracing yourself to deal with the crap you can’t avoid, and recovering from that and the falling buckets of crap you couldn’t foresee is time you can’t spend on…anything else. Job. Love. Entertainment. Sleep. Exercise. Healthy eating. Whatever. So the rest of your life suffers, and the physical and mental toll of that makes you more vulnerable to future incidents.

    There are reasons a lot of people with trauma end up periodically just collapsing altogether. It’s not impossible to recover and recover and recover and keep up a routine life, but it’s very hard and most of us fall short of 100% success at it.

    The experience of a traumatic episode is generally humiliating and degrading. Here you are, an adult, presumably someone with some brains and skills, reduced to utterly reflexive actions based on now-past stuff, and there’s so damn little you can control about any of it.

    Most of us already get how mean it is to laugh at people in need because of poverty. The same kind of meanness makes trauma worse. It’s really fucking depressing to be struggling along and have random strangers confidently assert that your problem doesn’t exist and/or that it exists only because you’re a wimp. There are moments when you wish they could suffer some of it, in much the same way you might think briefly how good it would be for Dick Cheney to get a shovel in the face. You know it wouldn’t cure anything, but if fucking assholes weren’t randomly mocking you and denying your existence, it would be easier to deal with the rest.

    Trigger warnings (and content warnings generally) have a sort of meta-meaning: they mean that the people who put them on take your problem seriously enough to want to do something constructive. That shouldn’t be as big a deal as it is. But in a society too crowded with bullies and ignorant scumbags, it is – it’s like an oasis in a desert full of land mines sometimes for someone to say “I don’t really know a lot about whether this will help, but I want to. Will you work with me to make it better?”

    It’s taken me all day to write this, and I wouldn’t have continued if not for the good comments by others preceding me, about the reality of the problem and the nature of the relief. It’s still hard, knowing that it’ll be greeted by more than one moral cretin who has as much understanding of and sympathy for trauma as, say, Focus on the Family does for being gay.

  252. 252
    muddy says:

    @Bruce Baugh: Thank you for this comment. Truly.

  253. 253
    Bruce Baugh says:

    Muddy, you’re very welcome.

    Two stray thoughts:

    #1. If you find yourself inclined to cite Dan Savage as an authority on anything at all except the experience of middle-aged cis-gendered white gay men who share his tastes…just don’t. When it comes to his own experience and conclusions drawn from it, he can be really excellent. Anything else? No.

    #2. There is no shame, or shouldn’t be, in being ignorant. There should be a lot more shame in holding forth without even knowing whether you’re ignorant. It should be a mark of honor to recognize one’s own ignorance and ask rather than pontificate.

  254. 254
    lawnorder says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I think that would work well in a class, for someone with PSTD triggers.

    If a person with PSTD is doing reasonably well and has a support system, counseling, etc.. they will be able to move past a bad memory being triggered.

    But if they are not well, a triggering book won’t be their only problem and you want to have them contact a counselor ASAP.

    As far as this blog, is no big deal. On my bad days I stick to cat pictures here so I never got triggered :)

    Happy Veterans Day to all

    — Law

  255. 255
    DavidTC says:

    @muddy
    Perhaps we ought not use a term that is so “loaded” (not sorry for pun) and then it would not seem so scary.

    Yeah, don’t bother with making that suggestion. Why?

    Because no one in the entire history of ever has ever suggested some sort of requirement that it be called ‘trigger warning’. No one has ever complained when someone put ‘Content warning: rape’ instead of ‘Trigger warning: rape’.

    Those people do not need to be compromised with, muddy. They are pre-compromised with. No one disagrees with them. If they want to use a different term, no one is stopping them.

    They’re not arguing because they think it’s important. Most of them appear to be arguing because they’re asshats who want to mock people’s weaknesses. They’re the anti-PC clowns all over again. ‘How dare you ask me to show some sensitivity! How dare you ask me to present some sort of hint of the themes in the post I just wrote! Hold on while I give it a title, a category, a summary, and some tags. And maybe fill in some html meta-tags for search engines. Now, what was I talking about again? Oh yes. How dare you make me tell you anything about my post in advance!’

    Now, some people might innocently be arguing the wording. And, in actual fact, they’re correct. ‘Content warning’ is better. It allows for more generic warnings, it doesn’t imply something we don’t necessarily want to imply, etc.

    If this was a WordPress development forum, or whatever, and we were inventing some sort of standard to label posts with, I’d be right there arguing for calling it ‘content warning’ instead of ‘trigger warning’.

    But, uh, we aren’t there. We’re in a discussion where people are mocking the entire concept of trigger warnings. And if half the people are trying to sink the boat, and the other half are trying to bail out the boat, the people criticizing the color of the bailing buckets are on the side of the people trying to sink it.

    Everyone here arguing over the wording needs to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror, and ask themselves what the fuck they’re trying to accomplish with that argument, and why the hell it would possibly matter.

  256. 256

    […] by rousing I mean kind of depressing as fuck) discussion of ‘trigger warnings’ over at Balloon Juice, and I think it’s worth noting what is really happening […]

  257. 257
    Orpho says:

    @Bruce Baugh: Thank you for your comment, it’s perfect. It reminded me of the spoon theory of living with a disability or illness, which I’ve always found to be a useful way to think about it all.

  258. 258
    Bruce Baugh says:

    Orpho: I very much had the spoons piece in mind, as I’ve found it hugely useful, like so many others. But I had the feeling that simply quoting it would draw more mockery, so I tried to offer a fresh take on the same concepts.

  259. 259
    MomSense says:

    @Bruce Baugh:

    I am so glad that I decided to check this thread one last time because every single word of what you wrote was a gift

    Thank you so much.

  260. 260
    Bruce Baugh says:

    Wow. Thanks, MomSense. Your posts are part of the reason I hung in to write mine.

  261. 261
    MomSense says:

    @Bruce Baugh:

    Double wow. Thank you.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] by rousing I mean kind of depressing as fuck) discussion of ‘trigger warnings’ over at Balloon Juice, and I think it’s worth noting what is really happening […]

Comments are closed.