WickedWednesday: Trigger Warnings

Trigger Warning: I’m sorry if this article is a little cynical but I’ve avoided commenting on this subject all week because of my thoughts on the subject – and then Marie makes it the WickedWednesday prompt!

I am lucky enough to not need any trigger warnings; I don’t have any horrendous experiences in my life that I need to avoid.

I know the Guardian article caused a furore online, and I must confess that I thoroughly dislike the Guardian just as much as I abhor censorship. The newspaper is the hypocritical* and dangerous left-wing equivalent of the nonsensical and dangerous Daily Mail, and much like almost all newspapers they like to provoke to cause a reaction.

Personally, I like my politics central and my news unbiased and neutral. Guardian is neither; I have no time for it, and avoided commenting on the article as I don’t want to help them into their revenue-boosting marketing strategy.

Jen Doll claims that Trigger Warnings are censorship: what a moronic comment. They are not censorship: they are not advocating the removal of artforms, making Trigger Warnings compulsory or restricting access to material, but are just providing a warning that there are subjects in the material that may evoke strong, negative reactions in some, such as exacerbating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

So, I like them. I have been reading Internet erotica for over 15 years, and there are codes that signify “heavy” material – “caut” for caution, “rp” for rape, “nc” for non-consensual and “viol” for violence, for example. That’s normal to advise what’s in your work.

And I use them when I have to; why wouldn’t you? As an author I don’t want to be responsible for triggering the memory of a survivor who has suffered a horrific ordeal, and I don’t understand the opposition to them. It is not a nanny state, it is not censorship but allowing informed choices, like we get on the backs of DVDs (“contains mild peril”) or news items (“contains flash photography”).

Yes, I get that some people be “triggered” from innocuous, everyday items: babbling brooks, denim trousers, etc – anything that reminds them of their torment, but I don’t buy that as a reason to not put trigger warnings on material containing sensitive subjects. If it helps just one person it’s been worth it.

There is censorship being foisted upon people: a quick look at Melonfarmers or Sex and Censorship highlights that. There’s the “filtering” systems Cameron has blackmailed ISPs to provide, the sex shops across the UK forced into closure and Co-Op pandering to No More Page 3 campaign. Those are examples of censorship, not content creators trying hard to warn victims that their material requires some caution.

So, I think the article of misinformation is a hysterical fuss of something over nothing; a non-issue, a mountain out of a molehill. The Samaritans like them, mental health charities like them: it’s simply being considerate towards fellow humans who may be more vulnerable than you.

But then, without the made-up bit about it being “censorship” and the sensationalist headline about “book-burning,” you’ll have an article that says “vulnerable students request warnings of sensitive material.” And that doesn’t make any money now, does it?

*= The Guardian rightly lambastes corporations like Barclays for tax avoidance, yet their parent company is registered in the Cayman Islands for tax avoidance purposes and GMG is aggressive with it’s exploitation of tax loopholes.  

Wicked Wednesday

Featured image from Wikicommons.

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  1. I agree and yet I disagree… in their basic form what harm can they do, one wonders and yet like so many things they have such potential to be used to censor and create shame and taboo around subjects. Should there be trigger warning when women write about their periods in case it upsets men? I think if authors want to use them, then so be it, but I don’t think they should be imposed on authors. The next step is wrapping up books in plastic so that no one can picks it up and accidentally see a word that might upset them. I think trigger warnings are very different from classifying work in genres. I think saying that a story is MMF or Gay, or Murder or Romance is one thing, labeling fiction beyond that is subjective, the reader has to make up their own mind not some bloke in an office who decides on our behalf.

    The next step is… “all books with trigger warnings on them have to be displayed in a separate area”… or….”all books with trigger warnings are only to be sold to Over 18’s”

    I have not read the Guardian article…. so i can’t comment on their take on it.

    Molly recently posted…HaloMy Profile

  2. To choose the article of the Guardian might not have been the best move, but I wanted to put trigger warnings up as a subject, since I have been… or rather one of my stories has been targeted for criticism. I agree with Molly – where does it stop? There are no trigger warnings on murder thrillers, are there? What about a warning on books that contains words about a violent robbery? Or like Molly said, what about when you write about women’s periods? Where should it stop? I think we all should have our own opinions, and be allowed to make up our own minds.

    And you know what? I like the freedom of making u my own mind and love that you have spoken yours here :)

    Rebel xox
    Marie Rebelle recently posted…Orgasm control (5): Tuesday: Numbers 18-24My Profile

  3. I agree 100% about the little warnings used in some fiction. I found these very common years back when I was writing shorts online. When people were saying ‘vore’, I knew to stay away. But in the bigger picture, I really believe they will end up going too far. It tends to be what the world does so well, and I find it funny as I write this because I could be seen as taking things too far. Life is a big bag of fun.

    Åsa x
    Åsa Winter recently posted…Trigger Warnings from a Girl with PTSDMy Profile

  4. Like you, I would never want to unwittingly traumatise a reader and I have, on occasion, used trigger warnings to alert people to content they may find difficult on my blog. However, the more I think about the evolving culture of ‘reader beware!’ – such as the marking of classic works of literature with red flags mentioned in the Guardian post – the less comfortable I become with it. Like Molly, I agree that on a basic level trigger warnings are courteous, thoughtful signposts. However, where do we start drawing the line with regard to what we warn for? Childbirth? Drug taking? Depression? The problem as I see it is that our perceptions of what needs warning and what doesn’t will vary from person to person. And who gets to make the ultimate decision on what goes ‘on the top shelf’ if labelling such as this becomes compulsory?

    This is a great, strong post and I love your conviction. I gues I just come at this from a slightly different angle. :-) Jane xxx
    Jane recently posted…Wicked Wednesday: Pulling the triggerMy Profile

  5. I don’t think stories need trigger warnings. Your fear of offending or scaring someone off is honorable, but I don’t think it is necessary. I think this is all blown out of proportion by the media, as usual.
    Karen Blue recently posted…Trigger WarningsMy Profile

  6. I do not trust the government to tell me what is in my reading material so why on Earth would I give them the tools they want to “lable” them.

    I think the nearest correlation to trigger warnings is the “PC” or politically correct movement on college campuses. What started out as an kind-of honorable goal of protecting free speech by letting smaller groups be heard, turned into a firestorm of censorship, blacklisting, expulsions, and ruined scholastic careers all based on the “if i don’t want to hear it, you aren’t allowed to say it.” train of thinking.

    Effectively the PC crowd put “trigger warnings” on men, republicans, conservatives, people with money, and whites and labeled them as harmful to campuss discourse. They used their “lables’ to shout down speaker, close newspapers, and get clubs kicked out of college just so they wouldn’t have to listen to a idea that conflicted with their own. It continues to menace collages everywhere.

    So no, the government is NOT to be trusted in this arena, or really, in any other one.
    advizor54 recently posted…FFF for May 30 – DistractedMy Profile

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