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A world accidentally full of triggers
January 29, 2013 3:28 AM   Subscribe

Rhiannon Lucy Coslett, one of the women behind The Vagenda, writes on the phenomenon of the trigger warning.
posted by mippy (101 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now I'm out of the editorializing zone...

I used to be on an LJ community, UK based, that was designed as a 'safe space' for women only - you had to prove you were female to have in. (I have mixed feelings about female-only feminist groups, as I feel it sometimes sends men the message that this conversation is not for them, but this was more designed as a way to allow women to talk about body or relationship issues free of trolls and embarrassment, given that posts were locked. It was possible to post anonymously as well) I joined up in 2004-ish and sometime around 2006 an elaborate titling policy was instigated - a traffic light system indicating whether you were allowed to discuss the content of said post with anyone at all outside the group, and a set of trigger warnings.

I'm not someone who has suffered with an eating disorder, but the vast number of ana/mia groups around Livejournal at that time worried me enough for friends who were. (I think we were a few years away from fat positivism/activism hitting the mainstream in the UK.) It made sense. It also made sense to include prior warnings for certain big, traumatic issues - there are some topics (it isn't important which in particular) which are likely to spark unpleasant memories if I find myself reading about them, and some events in my life where at the time I wanted to avoid everything, ever, related to anything around the issue, and some things, like animal abuse, which I'd just prefer not to let spark images in my head. It seemed polite to indicate when a post included a description or discussion of rape, abortion, or child sexual abuse.

But then the trigger warnings went crazy - people adding 'triggers' because their post contained the word 'mental', or discussed being on a diet, or referenced being catcalled on the street without detailing the insult said. It was difficult, and it hampered discussion, and it made me think of the value of these things - how much can a trigger warning do for a recovering anorexic person when every January billboards and magazines are talking about how going on a diet will make you feel better? It felt a bit over-cautious, and a bit like pissing in a riverbed to cure a drought, and possibly even a little self-congratulatory.

I have never been diagnosed with PTSD, not formally, but I had a period when I had a lot of unpleasant memories and flashbacks surface. It was a family issue, and the biggest 'trigger' for me was seeing displays in card shops around a particular holiday. When my dad died, my mum would get upset not at storylines involving death or funerals, but advertisements with men fishing, as it was a favourite hobby. A friend of mine was talking to me about people in her office getting pregnant a lot at the moment, and how sometimes that reminds her that she really wants a child but medical reasons make it unlikely, and how you can't ask people not to talk about their pregnancies without making it all about you and coming off as an asshole. I went through a difficult time recently, and I deliberately took care in terms of the media I consumed and the books and articles I read, and just as I thought I was feeling fine I ended up sobbing at an advert for Sainsburys - no real obvious connection to anything at all, just a cute ad. The word 'cunt' is less gendered (in fact very rarely used about women unless it is literally denoting the vulval region) in the UK; the word 'spaz' isn't an ableist insult in the US. So the idea of the world being full of 'triggers' struck a chord with me - just as huge/traumatic events in one's life end up being far more mundane than one expected once they actually happen, so too do they effect people in ways that are completely unpredictable and almost impossible to insulate oneself from.
posted by mippy at 3:45 AM on January 29, 2013 [17 favorites]


Now I'm out of the editorializing zone...

College rules here: Both feet have to be out.

But sure. What you're saying seems reasonable. The question is how is everyone else to walk on such eggshells? Obvious "triggers" one can flag, but things which are more personal? That's another thing.

Triggers can spring from anywhere. Revisiting a place, or even getting a sense of it. The odd gait of a stranger in the street; a passing resemblance; a certain time of night. For me it was depictions of hanging or strangulation. You never realise how common they are...

Now I might flag a warning to a link to a hanging, but this:

Ministry of Silly Walks (Trigger alert: odd gait of man).

This seems just taking it too far.
posted by three blind mice at 3:59 AM on January 29, 2013


Living life is about feeling things. All sorts of things. Insulation and numbness is an avoidance of living.
posted by Jimbob at 4:00 AM on January 29, 2013 [15 favorites]


I have really big feet.
posted by mippy at 4:02 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree with most of the article, but I fail to see how Suzanne Moore's hideous comments about trans people were just her "having a laugh". Maybe I'm one of those "no fun" "oversensitive internet police", but I would rather live in a world where my friends don't feel marginalized, ridiculed and hounded for being who they are.
posted by fight or flight at 4:05 AM on January 29, 2013 [18 favorites]


I make that flippant comment, of course, as someone not suffering PTSD. But (and I sincerely hope to be corrected if I'm wrong) I assume the treatment for PTSD involves much more than just trying to get through life avoiding triggers? It seems like a blunt tool.
posted by Jimbob at 4:06 AM on January 29, 2013


I'm torn; on the one hand I respect the rights and feelings of those recovering from traumatic things to not have it take them unawares. Way, way more people have been affected by violence or sexual attacks than we think.

But on the other hand - overdoing the "trigger warnings" can lead to people avoiding talking about such events altogether, and people not talking about sexual attacks, or abuse, can go back to creating a world in which victims are too ashamed to speak out about it when it happens to them - and good Christ we are still at a point when way too many rapes are going unreported, never mind sexual abuse. And if people aren't going to speak out and accuse the perpetrators, then it's gonna happen more and more. And I don't want that either.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 AM on January 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't know what the NHS offer, to be honest. I would imagine, at least for those who aren't involved in disaster or combat situations (there is a charity dedicated to helping ex-servicemen, Combat Stress) that it's CBT-based counselling, and also that the waiting lists will be very, very long.
posted by mippy at 4:08 AM on January 29, 2013


I've been around the internet spaces in question since the term trigger warning came into being, essentially. I found this article fairly offensive (*omg t*). For all of the author's protests that she does not mean to condemn the choices of others, she seems to do just that. For the record, I only really care about the use of trigger warnings in reference to graphic descriptions of violence or abuse. I use it in e/d communities out of respect for others, because I don't think it's fair for *me* to make that choice for *them*. Yes, there are ads for diets everywhere - so what? It's nice to have space away from those messages. Yes, there is tons of fake violence in movies, and real violence IRL - choosing not to watch those movies because I vastly prefer it that way does not mean I'm living in some fantasy world where I don't believe violence happens, because trust me, I know.

In the piece, there seems to be a lot of misdirected anger at being a "delicate little flower" "victim" "gelatinous, wobbly" -- like she is actually still really, really upset at being vulnerable.

I really don't think grief or inability to get pregnant really compare with PTSD. While I recognize the Victor Frankl-ish discourse that everyone's sadness ultimately feels sad, there is a huge difference between events that are traumatic in the sense that they upend your perspective on life, and fight-or-flight events that overwhelm the autonomic nervous system.
posted by decathexis at 4:09 AM on January 29, 2013 [20 favorites]


So, to begin with, this article was apparently written in defense of Suzanne Moore and Julie Bindel, around whom the recent furor regarding trans women happened. Ms. Bindel's column in specific I would classify as utterly indefensible. So there's that.

Second, there is simply no "danger" of twitter, or any other large section of the internet, becoming "sanitized." This is a spectre that I see raised again and again and I find it risible. There will never, ever, be any shortage of people who do not give a shit what other people feel.

Therefore, third, I continue to find objections to trigger warnings mystifying. And I don't even particularly use them! But what is so awful about trying to make the world a nicer place?

Finally, fourth, she doesn't have any research. All she's got is what forums smack to her of. The declarations of unaffected people that trying to be nice or helpful is somehow "insulation and numbness" and "an avoidance of living," assertions made without any evidence stronger than what people use when they ask to be warned about something: what they feel. (Jimbob, there's a difference between "the totality of PTSD treatment options engaged in with a therapist" and "what people do when trying not to actively hurt someone").

Just in general, the relentless hand-wringing over things like trigger warnings and other attempts to be considerate is tiresome and trite, no less so because it frequently accuses its target of the same offenses it commits.
posted by kavasa at 4:10 AM on January 29, 2013 [20 favorites]


Ms. Bindel's column in specific I would classify as utterly indefensible.

kavasa, you may be making the same mistake I (initially) made. Julie Burchill wrote the awful Observer article. I believe Bindel is a friend of Moore's who supported her on Twitter. Not that I'm defending either of them, but I think it's important to place one's anger at the correct door.
posted by fight or flight at 4:13 AM on January 29, 2013


I think a big part of the issue is the expansion of trigger warnings from "this may trigger unpleasant and possibly debilitating memories/flashbacks in people susceptible to such things" to "this may remind you that things you don't like exist", which happened mostly online. (Tumblr, I'm looking at you.)

The world's actually full of trigger warnings- turn on the TV and when a show starts it'll describe the content you're about to see (violence, profanity, nudity, sexual language), or look at the rating for a movie and it'll tell you both a rough maturity level and the reasons for that rating.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:16 AM on January 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


All fair points kavasa. As usual I say the first thought, then start to realize I may well be being an arsehole.

My difficulty is in the applicability of these "safe spaces". It may well be fair enough to have a forum where rules apply to the disussion of defined topics. But that can't possibly apply to the world at large, the world we inhabit on a day-to-day basis. It can't be a good thing if people no longer feel rape or violence is something to be discussed. And it can't be a good thing if everyone retreats to their "safe spaces" and never emerge again.
posted by Jimbob at 4:17 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Safe spaces generally aren't a place one can spend all one's time in, but frankly, if a person doesn't feel like immersing themselves in a culture they find hateful, especially when that culture fucking hates them, who are you or I to tell them not to?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:24 AM on January 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


It might be worth bringing up the ABC Model from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (one of the most common schools of therapy, with a strong evidence base behind it). That says when you experience an emotion, there are three stages

Activating Event
Beliefs about the event
Cognition, which includes your emotional response to the event

If some kinds of event are causing you an emotional disturbance, CBT says the best way to deal with it is to change your Beliefs about the event. Trying to avoid the Activating events isn't that useful, because all kinds of events can be triggers if you haven't changed your beliefs.

But there seems to be a kind of folk psychology that's sprung up around trigger warnings, that seems to think that the best way to cope with trauma is to avoid any "Triggers". This doesn't seem to be supported by any kind of evidence. So, I don't think trigger warnings are as helpful as some people think.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:28 AM on January 29, 2013 [22 favorites]


Hmm. I think it's pretty common to feel upset at being vulnerable. We want to get through things and get over them and get on with our lives, and it's really, really irritating when a chance encounter or a news story brings things up again. It's inconvenient, and emotionally draining.

I'm not sure if I'm pro or anti trigger warnings, on balance. I totally see where they could be needed and I think it's unnecessary to make someone potentially relive events or behavioural patterns without prior warning. But I also think they can cause us to get a little touchy in terms of what we discuss (Pope Guilty's advice is a good one.) If I want to talk about, say, a film where someone got raped, and I know someone who was raped or attacked, then I'm not going to discuss it with them out of courtesy and I'd be careful about linking to anything about it without making the content clear. However, I got attacked and threatened on public transport yesterday, and I was pissed off and shaken, and I wanted to mention it on Twitter - a public forum - because I was pissed off and shaken, and I wouldn't want to feel I had to self-censor because someone else might have been attacked too. (The Everyday Sexism project is wonderful, and depressing, because we realise how universal an experience it is to encounter strangers being arseholes.)

I have no patience for those who see basic linguistic politeness as 'political correctness gone maaaaaad', but I find myself wondering when we decide what's considered traumatic, as a subject. If I want to bitch about my periods or contraception (for example - I don't tend to online as you don't need to know what's going on in my fanjo), do I need to trigger this in case trans friends are reading (as I've heard discussion of such in the presence of trans women referred to as 'cis privilege) or is this suggesting trans women are too 'sensitive' to participate in the cis world?

I really don't think grief or inability to get pregnant really compare with PTSD.
Your experience isn't the same as everybody else's. When everyone seems to be pregnant, and you can't get pregnant yourself, it's pretty traumatizing to see everyone else being 'normal', and not being able to talk about how it makes you feel because it becomes a taboo topic with your pregnant friends. Without a scale against which we can scientifically compare and contrast what level of upset and trauma one is supposed to feel when being affected by specific events, and acertain what someone has to experience before they become eligible for The Medal of Ultimate Wrongdoing, it's unfair to minimise someone's personal suffering because you can't relate to or understand it.
posted by mippy at 4:31 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, I guess all the people who appreciate trigger warnings are a bunch of namby pambies who don't know how to have PTSD correctly, and all the people who use them are mollycoddling them. Thanks for showing us the correct way to have PTSD!

Also I know a black guy who doesn't mind white people throwing the n-word around.
posted by edheil at 4:34 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Word for the day: Hypervigilance
posted by P.o.B. at 4:39 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your experience isn't the same as everybody else's. When everyone seems to be pregnant, and you can't get pregnant yourself, it's pretty traumatizing to see everyone else being 'normal', and not being able to talk about how it makes you feel. Without a scale against which we can scientifically compare and contrast what level of upset and trauma one is supposed to feel when being affected by specific events, it's unfair to minimise someone's personal suffering because you can't relate to or understand it.

I did, in fact, refer to it as "traumatic". But there is a scientific definition of PTSD that does not include sad life events and circumstances. Clinical practice has to use exclusion in order to triage and treat appropriately. Events which cause actual fear of impending death are qualitatively different in the responses they create in the brain.

I really don't think there's any danger that the internet will be sanitized, that people will retreat to safe-space gated communities, that no one will speak of violence ever again, or any of the other false dichotomies that are inevitably trotted out in these discussions.
posted by decathexis at 4:41 AM on January 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Putting aside the reasoned argument mippy gave in their first comment above, the worrying about safe spaces and trigger warnings often feels like the more general worrying about political correctness: too much focus on the (hypothetical) harm they might do while ignoring the benefits they bring.

E.g. the idea that everybody would retreat to their safe space and not emerge ever again. Is that really likely or even possible? Even on the internet?
posted by MartinWisse at 4:43 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


No it's not likely MartinWisse - but I was rather bemused at the article talking about how Twitter was apparnetly no-longer considered a safe space. Was it ever? Who made it one? Why did anyone have that impression? One gets the impression some people were treating Twitter as a safe space then were shocked when something offensive occured on it - presumably those people are now looking for a safer alternative.
posted by Jimbob at 4:48 AM on January 29, 2013


decathexis - I see what you mean now. I have bipolar disorder, I should know better given how often I've had to explain to people that I'm neither a mentalist nor someone who just feels a bit sad sometimes.
posted by mippy at 4:48 AM on January 29, 2013


I think Twitter is a user-controlled experience to an extent. I can decide who to follow, and I've blocked some accounts so that they don't get retweeted into my timeline (Sickipedia, for example). The only 'offensive' experiences that I've encountered are when someone's retweeted something I find tasteless or (not in my experience but in others) when someone's followers start having a go at someone for saying 'Hey, X is a bit rubbish/offensive/unfunny'.

Compared with web fora - even Ravelry, the knitting community, has groups dedicated to on-board drama* - it's easy to exclude bullshit, assuming you aren't a public figure that the internet has decided is fair game for criticism.


by far the most vicious group I've ever encountered online were the Livejournal communities for 'lolitas' - those girls who dress up in Victorian/gothic/frilly/Japanese-inspired fashion. Weirdly vitriolic people.
posted by mippy at 4:57 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think trigger warnings are a fine thing in theory, but sometimes they turn into "every topic that could possibly be upsetting must have a trigger warning" and half the conversation is about whether things were appropriately warned enough. As a general rule, I quit being involved in those spaces because their commenting rules -- though fine and good for many people -- are not what I like out of my internet space right now.

(I admit I do roll my eyes if the post has a trigger warning for TOPIC and then every single comment is also required to repeat the trigger warning for TOPIC.)
posted by jeather at 5:18 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do not have PTSD and haven't worried about triggers for anything other than my literal seizures, so I haven't felt like I have much of a dog in the fight about trigger warnings.

Then I had a baby. I never experienced any birth trauma or PPD. But suddenly... descriptions of maternal/birth/infant trauma were so deeply upsetting to me as to make me break out in a cold sweat. My heart would race and I'd need to turn away from it. And it was in places I never expected. Some things you can see it coming, but then there are other times when you discover the novel about Dutch traders in Japan has a subplot about enslaving pregnant women and killing their infants...

I absolutely appreciate having this pointed out to me and it's easy enough for me to extend the same courtesy to others. It's not about sanitizing it's about providing information upfront so the reader can make an informed choice and not stumble blindly into something they wish they'd been warned about.
posted by sonika at 5:23 AM on January 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think it's good manners to put trigger warnings around obviously disturbing material of a violent nature, or to follow the house-rules of closed, invitation only communities of interest for people who have had particular kinds of traumatic experience.

I don't understand why there's such a push-back against politeness, frankly. If you think that something might upset someone, then it is polite to warn them of it.

On the other hand, when I see a passive-aggressive request for a trigger warning (really a rebuke for not putting it in), outside of that kind of moderated safe-space I find it annoying. The real message being communicated there is: "I'm more versed in a particular set of bien-pensant in-group rituals and conventions then you are"
posted by atrazine at 5:26 AM on January 29, 2013 [12 favorites]


Math speaks against the existence of a safe internet place. The number/variety of participants, the number/variety of issues, the number/variety of triggers mean you can hardly imagine a topic that won't offend someone.

I am so pissed at myself for even saying that. I suck!

If people define themselves by their shortcomings and/or tragedies, OR if they have trigger hypersensitivities, what the hell are they doing on the internet? It's not like it has a reputation for excessive civility. Nope... the SAFEST place is inside your own mind and second is at the therapist's office. Internet sites aren't on the list. Maybe an email address, but a web site? Asking for trouble.... like playing with a lighter when fueling up the car.

(This incidentally, is from a man who used to go through National Geographic every month and edit out (exacto knife) offending pictures and texts for his very sensitive, very prickly, animal loving angel of a wife, now deceased. I'd have stomped bunnies for her! Oh, shit. Wrong metaphor. )
posted by FauxScot at 5:37 AM on January 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


That article's a mess.
posted by rtha at 5:49 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm in favor of folding efforts to add trigger warnings into tagging or indexing or whatever it is you're using to label your content, and then encouraging readers to search and filter on your tags. If you're writing about rape, add tags for "rape" or "rapists, pirates as" or whatever is appropriate. That would be useful to everyone and encourage consistency. On MetaFilter, you ought to be able to (and usually can, I think) open a post, scan the Tags list, and know whether the post is about rape before you begin reading the post. I guess you can also filter on tags, right? So you should be able to save people from a lot of common triggers on MetaFilter just by tagging consistently.
posted by pracowity at 5:54 AM on January 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I was working through years and years of traumatic abuse, I belonged to several online support boards. In that context, I found trigger warnings very helpful, even if they erred on the side of caution. I was emotionally stronger on some days than others because I was actively working through those years of pain, which meant that the pain/shame/anger/rage/guilt/despair was so easily brought to the surface. And that pain, folks, was sometimes debilitating. It was an inability to get out of bed, or a fear of leaving the house, or just bursting into tears in public (humiliating, humiliating, humiliating).

So I appreciated being able to gird my loins, as it were, to read whatever someone else was sharing that included specific and upsetting details about their experience. On my worse days, I could simply avoid them, particularly if I had to function at work or in classes. Being able to add a trigger warning to those particular posts actually enabled some of my fellow survivors to discuss those things without feeling as if they were "inflicting" them on potentially fragile-at-the-moment others. Whether someone read them or not was entirely up to them, and the consequences theirs as well. It allowed for some personal responsibility on both sides. Knowing what was coming allowed me to put those therapy sessions to work in real life circumstances.

Now, there's always the chance of taking it too far (and these days, "chance" seems to mean "unavoidable outcome"), and warning people about everything under the sun is ridiculous. But in context, and with the idea of courtesy as a goal, it was valuable.
posted by custardfairy at 5:59 AM on January 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


a 'safe space' for women only - you had to prove you were female to have in

Even that could be a trigger for some folks. It makes me twitch anyway, knowing how some womens' groups are about transwomen. And "prove you're female" always strikes me as kind of invasive and ominous.
posted by Foosnark at 6:02 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can someone post the articles that prompted this? I'm a little confused.
posted by quodlibet at 6:03 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure we;ve discussed triggers on the grey now and again. I have to admit I didn't know what the word meant the first few times I saw it and had to look it up - [warning: gore] seems to work pretty well here.
posted by mippy at 6:05 AM on January 29, 2013


Foosnark - this was the mid-00s before trans rights were as visible as they are today. From what I remember, you just had to have a journal that clearly belonged to a woman, and I don't think the distinction was made in terms of cis and trans. I've just looked it up and it seems to be based on an old BBS, so who knows.

I have similar feelings to you, but it was INVALUABLE for being able to discuss anything for reproductive health or other sensitive issues in a way that was a) private b) didn't just poll those you knew c) led to comments like 'omg don't trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn't die amirite?' which were depressingly common on LJ comms at the time. A lot of the UK-based female-dominated boards tend to be places like Mumsnet, which can be a very funny and witty board but is a mostly child-centric site, which isn't a good fit for everyone.

The weird thing about that comm is that 90% of the relationship questions were about polyamory. Still not sure whether that was the skew of the membership or if it just seemed a more understanding place to talk about 'alternative' 'lifestyles'.
posted by mippy at 6:11 AM on January 29, 2013


I have PTSD, from sexual assault. I believe strongly in free speech. I also believe strongly in civil discourse. The weird thing, is that the triggers are almost random--that explicit references to rape might not do it to me, or even depictions of rape centered on circumstances close to what happened to me, but depending on the day, and how I am feeling--other things can trigger me. That's the worst thing about PTSD, is the landmine quality of the triggers. So, some days seeing snowshoes at an antique store, fine, sometimes it is a complete mess. I am not sure that it is reasonable for people to know how to interact to that randomness. I don't know if other people react to it the same way. I appreciate some people have the one-to-one correlation, but I am not sure you can put a warning on everything. (Storytime--one of the things that triggers me is seeing copies of a book called Tom Brown's School Days, browsing with a friend in one of my favourite used bookstores a few weeks ago, I saw a copy of it, and had to swallow back vomit, and try really hard not to flee immediately, i was having a good day, and so things turned out okay, but I could have needed to flee the story, and maybe not go back there, if I was having a bad day--is it reasonable for me to expect no one to have copies of the book anywhere?) (Storytime two--I cannot be called by my last name only or be called by Sir--in places where I write, or among friends, they know this, and I am very polite but I have hung out with conservatives and evangelicals where the last name or the sir is a matter of respect and bon homie. But that homo-social bon homie is it's own trigger, and so I have been very clear that that is off limits. I have censored people for my own comfort, on line and irl.)

I do not know what the difference between these two is, but no one knows unless I tell them that last names or sir is a trigger, how do we work the specifics of that?
posted by PinkMoose at 6:16 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The whole time I read that article I couldn't help but think "This person needs to learn to accept help from other people."
posted by Quonab at 6:16 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I absolutely mistook Bindel for Burchill, woops! I even googled to make sure, but clearly didn't look closely enough at the search results I got.

And yeah, if a community has rules or mores you don't like, absolutely don't hang out there. But I pretty much think that the worrying about the existence of warnings - or "taking them too far" - is overwrought and silly. And at the end of the day, people seem to mean "I wish to say whatever I like in public without risk of disapprobation," again without realizing that they're asking for much the same thing that they're denying others.
posted by kavasa at 6:19 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


PinkMoose - male teachers in the UK are referred to as 'sir', it's not too common outside of that here unless you're referring to someone like Sir Ian McKellen (who would probably go by Ian in conversation). I don't know how much drama set in schools here you've seen, but does that make it hard to watch British things with a school setting?
posted by mippy at 6:21 AM on January 29, 2013


Yeah, although I do.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:23 AM on January 29, 2013


why trigger warnings are important

(The epilepsy comment is an interesting one - I find certain flickering light patterns trigger my migraines - I couldn't review a gig I was sent to as a student reporter because they put on rapid flashing blue and green lights and I had to go home - but it doesn't mean anything with a strobe warning will set one off. Flash photography en masse in news reports from press conferences are more likely, but the news adds a caution about these.)
posted by mippy at 6:32 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do not know what the difference between these two is, but no one knows unless I tell them that last names or sir is a trigger, how do we work the specifics of that?

A configurable content filtering system would let you avoid some things. You'd certainly never have to see a post with a certain word in it if you didn't want to, though there's no way you're going to protect yourself from the word in linked content. You'd have to be the king and have someone test all your content for you.
posted by pracowity at 6:38 AM on January 29, 2013


I do not know what the difference between these two is, but no one knows unless I tell them that last names or sir is a trigger, how do we work the specifics of that?

To a certain extent, "we" - the internet - can't. You can tell people in your personal life, online and off. I have certain things I don't like to read about or otherwise encounter if I can help it (though they don't rise to the level of "trigger warning", as I understand it), so I do my best to avoid them.

The people I see who are most likely to be all "We can't put trigger warnings on the whole world!" also seem to be the ones most likely to want to say whatever they want without consequences, and to object to any request to be sort of common-sense polite and thoughtful as a quashing of their free speech. People who seem, like you, PinkMoose, to have serious though uncommon triggers are thoughtful and self-aware in ways that "no trigger warnings ever for anything!" crowd refuse to acknowledge as existing.

The use of the NSFW tag on much of the internet seems to be a given, and I don't recall ever seeing anyone argue seriously that using it means we're just mollycoddling those weaklings who have the poor sense to work in a place where they could get in trouble for accidentally seeing boobs on their work computer. Use of the NSFW warning is seen as basic courtesy, not as the mighty boot of the oppressor keeping you from posting a link to a site that might be showing boobs.
posted by rtha at 6:46 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


But what is so awful about trying to make the world a nicer place?

Well, for starters, because this argument is just as unreasonable as the argument from the opposite end that you referenced (the internet will become sanitized, etc.).

Trigger warnings are not about making the world a nicer place -- let's at least chuck that piece of naiveté out the window, shall we? While I have no doubt that their origins lurk in some warm, welcoming women's studies sort of environment, they have become, if not a silencing tool, then at the very least, a tool to muffle discourse that a very, very small percentage of people find upsetting/bothersome.

Trigger warnings are too frequently used online not for victims/survivors, but for (god help us all) "allies" who don't want to be faced with what they feel is the inherent oppression of stories about sexual abuse, or violence, or whatever gives them the overwhelming feels on a particular day.

That is denial. So sure, go have fun, but don't even try to convince me it's noble or honorable or "nice".

Talk about privilege -- the way feelings are prioritized in some swaths of the internet is mind blowing. You feel sad? Congratulations! You had an emotion! It does not, by its existence, merit exclusivity and priority over my feelings, or the feelings of that dude over there.

Or maybe we just pay for everyone on the internet to have CBT and learn that feelings are not the be all and end all.
posted by gsh at 6:54 AM on January 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow, I've literally only seen "trigger warning" as a joke on Twitter, because then someone posts like, I dunno, Justin Bieber or something. I must follow the wrong people.
posted by Mooseli at 6:56 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


This article bugs me because it fits neatly into the whole "a woman says this isn't sexist so it's okay!" tradition of take-downs performed on activist projects. A woman who has PTSD says that trigger warnings and internet feminism smack of "victimhood"....and a thousand right-wingers yell we knew it all along!

The thing is, there's stuff about tumblr and stuff about twitter and stuff about trigger warnings that I really dislike; there are certain cultural patterns (described, strangely enough, by Camille Paglia, a horrible person) about how things go from 'basic' to 'high' or 'classic' to 'decadent" or excessive...and certainly ideas and practices among radicals follow that course, with something useful coming in, becoming widely used and then becoming wildly omnipresent before fading out. (Five years from now, someone will come up with an incontrovertible way to prove that trigger warnings are ciscentric or privileged or something, and everyone will stop using them overnight.) That's how things go in activist cultures - I've been on this particular train-ride a lot of times.

But there's no question in my mind that even the most excessive trigger-warning-user is a more politically-engaged, more trustworthy person than their critics - as I say, I've been around a lot of PC thugs for a long time, and they've always turned out to be more right than wrong, and every time I was all "this is too PC, stop whining, people" I realized later that I had been wrong and foolish. I'll always take every kind of PC thuggery over the careerist journos who know they can get lots of clicks by criticizing feminists, not least because the careerist journos are sneakily advancing the right's agenda while pretending that's not what they are doing.

I think it's really important to consider this article as part of a discourse, not just as an argument made in a vacuum. It is written in the service of the larger "we [meaning people of relative privilege, whether that's white folks, men, straight folks, cis folks, rich folks,etc] should be able to do and say precisely what we want without thinking about how it affects others, because other people just need to man up." Over the past twenty years (jesus god I have been doing activist crap a long time) I have read about fifty million versions of this particular article, a number of which use the same old "I am a woman and I say that feminism is about whining" routine. It's not new and it's not neutral.

Also, the way that this article is a backhanded justification for that Bindel piece is a disgrace and should never be forgotten.
posted by Frowner at 7:02 AM on January 29, 2013 [14 favorites]


My view is that explicit trigger warnings shouldn't be generally necessary if you use good and accessible Web writing style anyway, that includes:

* descriptive link text
* descriptive page/post headlines and subject lines
* good leading paragraphs
* appropriate and useful post tagging.

If you tell me up-front what to expect, I'm both able to make a decision about whether to click through, and I'm more likely to click through. (Yes, there are exceptions.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:09 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think trigger warnings are a fine thing in theory, but sometimes they turn into "every topic that could possibly be upsetting must have a trigger warning" and half the conversation is about whether things were appropriately warned enough.

I have rarely seen this happen. I've heard this argument a lot, but I don't know that I see it all that often. The one exception I can think of was when I was at a dinner with a lot of people and said something to a friend next to me about my divorce (all I did was use the word "divorce") when someone across from me, who was way too old for such behavior, covered her head with her arms because she couldn't handle hearing about it. I don't think that trigger warnings can or should be used to keep people from telling their own stories. I think it's an intellectual fear more than a real problem.

I guess my experience of this has been as follows: it's not that I expect anyone to make the world safer for me. It's that, when I know what I am dealing with, or about to deal with--what room I am about to walk into, literally and figuratively--I am better able to make my own choices about moderating and taking responsibility for my own emotional responses. I don't think trigger warnings necessarily imply that the ultimate goal is to keep people from having bad feelings. It's to give us more information about the feelings we might have, and maybe even practice handling them in new and different ways.
posted by liketitanic at 7:25 AM on January 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Here is a thing: as a white person who has spent their whole life on the fringes of the middle class, I grew up without learning certain kinds of manners. And people like me, when we enter worlds where certain kinds of manners are normal and expected, sometimes find those manners confining, and thus assume that the manners must be wrong.

For instance: as a white person, 'diversity' and 'multiculturalism' were always optional. I could engage with them if I wanted, but they did not constitute my identity. Because I grew up in a white supremacist society, I grew up with a lot of unconscious messages about how, basically, whiteness was at the top of the heap, so I never had to learn the emotional give and take of being one among many. I learned that white experiences were always central and other experiences were peripheral; white was the norm. I add that I grew up in a left-liberal household and sought out as much 90s multiculturalism as I could find - this does not undercut the way whiteness was central in my life.

So there are all kinds of things that are just manners if you don't grow up in the privileged category: you don't assume that your language, your history, your experience are the norm instead of one among many; you don't assume that when you listen to someone else's experience it is a "minority" experience unlike your "majority" experience; you don't assume that somehow you are being very good and generous and cultured to listen to the 'minority' experience. You learn to be one among many, and you learn to be courteous to others about that manyness.

So for example, because I grew up as a fat kid with some health and embodiment issues, it is very easy and natural for me to respect other people's body concerns. I have a tricky hip; you have a limp because you never could afford to get your ankle treated right - considering that stuff is normal to me, because I experienced it.

Trigger warnings and various kinds of 'political correctness' are manners - not manners in some kind of shallow, optional way, but manners at the highest level, an art of being in the world, a philosophy of being in the world. When you are really in the world, there is a grace and generosity of spirit - the ability to consider what other people need, the recognition of their experiences, a mutuality, a recognition of others' full humanity - and that is an utterly different category of experience from the anxious, rights-based "why can't I say what I want?" routine. I certainly fall back into 'why can't I say what I want" plenty often, but when I compare that with the ease and truly the grace, the state of grace when I am in flow with the being of others...well, it truly is a fall.
posted by Frowner at 7:42 AM on January 29, 2013 [23 favorites]


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.

This kind of "why can't you people take a joke?" statement really raises my hackles. It's the defensive reaction of every bigot, every privileged group, when called out for behaving with insensitivity. Your ridiculous need to feel "safe" and "not be traumatized" is infringing on my fun! What's this "political correctness" that's threatening my God-given right to say whatever I want, however I want, regardless of how it affects anyone else? So, uh, fuck this shit.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 7:52 AM on January 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


I really don't understand why some people get so worked up about other people using trigger warnings. You can ignore them. They don't take much time to read. They've been put there for someone else, and you don't have to worry about them.

When my PTSD was at its worst, I didn't spend much time online expect in small communities that used trigger warnings. I found it to be really helpful. I sometimes wished the entire internet provided warnings, but I also wished I hadn't gotten abused for all those years. Time travelling to change my past seems more likely than getting everyone on the internet to post warnings about when they're going to threaten to rape someone, so.
posted by a hat out of hell at 7:52 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The whole time I read that article I couldn't help but think "This person needs to learn to accept help from other people."

Congratulations! Is it your first time telling sexual assault victims that they're doing it wrong, or is this a hobby?

What really came through in this article, I thought, was the immense US/UK cultural divide regarding trauma ("two nations, divided by a common language"). The author is clearly horrified by the feeling-centric model prevalent in the U.S., particularly its emphasis on public, shared emotional processing. To a lot of English people, with their emphasis on personal dignity, it comes off as terribly threatening. But because so many feminist websites insist on Speakingl For Women, women who don't conform to the model feel they have no choice but to push back. If everyone could accept that different people---including women---are different, the temperature of these discussions would lower considerably.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:14 AM on January 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


This article does not condemn all trigger warnings, nor the attempt to shelter a person from something upsetting.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:25 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Basically I haven't seen an argument against the use of trigger warnings that couldn't be rephrased as "I'm a dick who doesn't give a shit about anybody but myself" without losing a single bit of meaning or information, and that includes posts in this thread.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:26 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


good article, thanks for posting
posted by Bwithh at 8:26 AM on January 29, 2013


I've got no reason to be bothered by anyone using trigger warnings, but outside a forum that explicitly requires them I think they should be viewed as a courtesy, not an expectation.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:39 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Trigger warnings and various kinds of 'political correctness' are manners - not manners in some kind of shallow, optional way, but manners at the highest level, an art of being in the world, a philosophy of being in the world.

Nicely put. I've often thought that we never really needed the term "political correctness" when we have words like "respect," "politeness" and "decency." In fact, the expression often provides an excuse for people to pose their bigotry as maverick-type behavior. On the other hand, I do believe that it can become excessive in the other direction, at times, so I usually reserve use of the term "political correctness" for such occasions.
posted by Edgewise at 8:45 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: just a vast, pompous expanse of skittish hacks dealing in whispered platitudes.
posted by Edgewise at 8:46 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


'll always take every kind of PC thuggery over the careerist journos who know they can get lots of clicks by criticizing feminists

If you're unfamiliar with The Vagenda, the author of the piece identifies very much as a feminist. Whether you disagree with that or not, it's her self-identified position. TV's focus is mainly the representations of women in media for women - which I guess may be seen as some as a very privileged area of feminist discourse, if only because Grazia is aimed at the kind of reader who would merrily spend £245 on a neon yellow jumpsuit.

And the UK/US comparison is an interesting one, and probably says a lot about our cultural ideas about therapy - here therapy is seen as for the mentally unwell, not for those who wish to maintain their mental health. I'm not sure how much of this is because of our healthcare system - you have to be essentially in danger to be swiftly referred to talking therapies under the NHS (at least in London - I've had quick referrals in my small home town and access to decent self-management care in the poor area of Manchester I lived in at the time) and private sessions are very expensive - I don't know if health insurance makes provision of therapy more common and more cheap than the private equivalents in the US.
posted by mippy at 8:47 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


NB while I like The Vagenda a lot - women's magazines are prime snarking fodder - I've never got on with the author's pieces for 'regular' publications. This one, however, was interesting if not one I wholly agree with. I'm not sure how much NS readers who don't spend an inordinate amount of time on fora and leftie blogs would recognise the concept of 'trigger warnings', but to see that position from a leftist publication is an interesting one.
posted by mippy at 8:52 AM on January 29, 2013


If you're unfamiliar with The Vagenda, the author of the piece identifies very much as a feminist. Whether you disagree with that or not, it's her self-identified position. TV's focus is mainly the representations of women in media for women - which I guess may be seen as some as a very privileged area of feminist discourse, if only because Grazia is aimed at the kind of reader who would merrily spend £245 on a neon yellow jumpsuit.

Why yes, I would barely consider that "feminism" at all, no matter how someone "identifies". I mean, look at some of the people who "identify" as anti-racist, for example, while deriding actual policies that create racial justice. Consider that poll from the 90s about how something like 90% of Americans "identified" as environmentalists.

As any society which elected Margaret Thatcher should know, "a woman doing something" does not match up with "feminist".

I do think that the cultural angle is interesting - but nobody gets to write a clickbait article in a major publication just to say "Americans feel like this and the British feel like that, isn't that interesting?" There are ways to explore a charged topic like PTSD and its treatment that do not say "I, a famous and somewhat important white woman, feel that internet discourse around PTSD is whiny". That's a political position, no matter how much hand-waving you do about how "oh, other people can feel however they like".
posted by Frowner at 8:59 AM on January 29, 2013


I wish instead of "trigger warning" it had a more substantial warning. So nothing like trigger warning just tagged onto an article, instead something more like NSFW or the like syaing warning discussion of rape or warning graphic discussion of violence etc. I know you can't possibly tag everything with warnings as well, so it should be limited to the big ones.

For example I had a coworker who was deathly afraid of frogs. Impossible phobia level of fear and he was a pretty big guy so you wouldn't expect someone to be that scared of something like a frog. I didn't know they were afraid and saw a frog lying near the road on the way back from lunch and picked it up to move it to a better place nearer to a damp shady marshy area near where I worked. Said coworker met me on the way back and asked what I was carrying. Not thinking anything of it I opened my hands and the frog jumped out and hit them on the chest. They went white and nearly catatonic for a while and then I found out about their fear of frogs. I don't think people should cater to phobias and things when marking trigger warning articles, but should worry more about violent events.
posted by koolkat at 9:26 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


'Famous' is pushing it - she's not even Julie Bindel level notoriety. (Good luck finding someone on the streets of Wigan who've heard of JB, of either flavour.)

I think given that a recent Netmums survey said that 7 out of 10 women feel that feminism 'is no longer needed', and how depressingly common it is to hear someone say something fully in line with even feminism 101 and then qualify it with 'but I'm not a feminist or anything', it's difficult to draw the line. Not everyone comes to feminism through activism, or through reading bell hooks after seeing her referenced in their A-level textbooks, or through local discussion groups (which holy hell did not exist where I lived, a place where girls commonly had children very young because the options for young women were, if not nonexistent, then poorly signposted), or because they didn't understand why the girls weren't allowed to play with the toy soldiers when they were in primary school, or through experiencing an event that somehow raises consciousness. Just as not all feminists are left-wing, black feminists, or radicals.

Some women realise they are feminist when they pick up a magazine aimed at them which invites us to consider that one woman is 'dangerously curvy' and that a similar woman is 'painfully thin' and decide that that is dangerous bullshit. And that's fine. Anything that sparks someone to question the status quo is a good thing. It prevents 'feminism' from being a dusty, academic concept espoused by white, middle-class academics who are all secretly lesbians (obviously) and makes it a real, living thing that exists out in the world.
posted by mippy at 9:28 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


After all, Julie Bindel is a radical feminist, who classes herself as 'politically lesbian'. One would therefore assume that she would ally with trans brothers and sisters, but apparently she very much does not.
posted by mippy at 9:30 AM on January 29, 2013


mippy - with respect and it's obviously a topic you know a lot about and care a lot about, but you are threadsitting.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:41 AM on January 29, 2013


Any human living even a few years of life will eventually be subjected to traumatic events and welcomed to the harsh reality that life can/will offer. No doubt the internet has its trolls and I fully support community guidelines and enforcement of standards. Yet the whole "trigger warning" labelling is blown way out of proportion. The world isnt covered in bubble wrap. If anything as long as articles are properly labelled an individual can choose to read or move along.

If anything those who support the whole trigger warning labelling probably should seek support in order to confront these issues instead of desiring bubble wrappes internet and living with the baggage that they are carrying
posted by handbanana at 9:48 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I continue to find objections to trigger warnings mystifying. And I don't even particularly use them! But what is so awful about trying to make the world a nicer place?

Well, but there are two kinds of objections to trigger warnings. There's the lulzy "oh, you want to be babied? What if I want a trigger warning for trigger warnings, huh, huh?" stuff, yes, but there are also more thoughtful critiques, made by people who are all in favour of making the world a nicer place but don't feel that trigger warnings serve that purpose (see, this or this or this). It's a big and complex area, and the divide isn't between 'people who care' and 'people who don't'.

I know what it's like, to be triggered. I've had (and to an extent, still have) to deal with that, after-effects of experiences in an abusive relationship. And I don't think people should have to trot out their trauma cred in order to participate in these conversations, but for me at least it is easier to describe my perspective by touching on those experiences and their after-effects briefly.

So, here's how two elements of that abusive relationship played out:

Among other forms of abuse, my former partner once held me against a wall with his hand around my throat, and once threatened to harm himself and me if I didn't go back to him. At the time I didn't find either of those experiences all that frightening (in that they were awful but happening as part of such a constellation of awfulness they didn't stand out), but in the ten years since, as my brain has processed just how serious they were, I have become very sensitive to particular specific things that remind me of either. When anyone touches my neck or throat I have a shut-down-panic reaction that feels like someone set off a fire alarm inside my head; when a friend described her sister's ex-boyfriend repeatedly driving past her house, I felt so sick and dizzy and breathless that it was about all I could do to get home and curl up shaking on the sofa. It's like being right back in that moment, only this time with full perspective about just how dangerous it was; it's like every nerve in your body screaming "UNSAFE UNSAFE UNSAFE!", only this time it isn't a specific person or thing that's unsafe, it's the entire world. And you're back there, you're experiencing it all over again, and you can't leave. It is an awful, terrible experience, and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

So when I say that I don't much like trigger warnings, it isn't because I don't take triggers seriously. Believe me, I take triggers seriously.

My problem with trigger warnings is that they are sometimes/often used:

- too vaguely ("Warning: triggery", "Here's an interesting blog post by so-and-so [TW]"), often in the well-intentioned-but-mistaken belief that triggers are an objective property of the thing itself rather than something unique to individuals and their relationship with their past experience. Most obviously, the problem with this is that it makes the warning largely useless, because it does not in fact give readers the heads-up that the writer believes it's giving (unless you know enough about the circles that writer moves in to be able to say to yourself "okay, in this context that probably means it's a discussion of rape or violence", and even then... not very specifically).

- with a poor understanding of how triggers work (the above, plus "triggery for survivors of rape/body-shaming/domestic violence"). Yes, it is undoubtedly true that if X awful thing has happened to you, reading about X awful thing happening to someone else might trigger that panic reflex. And you might not want to read about X horrible thing anyway, in which case fair warning is useful. But... triggers, unlike trigger warnings, don't fit into neat categories. I can watch a TV character being picked up by the throat and slammed into a wall just like I was and it doesn't bother me, but if a friend reaches over to adjust my collar or touch my necklace, I am panicked as anything. Someone I know was abused as a child and could discuss child abuse without distress in their professional life, but couldn't look at pictures of people kissing. Triggers work like that. You don't get "Trigger warning: first three bars of 'Yellow Submarine'", "Trigger warning: that shirt he used to wear", "Trigger warning: someone calling you 'baby'."

And I'm not arguing that we should warn for everything, of course. But I also don't think we're really helping to understand and empathise with (other) victims of trauma if we have a blunt understanding of how triggers work, and I think we risk taking agency away from the already-victimised if we decide what should and shouldn't trigger someone who suffered X thing, which is often how I feel when I come across such warnings. "This post is about abusive relationships," - great, now I'm forewarned and can decide if I want to deal with that, or whether I might want to stop reading at a particular point. "Triggery discussion of abusive relationships" - don't you tell me what I can and can't handle, random blogger.

- to signify in-group status rather than to warn - "look at all the things I warned for or called someone out for not warning for, because I am enlightened enough to realise that these might be triggering!" And the redundant warning, "Here's a really interesting discussion of how rape is treated in various legal systems [TW:rape]", just to be sure the right language is used to warn people. Sometimes it feels well-intentioned but clueless. Other times it feels like the warner is kind of... using your trauma as a trophy to demonstrate their more-progressive-than-thou status in a social performance, which can be really quite annoying, to put it mildly.

- to pathologise people's reactions to their own trauma. I don't have PTSD, luckily; I have the occasional panic-reaction to a trigger, and am fortunate enough that this is occasional and that it doesn't severely impact on my life. But in many circles, especially online ones, trigger = PTSD and people who experience reactions like mine = PTSD sufferers. (This is one reason I'm wary about using the term 'trigger', although it's the best term I can think of for the actual thing, so I'll stick with it.) I think any attempt to decrease the stigma attached to PTSD and help people with it is great, but it would be even greater if we could do that while still understanding the full complex spectrum of people's reactions to trauma, and not assuming that anyone who is triggered by anything ever is a PTSD sufferer. People have a right to define their own experiences as they choose, and (speaking for myself) it is annoying as fuck when self-declared allies diagnose people like you with a psychological disorder you don't consider yourself to have, in the name of empowering you. I don't think 'trigger warning' leads inevitably to this just by definition, but it does seem to happen an awful lot.

- and by the less well-intentioned, trigger warnings can be used to shut down conversation, or to create a hierarchy of trauma where A, B and C count as worthy of trigger warnings but D and E do not ("no, that's just upsetting, it's not a trigger like this other thing!"), or as a get-out-of-jail-free card ("hey, I warned for triggery content, you can't object to anything after that warning now!"), or to titillate rather than genuinely warn ("warning, chapters 7 to 25 are REALLY triggery! My beta reader couldn't even finish it! If you've ever experienced anything really traumatic, you won't be able to handle this!"). But I do think most of the time it is well-intentioned, just... not always so useful.

I don't think trigger warnings are a case of things Going Too Far, because I don't think it is possible to Go Too Far in the name of consideration for others. I do think that they are sometimes a case of things going off in the wrong direction.

There are those who find trigger warnings very useful, I don't deny that. I would never tell people not to use them or not to appreciate them. We all process things differently; what feels to me like condescending, disempowering cluelessness might feel to someone else like well-intentioned compassion. But it would be really nice if we could have a discussion about this without it turning into "real trauma survivors think X" or "I care about trauma survivors more than you do."
posted by Catseye at 9:56 AM on January 29, 2013 [42 favorites]


Catseye is wise and speaks truth.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:02 AM on January 29, 2013


On preview: what Catseye said. But, I might as well post my own stuff as well.

I really don't understand why some people get so worked up about other people using trigger warnings. You can ignore them. They don't take much time to read. They've been put there for someone else, and you don't have to worry about them.

That's not really the issue, though. See the experience mippy described upthread, where a specific online community became gummed up by ever-increasing trigger warnings - not just the warnings themselves, but also the expectation that everyone else in that community needed to automatically agree to ever-broadening definitions of what constituted material which would require a trigger warning. It began from the perfectly reasonable place of warning people that a post may contain a graphic description of certain violent acts, but then collapsed into a morass of warning people that posts would talk about grief or dieting or whatever else.

Where is the line between where we should reasonably expect people to warn others about certain kinds of content, and where we can't reasonably expect people to do the same? The vast majority of us would agree that graphic depictions of sexual violence ought to require a warning, but things get fuzzier from there. It's made more complicated because the phrase "trigger warning" itself is tied into an idea of PTSD, but it's not really being used in a clinical or technical sense.

And then you have koolkat's frog example, where someone has an acute, sincere, painful reaction to something most of us would find mundane. I would hate to cause anyone pain, whether it was over frogs or something more foreseeable. But, does the general public have a duty to announce when they are going to bring up frogs? No. The friends and co-workers of the frog-phobic person would have such a duty, but the general public couldn't be expected to know that someone somewhere has an extremely painful reaction to the topic.

So, what's left in the middle?

Most people will never encounter a truly problematic version of the trigger warning in real life. This is an internet thing. Maybe I've been fortunate/tasteful in my internet choices, but I've seen very few examples of trigger warnings run amok.

Still, the question remains: what is the limit, and why? I can think of some things which ought to require a warning when bringing them up. I can think of other things which would not. If someone thinks that a topic should require a warning for the general public, but I disagree, what is the framework in which I would be expected to politely disagree? Or, once one blog reader or passerby remarks that, say, masks are frightening, then from that day forward all references to masks must always be preceded by a trigger warning?

Going broader, how does it affect how we shape our own thoughts and arguments when we're constantly reframing our discussion to avoid certain topics? What happens when a concrete solution to a real problem because a question of ever-evolving manners a construction of pain-oriented identity? I'm reminded of Rebecca West's complaint that the radicals of her day often seemed too much in awe of impotence. When I see a transition from the original, constructive form of "trigger warning culture" to a broken form, I imagine magpies lining a nest with pain and fear. There are other ways to be.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:09 AM on January 29, 2013


I have to say it. Sometimes people who have PTSD don't even know how it works.

Personally, I am less offended by people who dislike trigger warnings as in general I know to stop reading within a sentence of something I am sure to not want to read. I am careful about what I read, and I screen contents of movies/books before consuming because I know I don't like suprise grief/horror/gore etc.

I think it's polite to warn everyone of extremely heinous graphic contents-- the news is probably the worst offender and essentially I think for people who are sensitive you essentially-- well have to learn how to manage yourself in the world.

What I am more offended by in these conversations is people who lack an even basic understanding of physiology and trauma research and the claims that CBT (or anything) is even remotely a cure all for PTSD.

There is no therapeutic CURE for PTSD and some degree of lingering effects is fairly common, and severe responses to triggers (though otherwise fairly normal functioning) can be lifelong for many people who extreince truly heinious traumatic events or ongoing trauma at vulnerable periods of development. What cuases trauma is unique and personal and based on many different factors affecting a persons vulnerability to that particular trauma.

Being raped doesn't mean you have PTSD, being in an abusive relationship doesn't mean you have PTSD. One person can exterience a trauma reaction to something that would not cause a trauma reaction to another person. In mose research it's very cumulative with ongoing or repeat assaults/abuse/traumas being compounded by each exposures and other exposures to neglect, poverty, parental absence, childhood abuse etc. altering the types of risks with future exposures.

It really frustrates me when people state factually wrong things about what people with PTSD should do to "cure" themselves.

By all means, don't use trigger warnings, I can choose what to read or not read on my own, but claiming that for ALL people, PTSD can be cured with the right therapy/treatment is factually false. Improvement can almost always be made, and that is good but 100% return to previous state of health is something that happens but is less common than people who achieve a state of .. mostly healthy.. which is a more realitic goal of treatment rather than having ZERO trigger responses now and again.

Personally I prefer to be warned if I'm about to see a picture of a dead person or read something that seems nice and suddenly has a sadistic horrific twist-- but usually you can tell within a few sentences a person is about to go into details you don't want to hear about and can skip ahead. I don't mind that people find TW's unecessary or over the top. I do mind when people find TW's offensive BECAUSE they have some sort of agenda of hatred against people who have been damaged by trauma in a lifelong way regardless of what therapies they have done or hap many healing activities/therapies/coping strategies they have developed. And victims of trauma who wind up getting better can be very harsh offenders of this toward others who'se suffering turns out to be longer term. (And often was a DIFFERENT type of trauma to begin with so blaming others for having PTSD when you "cured" your own makes little sense in the sense you have no idea how much trauma another person might have been coping with in comparison to the trauma and life factors you were coping with.)
posted by xarnop at 10:22 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also think seeing yourself in a state of vulnerability and poor performance due to being overwhelmed by emotions and in need of support makes it appealing, on recovery, to point fingers at others whose yucky victimness was worse than your own.

It makes the recovered survivor feel even more empowered because they get to say "I went through that but I did it RIGHT and fixed myself quick, not like those yucky survivors who are in pain for a long time or who need more support than I did, or who feel vulnerable and in pain sometimes long after what happened"

I am sympathetic to the urge to climb the ladder of social approval, and social groups DO favor survivors who are the least "victimy" as possible-- but also think this is not a very cool behavior. It's one thing to encourage people to get the help and support they need, but another thing to shame people already getting whatever support is available for the fact that sometimes it doesn't work that well.
posted by xarnop at 10:28 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, what's left in the middle?

Norms negotiated on a case-by-case and community-by-community basis, which is how things usually work no matter how much we may overthink it here on metafilter?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:45 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


(A)musing: wondering if those irritated by trigger warnings ever insist on spoiler alerts.
posted by liketitanic at 10:49 AM on January 29, 2013


There is no therapeutic CURE for PTSD and some degree of lingering effects is fairly common

And there is some debate about whether current approaches actually work: "There is no current evidence that psychological debriefing is a useful treatment for the prevention of post traumatic stress disorder after traumatic incidents. Compulsory debriefing of victims of trauma should cease." [Source]
posted by MuffinMan at 10:50 AM on January 29, 2013


I've seen very few examples of trigger warnings run amok.

I've seen what I think are excessive trigger warnings for me. If most people in the community are happy, though, then I get to decide if the community is worth it or not. I want to be polite, and I've been accused of being too PC, but I don't think that the only way to do so is to accept that not only is every set of trigger warnings acceptable for that group, but also that you yourself must adhere to them in all situations everywhere, and not just within the group.

Sure, appropriate titles can help, and warnings about graphic descriptions should be given at all times, but there's multiple reasonable levels of consideration you can use online. (In real life, of course, the rules are somewhat different. If I know that a friend is triggered by the mention of saucers, I just won't mention them in her presence.)
posted by jeather at 11:01 AM on January 29, 2013


Triggers work like that. You don't get "Trigger warning: first three bars of 'Yellow Submarine'", "Trigger warning: that shirt he used to wear", "Trigger warning: someone calling you 'baby'."

Trufax: I used to get deep, lingering feelings of dread from hearing Neil Diamond's "Cracklin' Rosie" because I heard it on the car radio when my family was coming home from a Stranger Danger-type program at our church, which featured a very disturbing film (I'm pretty sure it's been mentioned on the blue before) about two girls who were abducted, raped and killed.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:11 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


See, I really don't know why I finally ponied up for a MeFi membership because for the last ten years there has been someone who always says exactly what I'm thinking in less words and far more eloquently than I could. Awesome comment, Catseye!
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 11:12 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have always appreciated warnings in fan fiction communities, because while I don't have PTSD, I still would rather not read stories with certain types of sexual interaction I find upsetting (or stupid - can't do mpreg.)
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:18 AM on January 29, 2013


About the (totally understandable) upthread confusion between Julie Burchill and Julie Bindel: Bindel has a history of transphobia, too. So, in one of life's little ironies, anger directed at her over Burchill's bile is actually still quite appropriate. I do consider it a logical fallacy to dismiss someone's ideas on Subject X because their ideas on Subject Y are stupid and hateful, but it does make me angry that these people are being given any legitimacy at all.

About the piece: I'm not really sure what the author's getting at, to be honest. If people are avoiding things because they don't want to engage with triggering content, that probably means they're not ready to deal with triggering content.
posted by byanyothername at 11:23 AM on January 29, 2013


I used to be on an LJ community, UK based, that was designed as a 'safe space' for women only

Is there some reason why we're not supposed to mention it by name?

Refugees might enjoy the last entry on Rosamicula's problem page.

The Company of Men was never half as interesting (from what I hear of the Trauma Toilets: obviously I couldn't actually read it).
posted by pw201 at 11:29 AM on January 29, 2013


We can mention it by name, but given that in the US LJ was a byword for drama farmers, slash communities and emos, I didn't think that many would be familiar with theladiesloos.

(Not threadsitting, honest, I'm just waiting for my tea to cook.)

I think the last time I posted there was when a prominent member posted something about me to fake_lj_deaths (full story mentioned previously) - this person was one of the major proponents on slapping a trigger warning on anything that moved and there was something holier-than-thou about the whole thing, so I posted about my feelings mentioning no specifics, and got a string of abusive PMs. I later found out she had her own page on EncyclopaediaDramatica so her problems were probably bigger than I.
posted by mippy at 11:38 AM on January 29, 2013


Catseye has made many of the points that I wanted to make, but additionally...

I've been raped. More than once. Fairly brutally. I don't really like to talk about it or, to be honest, think about it, and for the most part, that works for me. I occasionally have panic responses to weird things, but those things are pretty universally not the things that people tend to warn for.

When I see a trigger warning, what I take away from it is that I'm dealing with my own trauma wrong. I can, generally speaking, read stories and news reports that discuss rape, even in relatively graphic terms. But the interpretation of things on the internet seems to be that if you have experienced X, you will react like Y. Failure to do so is suspect at best, disrespectful at worst--I've been told, point blank, by well-intentioned people, that if I didn't find thing X to be triggering, it must not have been "that bad". Like there's a scale for rape, or for trauma, or for dealing with any of those things after the fact.

I also find it hugely problematic that there seems to be a desire to boil people's traumatic experiences down to a single word that's somehow meant to encompass everything about that experience. No one's going to warn for the ridiculously specific and random things that will trigger people, because there's literally no way to do so.
posted by MeghanC at 12:00 PM on January 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm not really sure what the author's getting at, to be honest. If people are avoiding things because they don't want to engage with triggering content, that probably means they're not ready to deal with triggering content.

I actually thought it was quite clear what the author was talking about. It's one thing to give a heads-up before discussing things that are universally thought of as troubling, but it's another thing to go overboard with it. There are also self-appointed busybodies in some communities who make a point of Trying To Make The Internet Safe For Everyone, and the author is speaking up about how those busybodies aren't actually helping - "okay, yeah, I agree it's good to give people a heads-up like 'this discusses rape' and let me make up my mind, but if you jump to my defense and lecture someone because they should have put on a trigger warning for SUBWAYS because you think it'd upset me, that's kind of making me feel like you think I'm a baby."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:16 PM on January 29, 2013


Wait, even better example. Which I can illustrate via a story that won't look obvious at first blush so bear with me...

An actress on a show I worked on got attacked as she was heading into rehearsal one night (guy tried to follow her in when she buzzed him in, she fought him off, but he still stabbed her in the arm with a knife and ran - and bumped straight into 3 cops who saw him fleeing a screaming angry woman and grabbed him). It was a crazy thing and all of us - the actress and the rest of the cast - were thrown by it.

But the actress actually processed the experience by fighting back - she started pursuing a court case against the guy and went after him like a terrier. It was what she needed to do - she wasn't scared, she was PISSED RIGHT THE FUCK OFF, and she was gonna make him PAY, dammit. (And she did - the case dragged on a year, but she got him committed as a repeat violent offender and he is going to be in jail until, in her words, "he is too enfeebled to hurt anyone ever again.")

However, the director also was pissing her off - for the rest of the rehearsal and through the performance, the director would refer to to the actress as "our stabbing victim". Which technically was true. But the director started calling her that, like, every day. And for the actress, being called a "victim" was a way of lessening her power. She finally took the director aside and asked her to stop - "I'm not a 'victim' because I'm fighting back. Please drop it. Or at least start using 'stab-ee' instead."

I think the pushback against excessive trigger warnings is coming from the same place as that actress's "I'm not a victim". A trigger warning on somethng obvious is one thing, but falling all over yourself to put trigger warnings on everything can actually backfire and send the message that you think the people who have suffered attacks of any kind are completely helpless and incapable of autonomy - and that message can itself be damaging.

Yes, there are times when people will screw up and neglect trigger warnings on something they should have put up. But scaling things back just a step or two may be a good thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:33 PM on January 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, there are people who take it too far. But that's the case for just about any human activity you can identify. I don't think that people-who-take-it-too-far should be a general indictment of, well, anything.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:35 PM on January 29, 2013


Jimbob: I make that flippant comment, of course, as someone not suffering PTSD. But (and I sincerely hope to be corrected if I'm wrong) I assume the treatment for PTSD involves much more than just trying to get through life avoiding triggers? It seems like a blunt tool.
I've lived with someone with PTSD, and you're right: just avoiding the triggers hamstrings your life every single day. The only way she was able to progress* was by facing her triggers... hesitantly, occasionally, and with discomfort, not in some Far Side bizarro in-your-face way.

*"able to", because she wasn't willing to seek counselling and drug therapies.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:38 PM on January 29, 2013


I don't think that people-who-take-it-too-far should be a general indictment of, well, anything.

By extension, I don't think the author was generally indicting triggering - just the people who took it too far.

Although that may be my brain's way to find the middle path.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:46 PM on January 29, 2013


We can mention it by name, but given that in the US LJ was a byword for drama farmers, slash communities and emos, I didn't think that many would be familiar with theladiesloos.

Back in the days of LJ, emos were called “goths”.
posted by acb at 1:33 PM on January 29, 2013


This thread is well worth it just for this thoughtful comment by catseye.

I agree that it's a good idea to warn people about disturbing content/imagery; I also agree that classifying this content as a 'trigger' can muddy things up. Finally, I agree with CBrachyrhynchos:

Norms negotiated on a case-by-case and community-by-community basis, which is how things usually work no matter how much we may overthink it here on metafilter?

posted by Mister_A at 1:39 PM on January 29, 2013


With trigger warnings I awlays think of the two extremes I've run into: one was a friend being 'called out' for not TW: rape because she mentioned that the article she'd read (not linked to, read) had included mentions of child abuse/rape. No depictions/descriptions of it, mentioning that something else mentioned it. It was possibly the daftest thing I've come across.

(yes, it was tumblr...)

The other is reading an online acquaintance's primarily motherhood focussed blog and she'd decided to reprint a Dan Savage letter in full that graphically described rape. No warning, no discussion, no lead in, just "I read this last night [blockquoted description]". I read about four sentences before I got up from the computer and self-injured*. Then I cried for a while, avoided the computer, refused to leave the house. Then I commented. Then I never went back. The situation was worse because it was unexpected (familiar territory!) and someone I thought was sensitive (betrayal of trust!) and a very close description to what had happened to me (in that very room I might add). There was no need for it to be there, no need for it to be so bare either - I'm not a huge fan of the 'well, you can tell in the first few sentences because that creeping awfulness and certainty can get me anxious too. But it was just so graphic, so out of place, so awful.

So I prefer trigger warnings for graphic depictions, not discussions I guess. A discussion is around the event/issue, but a depiction is a retelling of the event/issue. There is a difference between "I was raped" and "This is what my rapist did to me". And the issue isn't even just triggering rape survivors, it's just a ham-handed method of trying to replicate social cues in text only environments. The aforementioned blog was like this slightly raucous kid's party with booze; the post was like someone grabbing the mic and telling everyone just how their partner had raped them, in detail. In real life those discussions aren't centrestage, unless it's an event for it, or it's total social awkwardness. Those discussions aren't had with every single person in the room. So I try and think of trigger warnings in those terms.

*I very almost graphically described that self-injury before I thought better of it. Sure, it might have had more emotional impact, but at the cost of possibly hurting another self injurer. So I kept it to that.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:55 PM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've lived with someone with PTSD, and you're right: just avoiding the triggers hamstrings your life every single day. The only way she was able to progress* was by facing her triggers... hesitantly, occasionally, and with discomfort, not in some Far Side bizarro in-your-face way.

Complicating this, in my opinion, is that we're now very much in a "push" media environment rather than a "pull" one. Two of the things I find mildy annoying is the large number of public places that run a constant stream of CNN/HLN/FOX, and how much socialization of my extended family goes on with television news in the background.

Just because I've talked and written about my abuse much more than is prudent, doesn't mean that I'm going to be especially delighted when my planned shopping Saturday with the beautiful weather gets interrupted with lurid details of an assault and rape case that pushes all of my buttons. Yes, there are CBT strategies for dealing with that sort of thing, but they're more effective when I, as the audience, am forewarned and forearmed so to speak.

The key issue here is how do we negotiate the locus of control in a world of 24/7 sensationalism and byte-limited streaming social media? Good ledes, titles, and link texts give the audience (me) a choice about whether to read further or click through. And I'm discovering that having that little bit of control is really important in determining how and what media I'm going to engage in.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:16 PM on January 29, 2013


Yeah, what Catseye said. I think the phraseology is a big part of the problem. I see the point of trigger warnings, but I strongly prefer them to be phrased in language that doesn't make negative assumptions about what the reader's response might be -- "note on content" or or something similar -- because the phrase "trigger warning" can feel like somebody is assuming vulnerability on your behalf. Which is especially irritating if your coping strategy after a traumatic event is to want to become as independent and tough as possible, as it seems to have been for this columnist. In that case, your reaction to seeing trigger warnings everywhere might well be "For fuck's sake, stop telling me I must be about to have a flashback."

The word "trigger" itself is an issue -- by the analogy to a gun, it seems to suggest that reading whatever-it-is will cause instantaneous, unpreventable, serious harm. And even though that does accurately describe some people's post-trauma experiences, it doesn't describe everyone. Given that we live in a culture where victims of sexual assault are already assumed to be permanently damaged and vulnerable in a wide variety of ways, people who are lucky enough not to have that "trigger" reaction can be understandably protective of that specific bit of resiliency, and irritated when everyone around them seems to assume they must not have it.
posted by ostro at 2:26 PM on January 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Norms negotiated on a case-by-case and community-by-community basis, which is how things usually work no matter how much we may overthink it here on metafilter?

Which works in the self-contained, explicitly moderated universe of MetaFilter, but obviously did not work in mippy's and others' examples.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:51 PM on January 29, 2013


Which works in the self-contained, explicitly moderated universe of MetaFilter, but obviously did not work in mippy's and others' examples.

It's not a prescription, it's a description. That's how communities work (indeed, it's part of what defines communities), unless there's been a radical change in sociolinguistics in the last odd decade. The behavior of some LJ communities is a self-reinforcing, socially-constructed badness, which is a major reason why I don't bother reading them. But their use as a shibboleth in one community says very little about their use as a courtesy in another.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:15 PM on January 29, 2013


Hey Catseye - flagged your comment as fantastic. Really good, thoughtful stuff. Thank you for posting it. =)
posted by kavasa at 6:53 PM on January 29, 2013


This has been one of those conversations in which virtually no one actually states what position they're defending, or gives much thought to it at all; then they attribute an extreme position to some imagined "other side".

1. Specific communities may be safe spaces for specific triggers.
2. Everyone, everywhere, must give trigger warnings for everything that could make anyone upset.
3. Some position between 1 and 2, but please spell it out specifically.
posted by matt_arnold at 5:01 AM on January 30, 2013


Back in the days of LJ, emos were called “goths”.

Pistols at dawn.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:03 AM on January 30, 2013


Matt, you're honestly not seeing how many people in this discussion have been saying that "X is sensible, but Y is going too far"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:16 AM on January 30, 2013


"3. Some position between 1 and 2, but please spell it out specifically."

My position:
Descriptions of graphic details relating to gore, sexual assault, details of childhood sexual abuse or torture, detailed descriptions of death; would probably merit a "content note". Not just for people "with PTSD" or "with triggers" but because many people need a bit of preparation to decide whether they can handle reading or looking at pictures of extremely disturbing content.

There should not be huge debates where people who forget or didn't view the content at hand as mertting a "content note". At places like metafilter the tag system if used properly should really be sufficient. If you add a tage that says "sexual assualt", "murder" "torture" etc I think it's perfectly reasonable that people would know to tread carefully.

I think having some spaces that attempt to be EXTREMELY gentle on the psyche is a great thing. I personally understand the feeling of "I don't need this pansy ass bullshit, I don't give a fuck" because that's how I feel going into communities like that.

That said, despite that "I don't give a fuck" I can observe that I do in fact have physical, emotional and psychological reactions to a lot of content that are "beyond normal" for people who haven't been through a lot of trauma. And I canrespect there are times when I need to protect myself from content that will cause such reactions. I really dislike when people OUTSIDE the person experiencing trigger decide they need to be forcing themselves into more exposures than feelhealthy or safe.

It's a kind of bullying that I think people like to think is "for the persons own good" but that can quite literally be extremely harmful.

I think of it as the difference between moving into a yoga posture that is causing excruciating pain vs feels strained. The decision to move forward or NOT should come from the individual and NOT from a community chanting "Keep going push your boundaries if you REALLY care about being a normal healthy person!"

Some people just need a bit more protection from gory/disturbing/assault oriented content and if that's a lifelong state for some people I think that should be deeply respected. Some people will never be able to handle kundalini yoga without feeling mental and should not be forced by social pressure to keep pushing themselves into it when it just plain makes their mental health worse every time. Can't it just be ok that some people need to avoid certainthings? Some people might have a great life without eating peanuts but if they eat peanuts they could DIE. Forcing them to undergo expensive treatments and exposure therapies and counseling and for years and year and years in order to stop being allergic to peanuts even though THEY ALREADY HAVE TRIED all of these things over and over without the peanut allergy going away is just rediculous. It's much more affordable and sensible to just... not eat peanuts.

----None of that has much at all to do with the ACTUAL use of trigger warnings but I notice trigger warning discussion often become open season on a public eager to shame people for being more sensitive and having a frail nervous system response in response to some things than others. Some people are never going to be good at sports, should they be shamed unless they are doing personal training and exercising for hours every week inhopes of becoming as good at sports as other people?

Does it really matter whether everyone is good at sports? If some people would rather accept themselves as they are and manage their exposures to disturbing content rather than shame and pressure themselves to expose themselves to more and more fucked up shit or do therapy all day every day until they become neurotypical people-- can't some people just be different and find their own happiness in their own way?

I feel like the TW discussion becomes much more heated than just the use of the TW or not and it is an area inwhich people who feel angered at the disabled and the needy feel empowered to voice their anger at being asked to consider the feelings of people who might have "special needs" or asked to consider taking initiative to integrate the differently abled into communities.

And I consider people wit hlong term effects of abuse (not just PTSD but various other brain damage, physical, emotional, and psychological problems that can result) are part of the population of the differently abled.
posted by xarnop at 7:45 AM on January 30, 2013


I ALSO thinkthe pressure to accomodate difficult people can BE a damaging force and it's perfectly within individual and communities rights to decide what sorts of accomodations they can or can't make for differently abled people in making decisions about friendships andcommunity involvement. Almost all friendships and communities of people have behavioral requirements to keep individuals safe. If one persons disability or special needs are creating a heavy burden on those around them that is causing emotional harm and difficulty there is a valid need for people whodon't have the strength or emotional fortitude to do so ina healthy way to be able to avoid the burden of caring for the disabled.

I think in THEORY most people would like the differenlty abled/disabled to be given aide, cared for, and safely integrated into communities and peer groups. The details of who should do what to make that happen are when it gets a bit more difficult. I am hopeful that technologies, innovations, research, and more willgive us insights to provide better and more accurate supports ina more economical fashion and allow support ofthe disabled through a combination of techological innovations, paid caregiving, and voluntary efforts of individuals and communities to keep doors open in the ways they feel they are able to do safely for their physical and emotional selves.

So I guess what I mean to say is, I understand the puchback against pressured or forced integration of people with "Special needs" such as the special need to have more forewarning than the average person. But I also understand why some businesses and buildings might feel unfairly burdened by being forced to pay for a wheelchair ramp they can't afford to pay for or to hire sign language interpreters for deaf.

And the sad thing is without SOME amount of pressure, most communities do trend toward just, not integrating people who bring added burden in order to be involved. It means more work. And in all fairness, most ofus feel overburdened already,eventhe able bodied/minded among us and taking on more burden DOES feel overwhelming and harmful.

As usual I'm sympathetic to both sides of that coin. Which ultimately means, I don't care at all if somepeople feel totally unable to do anything as individuals our communities on behalf of the disabled. I respect that. Just as I amnotable to do somethings with undo strain and harm to myself, some people are not able to do more for the needy without harming themselves. I think it's possible to know you can't do more for the needy without putting forth a huge amount of hatred toward the needy simply for existing and not being able to care for themselves- or needing to manage their lives and functioning in a way that is much different than the average person. There are so many people I know who can't stand it that I can't handle theater movies, or can't stay up late, or can't handle smoking pot and quite literally feel that I must be egged on to do more the fix these things and to push my limits into these things.

You know, quite frankly I DON'T WANT to watch gory shit? Why do I need to push into it? I don't like theaters, it's too loud and it give me panic attacks. I'm sorry that some people feel I must pay more than the THOUSANDS of dollars I have already consumed in therapies/medical aide to fix these things about myself, but I've already done a plenty and I am simply much happier just... not going to the theater or staying up til 3 inthe morning every weekend or going to hear loud music. I'm sorry that this makes people want to berateand shame and demean me, or pity me as a person who "just isn't trying hard enough" but I absolutely refuse to play that game. No one but me knows what lengths I have gone through to enhance my health, resilience, strengths, and abilities in the ways that are important to me. If not going to theaters or wanting to see gory shit means I'm a frail little delicate flower than what the fuck ever.
posted by xarnop at 8:15 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought I was fairly explicit about what I like. If I don't get it, I probably won't click through to that post or discussion.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:46 AM on January 30, 2013


@EmpressCallipygos, yes, I did find them, after searching this thread for what seems like hours. I'm grateful to them.
posted by matt_arnold at 7:06 PM on February 1, 2013


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