Trigger Warning: This Contains Anti-Trigger Warning Rants

File:South Africa - General Warning sign.svg

It’s not that i just don’t think they’re any good for me, or even that i think they’re no good for no one. If either of those things were the case, i could just ignore ‘trigger warnings’ and there’d be no need for this post. But it’s not that. I find TWs patronising, offensive and harmful. They make me so cross, so i thought i’d share the rage. You’re welcome.

I’ll start with patronising… I find the idea that people need protecting from words or ideas too overly parental. Most of the time these things are stamped on articles, blogs, etc, where it would be really obvious what they’d be about. I’ll find you some examples… From Twitter: “{Trigger Warning} Investigative Report: How Victim-Blaming Led to the Rape Kit Backlog”. Erm, those two words at the beginning of that tweet, are they really needed? Would someone really think that the article they were clicking on was going to be about someone’s favourite Disney princess? C’mon. Then there’s this one… “Sexual assault survivors tell their stories (trigger warning)”, orely? One more, yeah? “Me: “Pizza is not a gender.” Tumblr user: “Um, trigger warning, fucking ignorant bitch.” That last one is a real tweet. It’s obviously not a real conversation, but it kinda highlights how overly used these bloody ‘warnings’ have become. It also highlights how these warnings paint anyone who may have any issues with something as kinda pathetic. If it’s not saying that, it’s saying something else as equally distasteful, no?

Now on to offensive… Now i am someone who will defend the right to offend. I think free speech is important and we should be allowed to offend, especially when it’s not intended (but many times even when it is) and i know that people putting these warnings on are either doing it for genuinely altruistic reasons or to feel a part of something, and they’re not doing it to cause offence. Nor am i demanding TWs not be used. I’d like to question their use and would appreciate it if they were used less, sure, but just because they ‘offend’ me, please don’t think i’m using that to demand you all change if you like using them. But all that said, to me, they are offensive, so i’ll tell you why. They offend me because they’re nearly always about rape. When they’re on pictures of ‘rape’, they’re on those pictures of ‘rape’ that look like those rapes we argue aren’t even the real rape-picture. Sometimes they’re about other things too. All the things they’re about are shitty things.  But it’s like there’s a list of things that people can feel trauma over and no one ever includes some other really obvious ones (war, for example), but no one admits there’ll be other things too, like accidents, arguments, mistakes, medical problems, family problems, etc. I’m certainly not saying that any of these things that are TW’d aren’t horrendous. I’m also not saying that none of these sorts of topics can’t trigger a panic attack, distressing memory or emotional distress. The thing that annoys me, as someone who personally experiences these sorts of trigger-episodes myself (dammit, i shared – i shouldn’t have to btw), is that there are many many things that can do this, not just this narrowly prescribed list of ’triggers’. Things that have ‘triggered’ me… A road sign, feelings of hunger, a cup, a name, a TV quiz, etc… Words themselves, in or out of context, certainly haven’t brought on any of the horrendous feelings in me that just some random things have done. Now of course i don’t speak for everyone, but i imagine there are a lot more people like me who get taken back to their ‘bad place’ by those little things, those incidentals, rather than the explicits. So the offensive thing is that, what? The rest of us can go fuck ourselves? Or only those who can’t read titles, but can read a capital T and a capital W deserve protection? Fuck. That. Shit. And anyway, those of us who’ve experienced these shitty things, we need mollycoddling, do we? All the nope.

So harmful… Yup. Trigger warnings probably harm no individual, i’ll give you that. Well, unless anyone is so triggered by the warning itself that they go on to have an episode. But let’s be honest, that’s pretty unlikely. But i think they’re harmful to our sense of outrage, our sense of shock, our sense of being able to deal with things, our opportunities to learn about awful things and how to stop or spot them. I’m sure there are many individuals who do benefit from them, but that doesn’t automatically make them Good. Some people benefit from taking morphine, but that doesn’t mean it’d be good if it was available for us all, especially if it’s only to stop period pains or whatever. I think if they carry on in the way they’re going, they will become mandatory on some platforms, and then what? We won’t be able to talk about rape at all? Or we’ll need to get permission? Yeah, ok, that might be an extreme result, but at the very least it will become socially unacceptable not to include them. Then if that happens, i’m gonna have to stamp my foot about other things being ‘triggery’, like smells, sounds, names, colours of duvet covers… Then it becomes kinda pointless.

Look, use them if you want to, disagree with me as much as you’d like to and get as much use for them as you do – but i’ll not be using them and until i hear a better argument for their inclusion, i’m going to continue to think they’re patronising, offensive and harmful.


3 thoughts on “Trigger Warning: This Contains Anti-Trigger Warning Rants

    • Thanks for that link. And yes, that’s another danger – people might think that the only things that might trigger someone are words written down or pictures of someone in a dark alley.

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