It goes without saying that a post about trigger warnings is going to need a trigger warning, so please consider this your trigger warning for the following: mentions of sexual violence, swearing, verbal abuse, neuroatypical shaming, and misogynist slurs.
I was watching a YouTube video the other day, one that was just a Let’s Play of an RPG horror game. And while I really enjoyed the game, there was a rape scene. Right at the end, out of nowhere, and with little hint of it before we reached the conclusion, there it was. It was jarring to say the least, but not as jarring as the extra content at the end where in order to completely beat the game, you had to forgive the rapist who raped and murdered your friend.
Maybe this is in-line with your character’s state of mind since she never seemed all that bothered by the death of her classmates, but it made my stomach churn. Then I looked at the comments where people were asking for trigger warnings and saw all the people who mocked the very idea of a trigger warning.
[Trigger Warning: Pussies in the comments.]
[Nut up buttercup, you’ll be alright. You were fine with murder, but rape is too much?]
[In my opinion, if you can’t handle a movie/tv show/video game implying that something like that happened without going into emotional distress, you’ve obviously got some MAJOR psychological issues that you need to seek help for. There’s being sat face to face with your abuser or reliving painful events from your past (just causes for an emotional reaction) and then there’s being oversensitive and overreacting to little details that you pick on in order to victimize yourself.]
So before I go any further, let’s clear the air right now and say that trigger warnings are not bullshit. And if you think they are, then be incredibly thankful for the privilege that reflects. You don’t have to worry about trigger warnings because you don’t have deep-rooted emotional/psychological trauma that can be triggered. Unfortunately, however, the common attitude of randos on the internet can be summed up by Urban Dictionary‘s sneer-worthy definition of trigger warnings, stating that it is:
“A phrase posted at the beginning of various posts, articles, or blogs. Its purpose is to warn weak-minded people who are easily offended that they might find what is being posted offensive in some way due to its content, causing them to overreact or otherwise start acting like a dipshit. Popular on reddit SRS or other places that social justice warriors like to hang out.
Trigger warnings are unnecessary 100% of the time due to the fact that people who are easily offended have no business randomly browsing the internet anyways. As a result of the phrase’s irrelevance, most opinions that start out with this phrase tend to be simplistic and dull since they were made by people ridiculous enough to think that the internet is supposed to cater to people who can’t take a joke.”
Whoever wrote this is ignorant. It shows a flagrant disregard (or ignorance) of how traumatic events affect people and how these events can continue to affect people long after the trauma has passed.
Not only that, but they’re dismissing the pain that people feel simply because they, themselves, don’t feel it. If someone cuts their finger and it hurts, would you dismiss that pain because you can’t feel it? Or, since that’s a very visible pain, what if someone had a headache? Does their headache not count because you can’t feel that pain? If your headaches are only caused by blunt force trauma, but someone else’s headaches are triggered by light, does that mean their headaches aren’t real because they’re affected by something that you’re not?
I’m hugely oversimplifying this, but the fact that this is still a debated issue shows that I need to. To use an example that’s closer to what actually happens online: if you’ve been raped and are triggered by a rape joke, that is valid. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It doesn’t matter if the person who made the rape joke was just trying to be funny (although why one of the most heinous crimes would be funny is beyond me). Being triggered by this rape joke doesn’t mean that you’re weak and it doesn’t mean that you need to “suck it up” or “learn how to deal.”
Let me say two things to the naysayers of trigger warnings. I will be as clear as possible here:
- Just because you do not experience a certain emotion or discomfort does not mean that someone else doesn’t.
- You do not get to dictate how people cope or are affected by their emotions/pasts.
Triggers are not something that people make up to feel special. Triggers are recognized by mental health professionals and warnings about triggers are created to help people who could have a strong emotional response to something, which can cause severe emotional damage to them. We understand and accept that post-traumatic stress disorder exists and that people might have flashbacks as a symptom of it, so why disregard what could help them avoid those flashbacks?
The fact that people who argue against trigger warnings so often use hyperbolic examples shows just how little they understand them. Usually, the arguments go something like: “We’re going to have to put trigger warnings for puppies now because someone was bit when they were a kid. Why not apples? Maybe we should put trigger warnings for apples, too.”
This short-sighted mockery skims over what trigger warnings are often used for. While it’s true that anything can be a trigger, no one is expecting that every trigger that has ever existed is going to have a warning attached to it. According to Geek Feminism Wiki, trigger warnings warn against:
- Actual descriptions of war, like the Vietnam war, or the U.S. operations in Afghanistan.
- Graphic descriptions of or extensive discussion of abuse, especially sexual abuse or torture.
- Graphic descriptions of or extensive discussion of self-harming behavior such as suicide, self-inflicted injuries, or disordered eating.
- Depictions, especially lengthy or psychologically realistic ones, of the mental state of someone suffering abuse or engaging in self-harming behavior.
- Discussion of eating-disordered behavior or body shaming.
The reason that these warnings are put at the beginning of the potentially triggering material is so people who could be deeply and devastatingly affected by this material can be aware of what they’re getting into.
Just as we put warnings about sexually explicit material or violence before television shows and movies, trigger warnings help people to make an informed choice about what media they’re consuming. While there have been arguments about whether the avoidance of triggers is more harmful than helpful, it is generally accepted that exposure to triggering material should be done on a person’s own terms rather than allowing them to be surprised by it.
Another common argument about trigger warnings assumes that having a warning will spoil the content to come for those who have no triggers. While it’s true that having a trigger warning for the second episode of Life Is Strange might have given us a hint of what was going to happen, it wouldn’t have spoiled much.
Trigger warnings tend to be the broad strokes of whatever it is that the warning is on and rarely (if ever) do they give away the specifics of what will happen in the game/movie/show. Even if trigger warnings gave away every detail, the idea that someone’s ability to remain unspoiled somehow trumps a visceral reaction to a traumatic event is beyond my comprehension.
So to sum everything up in three pithy points:
- If you dismiss trigger warnings simply because you’ve never experienced a traumatic event, which has created triggers … You really need to stop and think about the deep effects they can have on other people.
- If you feel that your preferences to experience a story without warnings overrules someone else’s emotional and mental wellbeing … That’s really terrible and you are 100% wrong.
- If you mock people with triggers as if them having to live with their triggers makes them lesser/weaker than you … You can print out this article and shove it right up your ignorant, privileged ass.