by Chris Bodenner
Isn’t the phrase “trigger warning” a trigger?
— Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) May 20, 2014
I find it amusing that so many people are getting their knickers in a twist over trigger warnings on books. Has it not occurred to anyone that there have been warnings on content for decades? Hello, movie ratings system!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve read countless articles about the uselessness of movie ratings when it comes to violence. Did you know that Roman Polanski’s 1971 Macbeth was rated R, most likely because of the nudity of the witches and not because of the violence? How many movies out there have no sex or swearing because the director needed to get a PG-13 label, meanwhile, houses and people are blowing up on the screen in a frenzy of explosive action? What about explicit content labels on music?
As far as warnings infantilizing students: LOL. Trigger warnings are nothing more than a ratings system for novels. There have been warnings on erotic romance novels for years and I don’t see anyone freaking out about that. Most readers use the warnings to find the books that contain the specific content they most enjoy reading (i.e. gay romance, BDSM, etc.).
Personally, I like the warnings because they help me choose movies, listen to music, and read books that are exactly what I’m in the mood for at any given time. For me, the warnings are not warnings at all, they are ads: Oh yay! An action flick with explosions! A serious book with difficult moral choices! A great album! (Hmm, must remember not to play that racy song in front of my mother …)
Another points out:
If the concept of trigger warnings catches on, can you imagine the number of warnings that would have to be placed on the cover of the Bible?
It contains just about every trigger imaginable, including rape, incest, emotional abuse, torture, war, blood, infanticide, etc. If we are going to be in the business of trigger warnings, we better put one on pretty much all of Christianity.
Another is more sympathetic toward the warnings:
I remember being the first student that a professor had ever encountered to request permission not to stay in class during a painful discussion of a book (Girl, Interrupted). This was circa 2006. Having been in and out of the mental health system for years and having attempted suicide not long before college, I had found the depiction of serious mental illness too much to handle. I asked to leave. The professor told me no. I left anyway. It was genuinely too big a feeling to process at the time.
Seven years later, I’ve processed that and all my other triggers. They’re gone now, I’m emotionally tough and resilient, and I generally scoff at emotionally weak people … until I remember how it felt to have that trauma brought to the surface. Then I become more sympathetic again. I still recommend to friends that they try to feel their feelings as much as possible – it helps. But when people need to leave or avoid a situation, I listen. When I hear the completely unsympathetic talk so derisively of the younger generation and their big feelings, I wonder whether these teachers and professors have really lived a life with no trauma at all.
But another disagrees:
To me it seems like a waste of resources to cater to the easily offended. I agree with the idea you linked to from “No More Mister Nice Blog” that we could have them available online, but I think that even goes too far. For works of literature, there’s a vast amount of information at your fingertips about each piece of work. If you want to find out if there’s racism, sexual imagery, or violence in a book then you can simply google it and spare yourself the details. In my opinion, if you want to stay away from a particular subject, then it is your responsibility to avoid it and not everybody else’s responsibility to warn you.
Another is on the same page:
My sister-in-law has a young granddaughter who cries when she reads about bad things happening to the characters in the book. The 6 year old asked her grandma why did these things have to happen?
I counseled my sister to understand that stories are always about bad things that we get through, or puzzles we have to work out, which is why we tell the story. Why make a book or movie about everyone sitting around being happy and unchallenged? How can we not offer people a way to learn from other peoples’ tribulations in a safe setting? How can we possibly avoid the traumas of reality?
I call it the “get out the body condoms!” mentality in honor of Frank Dreben:
Avoiding unpleasantness at all costs and living in a bubble is not realistic. Nor is it realistic to expect universities to put trigger warnings on everything they use in classes.