Trigger warnings, and why we use them

Last week, I added a 'trigger warning' to this thread. We've not really used these on libcom as a matter of course before, except for adding one to the introduction of Liberté Locke's excellent piece on workplace organising and sexual violence, 'My body, my rules'. But what are trigger warnings, and why do we use them?

Submitted by Ramona on January 15, 2012

Trigger warnings are inserted into the titles or opening lines of text, or can accompany links, the same way a 'NSFW' warning can give you a heads up before you find something you weren't expecting on your screen. Trigger warnings

Geek Feminism Wiki

are designed to prevent people who have an extremely strong and damaging emotional response (for example, post-traumatic flashbacks or urges to harm themselves) to certain subjects from encountering them unaware. Having these responses is called "being triggered". 1

Trigger warnings are often used to warn readers about potentially upsetting content (written or otherwise), commonly including sexual violence, self-harm, disordered eating, torture, suicide, domestic abuse and child abuse, although this list is by no means exhaustive. It's not just direct descriptions or depictions of traumatic events, some people find discussions and responses to traumatic events triggering too. Of course the subject matter people may find triggering is highly personal and wide-ranging, as is a person's response to triggers:

Melissa McEwan

For example, a person who was raped may be "triggered," i.e. reminded of hir2 rape, by a graphic description of sexual assault, and that reminder may, especially if the survivor has post-traumatic stress disorder, be accompanied by anxiety, manifesting as anything ranging from mild agitation to self-mutilation to a serious panic attack.3

Trigger warnings are commonly found in feminist and pro-sex web spaces, but the terminology originates from the study and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), where avoidance of situations and behaviours that can 'trigger' flashbacks to traumatic events, and other unwanted symptoms like panic attacks and the compulsion to self-harm for example, is a symptom of its own. Trigger avoidance can lead to people becoming incredibly socially isolated, as they attempt to protect themselves from distressing situations, experiences and behaviours. It can also lead to the voices of survivors being silenced, as taking part in discussions can be too distressing.

Trigger warnings offer people who know they can be triggered by certain types of content choice, trigger warnings allow survivors the option to engage or self-censor as they see fit. We all respond differently to things depending on our mood, where we are, what our day has been like, and survivors of trauma are no different – what may be triggering to someone in one situation may not be in another situation. Perhaps someone who finds discussion of child abuse triggering is OK with it when they have ample warning, when they're at home, or when there's other people around, but not when they're reading an article on their phone to pass the time on their bus ride to work. Trigger warnings give readers the chance to choose whether or not they want to engage with something, and that's why we use them.

Trigger warnings help make media more inclusive. They're not trying to tell survivors not to read or engage with content, they're not there to patronise anybody – survivors of trauma are not dainty little flowers who need everyone to tread on eggshells, we just appreciate a little thoughtfulness sometimes. Survivors of trauma do not all respond in the same way, and survivors of trauma have as much right to read, write, and engage with triggering subject matter as anyone else – I'd argue the voices of survivors are in fact crucial to discussions on things like gendered violence, for example. Trigger warnings are about facilitating discussion, not shutting it down. As Melissa McEwan has said in her excellent article on trigger warnings, they're just about being polite:

Melissa McEwan

We provide trigger warnings because it's polite, because we don't want to be the asshole who triggered a survivor of sexual assault because of carelessness or laziness or ignorance.

We provide trigger warnings because we know that 1 out of every 6 women and 1 out of every 10 men is a survivor of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault, many of them having survived multiple sexual assaults, and just because the larger culture doesn't acknowledge the existence of this vast population of people doesn't mean we don't have to.4

Making sure any content on the site, with hundreds of thousands of posts, was all checked for potentially triggering material, and trigger warnings put in place for everything would be impossible. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to make an effort to include trigger warnings for posts containing discussion of commonly triggering topics. It's a tiny thing to do that can make a huge difference to the inclusivity of the site – I'm not saying we can't discuss rape, for example, just that adding a trigger warning to the intro paragraph of an article or the opening post of a thread isn't really a big deal, and won't put anyone out of their way.

Hopefully this is mostly self-explanatory, and if you didn't know what trigger warnings were, now you do. But of course not everyone will know what they are, and I've seen criticisms elsewhere on the web, basically saying that trigger warnings are liberal, wishy washy crap, that they're patronising, that they're unnecessary, that they're just people being over-sensitive. So, if you find trigger warnings annoying, unnecessary, or smacking of some kind of yoghurt-weaving hippy third wave feminist self-congratulation, then I'm just really happy that they're not relevant for you. If you don't understand why they're necessary, that probably just means you've never experienced what it's like to be triggered, and that's great. But if you do know what it's like to be triggered, if you do find yourself responding in ways you can't control to certain kinds of content, chances are you'll already know what a trigger warning is and why we use them.

  • 1http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Trigger_warning
  • 2'hir' is a gender-neutral pronoun, which does not specify gender or imply that gender is limited to only male or female, as 'his/her' does
  • 3http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/04/i-write-letters_13.html
  • 4http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/04/i-write-letters_13.html

Comments

Arbeiten

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Arbeiten on January 15, 2012

nice one 8-)

Ramona

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ramona on January 15, 2012

Thank you! Still unsure about exactly how/where they should be incorporated, and I didn't really explain why the specific wording is important, I know it is but not really doing so well articulating exactly why...

lzbl

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lzbl on January 15, 2012

Which wording - 'trigger warning' or what you might say after it?

Ramona

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ramona on January 15, 2012

Yeah, 'trigger warning' specifically. Like, maybe it's not immediately apparent what it means, and there could be some clearer way of saying it? But I'm not convinced with that

no1

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by no1 on January 15, 2012

This seems like a really worthwhile thing to do, even if only to increase awareness of the plight of PTSD sufferers. But isn't there a practical problem in that trauma triggers are really diverse because (as far as I understand it) they relate to the specifics of a traumatic experience, and are therefore very hard to anticipate? Also, so far this has been used only on threads relating to sexual assault, but there are other common causes of PTSD such as war - shouldn't there be a trigger warning on the thread about Marines/Taliban vid for example?

Refused

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Refused on January 15, 2012

Thanks for writing this, I think it's excellent.

lzbl

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lzbl on January 15, 2012

@Ramona -

I don't think so - it's the widely used term, so if you need to know what it means you probably already do and if you don't then a) lucky you and b) google is your friend. In addition to which, any additional information about the triggering content normally provides enough information for people to work it out.

I can't think of anything shorter that gets it across, and unlike a longer block of text it normally stands out enough to notice it even when scanning. Choosing to use different wording means you're putting people who would respond to 'trigger warning' at risk. I've seen trigger warnings being added after publication quite a lot at the request of readers, so I imagine you'd be asked to change/add it anyway.

Nate

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Nate on January 16, 2012

I think this is really important stuff but I'd like to know more about where the wording came from and if there are attempts to give a trigger warning in descriptive terms (like in the intro to a thread) rather than just use the words 'trigger warning'. I don't mean to nitpick or be disrespectful here, I say this as someone who grew up in an abusive home and did a several of feminist political work, mostly around sexual assault. I had an expeirence once with reading somethoing line before I know what 'trigger warning' meant, the term it was on the title of an article, I didn't know what the term meant, I ignored it, then read the article and was rather upset and was like "I wish there had been a warning on this!" and then I figured out from context that there had been a warning, in the form of the phrase 'trigger warning', it was just a warning I didn't understand. That added me feeling stupid to the mix of being upset by the article, which wasn't particularly helpful. It may be that the readership on libcom is generally in the know enough that this won't happen to other folk, but I would imagine that I can't be the only person who has experiences like this. Especially for articles like Liberte Locke's one, which I think was pretty widely shared among folk who aren't regular libcom readers.

radicalgraffiti

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by radicalgraffiti on January 16, 2012

i've seen people before say that you should specify what kind of content you are talking about when you put a trigger warning.

So far i've found that everything i've posted that i might expect to be triggering describes enough in the title that i think its clear, so i haven't been adding them yet, but i can see the point.

lzbl

12 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lzbl on January 16, 2012

Yeah, I think it's good practice to outline what you're warning about.

jef costello

12 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jef costello on March 7, 2012

Thanks for the blog.
Honestly my first reaction was that it was a bit patronising and unnecessary but after I had a bit of a think about it changed my mind.
The trigger warnings I've seen so far have said what kind of trigger there is. Could be worth linking to this post as a hyperlink, ie trigger warning to help people out. Might be possible to do automatically as well.

Ernestine

12 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ernestine on March 7, 2012

I didn't know what it meant:
trigger warning - content _____
would work well I think.

wojtek

11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by wojtek on December 11, 2012

Does 'trigger warning' itself sometimes become a trigger?

Mr. Jolly

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Jolly on January 22, 2013

What evidence is there that descriptions of sexual and physical abuse are significant in triggering negative emotional responses in people who have experienced such abuse and continue to have psychological problems as a result?

Joseph Kay

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on January 22, 2013

NHS

A person will involuntarily and vividly relive the traumatic event in the form of flashbacks, nightmares or repetitive and distressing images or sensations. Being reminded of the traumatic event can evoke distressing memories and cause considerable anguish.
Avoidance

Trying to avoid being reminded of the traumatic event is another key symptom of PTSD.
Reminders can take the form of people, situations or circumstances that resemble or are associated with the event.
Many people with PTSD will try to push memories of the event out of their mind. They do not like thinking or talking about the event in detail.

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Post-traumatic-stress-disorder/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

Mr. Jolly

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Jolly on January 22, 2013

For sure, and from personal experience I fully understand things that may trigger intense emotional feelings, but for me they are very varied and nebulous, smell, sounds, certian times of the year, certain words, one thing one day may trigger something and the exact same thing the next day wont. I am not querying whether people suffer such phenomena, my question is how significant are discussions or descriptions on a page/online about rape and sexual abuse, that are general or about other people? Are they so significant in triggering that its deemed to that they need to carry a very explicit warning?

Actually I'm just reiterating what no1 said.

Joseph Kay

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on January 22, 2013

Are 2 words (or 3-5 words if there's a specification of what it's about) really that much of an inconvenience to everyone else? A considerable number of people find trigger warnings useful, seems to make sense to er on the side of caution if anything.

Mr. Jolly

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Jolly on January 22, 2013

A quick intro about what is going to be discussed surely would be a more sensible approach? Its not an inconvenience, rather could it not be construed by some survivors as patronising?

Ramona

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ramona on January 22, 2013

Mr. Jolly

For sure, and from personal experience I fully understand things that may trigger intense emotional feelings, but for me they are very varied and nebulous, smell, sounds, certian times of the year, certain words, one thing one day may trigger something and the exact same thing the next day wont. I am not querying whether people suffer such phenomena, my question is how significant are discussions or descriptions on a page/online about rape and sexual abuse, that are general or about other people? Are they so significant in triggering that its deemed to that they need to carry a very explicit warning?

Pretty significant, and yes.

And, "a quick intro" would be laborious compared to just being able to chuck in a couple of words that the people who need to know what they mean will know what they mean, and everyone else can quite easily ignore. And yeah I guess maybe some people might find it patronising but really I think I'd sooner run the risk of someone feeling a little patronised (after all, we're not installing some filter that says you aren't allowed to read the content, it changes nothing) than someone not being given the choice as to whether or not they have to think about something that might well fuck them up. It's generally pretty useful IME to be able to chose when I deal with stuff like that, and it doesn't really do anything to detract from other people's engagement with the content.

Fleur

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fleur on January 22, 2013

Trigger warning on the trigger warning thread

I try not to base too many arguments on personal experience, because they are so subjective and no two people experiencing the same thing are necessarily going to react in the same way but I hope this might be a useful explanation.
When I first saw trigger warnings appear on articles I wasn't all that sure what difference they would make, after all it wouldn't actually change the content. However, I've changed my mind now. I experienced sexual abuse as a child and quite honestly felt that I was totally done and dusted with it, moved on and filed it under the whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger heading. And to a large extent I thought in an odd way it helped make me the way I am, in that it was one of the factors which made me strongly feel that no-one has the right to fuck over anyone else. And then the Jimmy Savile thing happened and it was so pervasive, even in the media over here and people that I didn't know would hear my accent and ask me to explain it and I reacted in a way that I would never have predicted even a few weeks earlier. Quite frankly I was a wreck for a few weeks, having panic attacks and anxiety, the whole thing threw me back to a place that I was a long time ago, even though my experiences were not the same as those in the Savile case. ( I think I'm OK now, btw.) My point is that you never know someone's state of mind, not even my own apparently, and you never know what is going to have a detrimental effect on someone's mental health. So I think that trigger warnings are not so much a fashionable, politically correct thing to do, rather an act of courtesy, giving someone the choice if they want to go somewhere, to give them the heads-up that there may be something which might cause them distress.
And now I feel like I've just been to some kind of meeting and done a disclosure, and I feel a bit silly and uncomfortable with posting up personal stuff, but I just think that putting up trigger warnings is just being kind. I had no idea I was going to have a meltdown but it's just nice to give people the option to avoid causing themselves pain that they might not be able to deal with right then.

Fleur

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fleur on January 22, 2013

And I may well come back after a couple of beers and edit that one out entirely, it's not something I would generally want to post here.

Ramona

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ramona on January 22, 2013

Even if you do edit that out, really appreciate your opinion and you've explained, I think, the whole point really well: it's just being polite and giving people the chance to not engage with something if they don't feel up to it. Thanks very much for your post.

Steven.

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on January 22, 2013

Yes, thanks very much for that contribution. I was sceptical of the utility at first but definitely think it is worth doing now. And if anyone notices any articles we have which should have trigger warnings on but don't please let us know in the comments below so we can edit them in.

Mr. Jolly

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Jolly on January 24, 2013

Ramona

Pretty significant, and yes.

And, "a quick intro" would be laborious compared to just being able to chuck in a couple of words that the people who need to know what they mean will know what they mean, and everyone else can quite easily ignore. And yeah I guess maybe some people might find it patronising but really I think I'd sooner run the risk of someone feeling a little patronised (after all, we're not installing some filter that says you aren't allowed to read the content, it changes nothing) than someone not being given the choice as to whether or not they have to think about something that might well fuck them up. It's generally pretty useful IME to be able to chose when I deal with stuff like that, and it doesn't really do anything to detract from other people's engagement with the content.

Fair enough.

jef costello

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jef costello on January 24, 2013

I was also sceptical at first, but they don't hurt and they might help so I think they're worth putting in.

Ramona

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ramona on September 1, 2013

Wanted to revisit this briefly to see what people thought about switching from "trigger warning" to "content note", in light of Izbl's post on "Things women say that you hate hearing all the time"

Izbl

First off, if you're using triggerwarning sarcastically you're a fucking dick. NB thewholeof libcom if you don't liketriggerwarnings you can usethe formulation 'content note' which has thesame effect, is applicableto people who don't get triggered and is just as good.

It seems like the phrase "trigger warning" might act as a red flag for certain people (not on this thread I might add) who do not have good intentions when using it/parodying its use, maybe "content note" might get round that? Or maybe it'd just raise the same issues of being patronising/infantilising regardless of the term used.

Also, looking back at Izbl's post on this thread from ages ago that makes good points too
Izbl

Idon't think so- it's thewidely used term, so if you need to know what it means you probably already do and ifyou don't then a) lucky you and b) google is yourfriend. In addition to which, any additional information about thetriggering content normally provides enough information for peopleto work it out.

Ican't thinkof anything shorter that gets it across, and unlikea longer block of text it normally stands out enough to noticeit even when scanning. Choosing to usedifferent wording means you'reputting peoplewho would respond to'triggerwarning' atrisk. I'veseen trigger warnings being added after publication quitea lot at therequest of readers, so Iimagineyou'd be asked to change/add it anyway.

So if anyone has opinions either way it'd be good to hear them, unless your opinion is "this whole thing is privilege theory gone mad" in which case no ;)

Harrison

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on September 1, 2013

I think content note sounds much better, ideally someone might also create a small graphic, so as to leave behind the bold caps lock text and exclamation marks, which can look a bit 4chan.

(this said as someone who supports the concept of tw's)

Noah Fence

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Noah Fence on September 1, 2013

If people know they mean the same thing I don't think it makes any difference what term is used. It's not as if trigger warning is misleading or sensationalised. Those that don't like it really need to get over it - maybe they don't have experience of how important they can be to some people and if so accept that they don't get it. I have never needed to use them but I know for sure that certain text and even more so images can have an immediate and devastating effect people suffering from anorexia and other forms of self harm.

lzbl

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lzbl on September 1, 2013

I have changed my mind slightly about 'trigger warning', for various reasons.

1. Being triggered is quite specific. It comes from people experiencing/surviving PTSD having flashbacks or crises triggered by certain experiences. It's widened out a bit - for instance, I don't have PTSD but I do experience quite a significant negative impact on my mental health when I'm exposed to certain discussions or attitudes because they tap into a past trauma. HOWEVER I have seen people use 'triggered' as a synonym for 'upset' (openly, I'm not assuming here) and I think that's problematic. I also think it's because triggering has become how we talk about bad feelings. Idk.

2. Trigger warning has become some kind of red flag. I cannot count the number of times I have been told (by men) that they're patronising and make assumptions and what if you're triggered by cheese and how will we know wah wah. It's exhausting and if changing formulation means those conversations go away then fuck it.

3. Relating to 1, people who don't get triggered but do get upset come under the umbrella of a content note. It's ok to find upsetting things upsetting and it's ok to use markers like trigger warning or content note as self care.

4. Relating to 1 again I've seen some critique of trigger warnings being seen as pathologising or othering. I don't know how to feel about that and haven't read loads on it, partly because that's often used as part of bad faith arguments and arguments that say WELL YOU SHOULD JUST DEAL WITH IT LIKE ME (not. cool.)

All of those reasons make me think content note might be a better formula but I think that number two is probably the biggest factor for me here. If people have good faith critiques of trigger warning then content note should assuage them, if it's in bad faith then they can continue to fuck off until the end of time.

My point about trigger warning being recognisable still stands. If you used content note without any notes on what the content IS then I don't think it'd make sense whereas trigger warning might. Still better practice to include some indication with either phrase imo.

I'm kind of surprised by this thread tbh because I was given the impression that libcom had staked out their position and weren't changing it (should have spoken to Ramona eh). I don't think it would be the end of the world to keep using trigger warning. I think it would be disastrous if libcom got rid of any kind of signpost but I'm assuming that's not on the cards.

Noah Fence

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Noah Fence on September 1, 2013

Izbl - all fair points. I think there is more familiarity with the term trigger warning amongst those likely to be affected though. That said...

Still better practice to include some indication with either phrase imo.

I'd go further - without a note about content either phrase is pretty meaningless.

Ramona

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ramona on September 1, 2013

Thanks for replies so far everyone! I'll respond properly when I get in tonight but just to clarify: libcom stand by the original post and we are not considering scrapping TWs at all. The bump to this thread has only come from me in consideration of Izbl's post I quoted earlier which I thought was worth considering properly.

Noah Fence

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Noah Fence on September 2, 2013

I'm not sure "trigger warning" is more widely known among the people more likely to be affected, maybe in the scene but outside of that I really don't know. I thought Nate made a good point about this on the previous page.

Fair enough, I was just going on my fairly narrow experience with people that have EDs or drug problems and self harmers.

Also, I like the warning box.

Ramona

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ramona on September 2, 2013

Yeah if we could have a button to click when submitting posts and space to elaborate that'd be really helpful

Joseph Kay

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on September 2, 2013

I think it would be as simple as adding an extra text/drop down field to the submission form (which any admin can do) then theming it to appear before the intro text (which probably isn't complicated but does require tinkering with the CSS).

hellfrozeover

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by hellfrozeover on September 2, 2013

The message is there because it's a warning: you might not want to read this right now. "Content note" to me evokes "this is a 10Mb PDF," too abstract.

Plus, people who object to the term "trigger warning" deserve to be wound up and made to feel uncomfortable.

(No, I haven't fully engaged with the new points raised by IzbI.)

[edit to fix name]

Ramona

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ramona on September 2, 2013

*Izbl ;)

hellfrozeover

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by hellfrozeover on September 2, 2013

:-|
Told you I hadn't paid attention. Sorry (twice) Izbl

Harrison

10 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on September 2, 2013

Tommy Ascaso

.error img {
float: left;
}
.error p {
color: #a30000;
vertical-align: middle;
text-align: center;
}


This article discusses sexual violence.

This is exactly the sort of thing i was thinking of, its very hard for anyone to object to something like that.

NotBrunette

10 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by NotBrunette on November 15, 2013

I really like seeing more "trigger warning" warnings in posts about potentially sensitive topics.... although one usually has the idea that an article is going to be emotional before the words "trigger warning" appear.
If only tv shows and movies took such pauses - I want to know *when* to cover my eyes and ears!

kingzog

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on May 9, 2015

I heavily disagree with trigger warnings. I think its antifeminist even. But firstly, I think the idea behind them assumes that rape psychologicaly destroys a person, ruins there life and they are not able to get by in society without being shielded. Such is not the case. Rape survivors shouldn't be infantilized, I think most psychologists wpuld agree TW's and the culture around them are counterproductive.

Secondly, trigger warnings are sexist. They suggests that women, especially, are fragile creatures- easily damaged by words or ideas they disagree with. Again, its infantilizing.

Judith Schulevitz recently wrote about the insidious effects this ideology has had on campuses. It also seems that this phenomena is mostly confines the upper class white young adults at universities. A sort of sign of prolonged adolescences for the elite.

Noah Fence

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Noah Fence on May 9, 2015

Kingzog, have you experienced rape? Your comment is pretty presumptuous.
Also, trigger warnings cover a whole range of issues that are not gender oriented - why have you narrowed TWs down to one?

Joseph Kay

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on May 9, 2015

Webby; I don't think challenging people to make disclosures like that is really on - or relevant tbh. There's presumably people who've experienced sexual assaults on various sides of the 'trigger warnings' argument so it can't really settle the matter, which is ultimately a political question.

All that said, I haven't seen any objections that make me disagree with Ramona's blog. And tbh a lot of the objections are pre-emptively covered in the blog, so I'm not convinced critics have read beyond the title before repeating the boilerplate talking points from mainstream backlash.

(I take lzbl's point re: 'content note', fwiw, may serve the same purpose as well as others).

Fleur

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fleur on May 9, 2015

kingzog

You are talking uneducated bollocks.

I think the idea behind them assumes that rape psychologicaly destroys a person, ruins there life and they are not able to get by in society without being shielded.

Yep rape can psychologically destroy a person - of any gender - and it is the single highest cause of PTSD, higher than even amongst combat veterans. One of the most successful and useful treatments for PTSD is exposure therapy, which allows someone to confront the things you find traumatizing, allowing you to deal with the things which are causing distress and anxiety. Trigger warnings do not prevent anyone from reading anything, it just warns someone that something potentially distressing is there. Trigger warnings are a useful part of exposure therapy because it helps you control the exposure.

I think most psychologists wpuld agree TW's and the culture around them are counterproductive.

Most therapists & psychologists - and I've had dealings with a fair few - would agree that trigger warnings and similar mechanisms for dealing with PTSD are a useful part of exposure therapy. Not many would suggest suck it princess and get on with it, which is what your post sounds like.

Rape survivors shouldn't be infantilized

No, they should be treated with empathy, which is what trigger warnings do, effectively saying there is something coming up which people with PTSD might find upsetting and we don't want you to jeopardize your recovery by causing unwanted anxiety at a time when you're not feeling strong enough to handle it.

Secondly, trigger warnings are sexist. They suggests that women, especially, are fragile creatures- easily damaged by words or ideas they disagree with. Again, its infantilizing.

Trigger warnings are not just about sexual assault, which itself is not something which happens only to women, but for a number of things. To say trigger warnings are sexist is a sexist thing to say because it assumes that the only people affected by PTSD and other forms of mental distress are women. However, in the case of trigger warnings relating to sexual violence committed against women, when the overwhelming opinion by women survivors of sexual assault is that trigger warnings are a useful and a kind thing, to suggest that they shouldn't be there because they are "infantilizing" is a crass and insensitive thing to say. Rape survivors should handle their recovery in the way that it is best for them, not how you think they should.

And honestly, who gives a flying fuck what Judith Shulevitz has to say on anything. She's a NYT journalist and member of the professional commentariat and hasn't the first training or expertise in psychological trauma.

Noah Fence

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Noah Fence on May 9, 2015

Fair enough JK, I wouldn't disagree but my question was a rhetorical one aimed at someone who, from the tone and content of their post clearly hadn't. Maybe I was being presumptuous, but I don't think so. TWs are enormously important to my daughters management of anorexia and self harm and being involved in helping those with drug problems I know that triggers can be very harmful to certain people at certain times. I guess my feathers were ruffled by someone who I imagined didn't really know the ins and outs of the matter and made totally unqualified statements about 'most phsycologists' etc. Fleur's post puts my thoughts on the matter pretty much perfectly.

Joseph Kay

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on May 9, 2015

Webby - yeah, I get it's rhetorical and I'm not trying to be a dick. But if they came back and said yes, it wouldn't make their argument more right or yours any more wrong. Generally, being put in a position of having to disclose (as opposed to volunteering) suffering to validate a political position can be pretty uncomfortable imho. And yeah, Fleur put it better than I could have.

kingzog

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on May 10, 2015

A big issue with TW's is they are creating a culture of suppression in colleges. Yeah, all sorts of things are and can be considered "triggering"(triggers are often specific to the actual traumatic event for the specific individual and related to the environment and context at the time of the event, rather than the mere general mention of tramua or discussion of it in general). And, placing these warnings before an essay is indeed fairly benign- although I believe using them enforces an assumption of sexism. The real material effect, negative consequence of all this is that academics, speakers at universities, and elsewhere are being bullied and censored for speaking or writing on an array of topics. Its contributing to university faculties increasingly precarious positions.

Its a culture of enforcing delicacy; for the elite. A sort of self-indulgent victimhood. In many ways its a way of separating classes; the elite attempting to separate themselves from the vulgar proles thru TW's and safer spaces, etc.

Amber A'Lee, the writer, recently wrote on FB: ""Women are not fucking candy glass, and this rhetoric of trauma as identity demands weakness of women in order to be heard."

I tend to agree. Even if some ppl are fragile. I disagree with assumptions behind TW's, that all must be.

Anything can get in the way of someone recovering from trauama. Anything can jeopordoze that. I just don't think TW's are worth it. Certainly not now that there is a growing culture of suppression and censorship revolving around their assumptions.

I understand some of the good intentions behind them though and I believe in the sincerity of some of the advocates behind them.

Fleur

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fleur on May 9, 2015

A big issue with TW's is they are creating a culture of suppression in colleges.

No it's not. Nobody is suppressing anything. Free speech isn't being undermined. It's a warning. The clue is in the word - warning. Just giving you a heads up that there is something potentially problematic in there. Nobody is saying don't read it. They're just explaining the content. Just like when I pick up a videogame and it says there is violent content. Sometimes I feel like decapitating, eviscerating and otherwise slaying the enemy, other times I'm not in the mood, so it's nice to get a heads up on content. That's all it is, a content note. No censorship involved, just a little sensitivity and warning. A trigger warning is not censorship. An undergraduate studying Am Lit 101 might appreciate a trigger warning on Last Exit To Brooklyn that there is a violent gang rape scene in it, not a pastoral tale of explorations on the NY transit system.

I'm glad Amber A'Lee is not fucking candy glass, perhaps she could pretend to give a shit about other people who are obviously not as hard as she is.

And wtf has this to do with separating "vulgar proles" from the elite? Working class people suffer from trauma too, or are we supposed to pretend we don't?

If you don't agree with trigger warnings, well good for you. Disregard them. It really is as simple as that.

Joseph Kay

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on May 10, 2015

kingzog, did you actually read Ramona's post?

Noah Fence

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Noah Fence on May 10, 2015

Its a culture of enforcing delicacy; for the elite. A sort of self-indulgent victimhood. In many ways its a way of separating classes; the elite attempting to separate themselves from the vulgar proles thru TW's and safer spaces, etc.

Please tell me you're not serious?

kingzog

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on May 10, 2015

They pose a threat to academic freedom because faculty are pressured to inclide things like TW's and it creates an environment where they must think twice about having discussions about many subjects for fear of offending students and being reprimanded or otherwise bullied.They are used, quite openly, as a tool of supression when speakers are disinvited from speaking at universities because students may disagree with their viewpoint, and therefore may trigger them.

A real example: Recently, a Muslim student used the word intifada in a tweet, a hash tag. A campus pro-israel group now wants to ban the use of the word because it is triggering for Jewish students.

Relatedly, a teacher in Connecticut was fired for having read Ginsberg's Howl unannounced, which contains sexual content- would you have had him issue a TW?

So this shaping up to be a complicated issue, going beyond the simple question of TW's themselves.

kingzog

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on May 10, 2015

I'm serious Webby. TW's are almost entirely a white, middle class, elite educated phenomenon.

Edit: recently a group of college faculty wrote this in an essay addressing their concerns with the mandatory, or pressured, use TW's:"The idea that trauma is reignited by representations of the particular traumatizing experience is not supported by the research on post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma. Flashbacks, panic attacks, and other manifestations of past trauma can be triggered by innocuous things: a smell, a sudden movement, a color. " so why bother with TW's but to separate the sensitive elite from the vulgar culture of the proles who revel i the sex and violence displayed and glorified in popular culture?

Joseph Kay

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on May 10, 2015

How does libcom including trigger warnings suppress academic freedom or silence critics of zionism?

'But it might be abused by other people in other contexts!!' - See also: all things.

Also, this was not intended as a rhetorical question, though it's fast becoming one:

Joseph Kay

kingzog, did you actually read Ramona's post?

Noah Fence

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Noah Fence on May 10, 2015

I'm serious Webby. TW's are almost entirely a white, middle class, elite educated phenomenon.

This is fucking horseshit. Sure, my daughter is white but that's it. You seriously have no idea of the value of TWs. Try seeing your friend or child ambulanced off to hospital with heart problems because they weigh less than five stone and then see how a trigger can set them back months in their recovery. Then see what you think of them. Or perhaps anorexia is a middle class construct as well???You sound like someone that has conjured up a smart arse ideology and will now stick to it come hell or high water. All you've done is pull out some abstract examples of possibly less than judicious use of TWs but have not responded or engaged with the points put to you very clearly on this thread. You know what? Some idiot cut me up on the motorway the other day - should we fuck cars off as well? Seriously, this is about real people in real danger, not a sixth form debating club wank off competition.

Agent of the I…

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Agent of the I… on May 10, 2015

kingzog

...to separate the sensitive elite from the vulgar culture of the proles...

Wtf are you talking about? This doesn't make any sense. TWs separate the 'sensitive elites' from 'vulgar proles'? Aside from your objections to TWs, I'm curious how you define those two groups.

jef costello

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jef costello on May 11, 2015

Maybe we need to look at kingzog's name for a clue to their motivation?

In terms of stifling debate on campus testimony and writings by survivors, often with trigger warnings, are opening up speech.

There are instances where people use being offended to try to shut down speech, but these are rare and are not connected to trigger warnings. TWs do not stop debate etc, they give people an opportunity to avoid something that they dislike, similar to putting Adam Sandler's face on a billboard ad for a film

Finally, an educator should think about what they are exposing their students to and I bet they got fired by an administration that would have objected to it TW or not. I'm not sure if a TW is as useful in that context as students cannot choose to leave a class based on a trigger warning, although I imagine that it is better to be warned than not.

Also I'm not a fan of this toughening up rhetoric, there have been a lot of hard as nails communists and we still don't have communism, so we probably need a bit more than that. Also that's the same logic that makes you throw a kid in the water to teach them how to swim. It's bullying and is usually used by bullying parents who turn their kids into wrecks or bullies.

kingzog

8 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on November 20, 2015

Revisiting this; I'm wondering if trigger is not the best word to use as it evokes the violent imagery of weaponry which may trigger those with PTSD from weaponized violence. Maybe "provocation warning" would be more appropriate.

Noah Fence

8 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Noah Fence on November 20, 2015

kingzog

Revisiting this; I'm wondering if trigger is not the best word to use as it evokes the violent imagery of weaponry which may trigger those with PTSD from weaponized violence. Maybe "provocation warning" would be more appropriate.

PROVOCATION WARNING

Kinzog - admin: flaming removed. Flaming is not permitted on libcom

Fleur

8 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fleur on November 20, 2015

Trigger is the word used in psychology/psychiatry, and was used long before any controversy over trigger warnings happened, to refer to something which might cause an anxiety or any such other adverse response. Why would it be deemed necessary to change the long accepted terminology just to satisfy the needs of those who have a totally manufactured, knee-jerk reaction to this completely bogus concept that trigger warnings are censorship, an affront to free speech, or scholarship or whatever? I can only assume you're being facetious when you are confusing the psychological word trigger and the trigger on a gun.

Trigger warnings are not only helpful to people with PTSD but many other MH conditions as well. Even in the case of PTSD, combat acquired PTSD only makes up a small fraction of those suffering with the condition.

kingzog

8 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on December 11, 2015

No, I've heard serious arguments that trigger should be replaced because trigger conjures weaponry- which is triggering for those who suffered gun violence in general. This fits within the logic of trigger warnings, it makes sense to me even though I disagree with the use/efficacy of them.

Everdyay femenism does not use trigger for this very reason
http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/guide-to-triggering/

we use the phrase “content warning” instead of “trigger warning,” as the word “trigger” relies on and evokes violent weaponry imagery. This could be re-traumatizing for folks who have suffered military, police, and other forms of violence.

kingzog

8 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kingzog on December 11, 2015

Trigger is the word used in psychology/psychiatry, and was used long before any controversy over trigger warnings happened, to refer to something which might cause an anxiety or any such other adverse response

Yes, the word trigger was used long before to explain the phenomenon of "being triggered". But my problem is that putting "trigger warning" before content which has references to things which could trigger people is itself a trigger as it references a thing which may be triggering. This is all I'm pointing out.

jef costello

7 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jef costello on October 11, 2016

Guardian article reiterating the 'stifling debate' line coming back to the whole "we can't talk about anything now" line.
While I would agree that showing a picture of a concentration camp victim in a class on the Holocaust is hardly unexpected trigger warnings don't shut down debate. I also find it amusing that the author states that academia should be "preparing students to deal with challenging material" while arguing that you should not give them a chance to prepare themselves.A trigger warning doesn't stop you discussing spmething, it just means that those present are given the opportunity to prepare for it.

I remember the news used to warn people "this contains images that some viewers may find distressing" no one said that the news was self-censoring. They also used to, before the 24-hour news cycle, tell you to look away if you didn't want to know the football scores.