I’ll never understand people who feel the need to speak out against trigger warnings.

30 Jan

They don’t hurt you in any way. If you don’t need them or like them, it’s just one little line, two max, that you have to skip over. Oh, to live in the nightmare land where some compassionate acts aren’t necessarily directed at you!

Let’s go over the latest anti-trigger warning nonsense, yeah?

Twitter is no longer a “safe space”. It has become a vehicle for outrage, to the point where many no longer choose to express themselves at all, or do so skittishly through a network of private messages.

This is the first line of the article, & I find it rather interesting. I’m sorry that I’m not at all sorry that Suzanne Moore thinks twice before being a huge bigot on Twitter.

However, in recent years the phrase seems to have become shorthand for “anything you may not like” […]

If “anything you may not like” includes common phobias, rape, violence, misgendering, eating disorders and other common triggers then yes.

I have never seen anyone who wasn’t mocking the idea of trigger warnings use them improperly. Provide me with proof of a pattern & I’ll direct energy towards getting people to use them better. But even if they’re being misused, that means folks need some “How to Use Trigger Warnings” education, not that trigger warnings are useless. Lots of useful things can be overused or misused. But before I pour energy into that I’m going to need to see proof of a trend of misuse.

[…] and to many has taken on the unpleasant connotation of providing a means for the oversensitive internet language police to vet content – some would argue.

First of all, if you’re a feminist who believes in the “oversensitive internet language police”, you need to start all the way over learning feminism. Claiming someone is oversensitive is a derailing tactic. Furthermore, who is “some”? Is “some” actually “you” and you’re too much of a coward to just say so, or are you bringing up some unnamed other person’s irrelevant opinion in a piece about why you don’t agree with trigger warnings?

As Moore was.

This is a piece about your terrible opinion, not Moore’s.

I have PTSD, but I did not find her or Bindel’s jokes particularly upsetting.

Look, I can’t tell you the content of this joke because I wouldn’t follow Bindel’s transphobic ass to the last source of drinkable water on the planet Earth, much less subject myself to her tweets & I blocked Moore, but just because you don’t find something upsetting does not mean that everyone everywhere has to feel the same way. “But I wasn’t offended!” is a bad argument. You weren’t offended, good for you. This is not a defense for the joke, though, because it was obviously harmful to someone for it to become an issue.

I would rather inhabit a Twitter where people feel able to have a laugh, thereby taking the risk that it may upset me, than a strangely sanitised social network where people check their “privilege” at the door like a fur coat (no knickers), with no dance floor, no booze and no fun awaiting them- just a vast, pompous expanse of skittish hacks dealing in whispered platitudes.

If you can’t make a joke without shitting on an oppressed group of people, you’re not funny. I want to live in a world where oppressive “humor” is socially punished, and I’m gonna start making that world a reality by doing so myself. Humor at its best comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. Good humor should at least not afflict the afflicted. When it does, it is not unreasonable nor pompous to say, “No, this is not acceptable. GTFO with your terrible oppressive jokes.”

And again, if you put privilege in scare quotes, you need a serious re-working of your feminism. Like, you may need to go pre-101 here.

I’m going to skip over the rest of that paragraph because I’d rather respect her experiences as a person with PTSD than potentially say something shitty about her healing process.

Before I continue; a disclaimer. In explaining my choices, I am not condemning those of others.

Then what exactly is the point of the article?

’ll admit something else that will perhaps be unpopular: those message-boards, those websites, smacked to me of victimhood.

Look, I get this probably came from a very personal place, but this is actually really awful and I don’t see the value in sharing it right after the author claimed she wasn’t saying anything of this to condemn others. This is a condemnation; it is a judgement. It is a really harsh thing to say, & I’m not trying to be mean here, but I just really wish the author had not shared this opinion from that time in her life. It’s superfluous and harmful to other people who need those spaces to heal.

All of us, at one point or another, make a choice regarding what we will and will not expose ourselves to. […] It’s the same reason for which television news broadcasts are often preceded with the words “this contains scenes some viewers may find upsetting” – so that you can make the choice to switch off.

I don’t understand how you can get this and not get trigger warnings. That’s their whole point. “Hey, this article/blog post/video/etc. is about rape/police brutality/hate crimes against people with disabilities/etc., you can now make an informed decision on whether or not you can handle seeing this.”

With triggers, one does not make the choice to have a flashback, or a panic attack, or to collapse in tears at work and have your day ruined by a random reference in an internet post.

This is true, I don’t understand why you don’t get trigger warnings if you get this. See previous paragraph.

Equally, as Suzanne Moore pointed out, a soldier can have a flashback because of a curtain moving in the breeze.

This is really starting to feel like another journalist defending Suzanne Moore to protect the idea that they are “the press” and we are the audience who should shut the fuck up. Yes, unfortunately not every trigger can be warned for. That makes it even more important to warn for the ones we can so that people can save their energy for the potential unavoidable circumstances if they need to.

The world is full of triggers.

This is true. See previous paragraph.

You could, I suppose, try to liken a trigger warning to informing epileptics that there is some strobe lighting coming up.

Yes! This is a good example of a warning. I’m really not understanding how you don’t get the need for trigger warnings.

Except it’s not that simple.

Oh, gods.

I remember my grandfather telling me how one man’s seizure had been set off by the light flickering between the trees as he drove.

So your argument is basically, “We can’t warn for every single thing, so we should warn for none”? That’s rather silly. Very few, if any, useful things have an all-encompassing utility. You warn for the strobe light so people with epilepsy don’t have the avoidable seizure. This shouldn’t be a hard concept to grasp.

Similarly, that specific depiction of violence on the internet might be your light between the trees, but it isn’t mine.

No, this is more similar to the strobe light. The person depicting the violence on the Internet could have warned about the kind of violence they were depicting, but didn’t so someone was triggered in the same way the douche bag with the strobe light didn’t warn the epileptic friend who then had an avoidable seizure because of it.

I don’t think, like some, that trigger warnings hinder freedom of speech.

I’m glad because this is a rather ridiculous argument. “Please warn me when you’re going to be explicitly talking about X,” =/= “Never talk about X.”

But they do display an increasingly nannying approach to language that is being used to shut down discourse and to silence.

No, no it doesn’t. All it says is, “Hey, this article has these things in it. Read at your own risk.” I’m sorry you find compassion to be a “nannying approach”. And I thought you weren’t going to condemn others?

Often, it is coupled with a sense of passive aggressive glee (“um. You should have put a trigger warning on that”).

That’s not passive-aggressive glee. It’s, “Hey, this is pretty triggering. Can you put a warning on it, please?”

I do not doubt that they are of enormous service to survivors with specific triggers likely to reoccur on feminist websites, but it has got to a point now where I feel women I have never met are trying to wrap me in cotton wool, and I detest that.

“I’m sure these trigger warning are useful to some survivors, but I don’t like trigger warnings, so fuck those survivors.”

No one is trying to “wrap [you] in cotton wool”. They are trying to give people a head’s up so they can decline to read or brace themselves for the material. Feel free to skip over the warning if you feel coddled by them, but don’t argue for taking away something you openly admit is useful for other survivors and victims.

But there are some survivors who are trying to open their boxes, and a trigger warning can serve as an admonition to stay in our shells. I wanted out of mine.

 I’m going to try to be gentle here because I know this comes from the author’s experience as a survivor. A trigger warning is not an admonition to keep the boxes closed. I’m sorry you view them that way. Trigger warnings aren’t there to say, “Don’t read.” Trigger warnings aren’t even always used that way by survivors and victims who find them useful. Sometimes it’s just useful to have a head’s up so you can brace yourself. Some of us don’t want to jump headlong into the pile of boxes; we’re ready to take a peek into the boxes, but we need a moment to take a breath and steady ourselves. Without a trigger warning, though, there is no taking a breath and mentally preparing oneself to open the boxes–someone throws boxes in our faces then gets mad when we say, “Um, you could’ve warned me first.”
It’s like someone in the first comment said: You could try seeing those warnings as for other people, rather than at all directed at you. Just because a thing isn’t useful for you doesn’t make it not useful. Trigger warnings are incredibly important for some survivors and victims (and no, there’s nothing wrong with not being at the point where one can call oneself a survivor–people who still consider themselves victims should have their narratives respected), and it’s so, so harmful to try to take that away because you personally see it as coddling.

One Response to “I’ll never understand people who feel the need to speak out against trigger warnings.”

  1. jonesmaddie123 April 6, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    great article! I really hate how some people don’t take trigger warnings seriously, just because they themselves are not sensitive to material that could be extremely triggering for another person. To me, it’s like using the whole “freedom of speech” argument to account for using abusive language. This article is written with great fluency, and is clearly very well thought out, keep it up!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: