Kristen Lamb had a stunningly well written blog post on Tuesday. It expressed her thoughts on a subject that's been on my mind lately: the thought of “trigger warnings” on books. I find myself ambivalent on the subject. On the one hand, I can see the reasoning behind people getting upset it, falling into the cultural facet of Empathetic Correctness. On the other hands I can see how warnings that would help people with PTSD and similar things prepare themselves for finding the scene in a book.
Huffington Post has a very interesting take on it. Their opinion is that it's not as bad as we're thinking, though it does have the potential to become a problem. A lot of what they say has to do with the fact that it would just be a few words on a syllabus warning those who have suffered past trauma that it's coming up, not that they aren't required to read the book for their classes.
The Guardian has a different point of view. They say that it's one step away from book banning. They hold forth on the fact that it's catering to a overly sensitive crowd of students who don't want to deal with the harsh realities of real life.
As I said, I can see the potential of both situations. On the one hand, I can see needing a few trigger warnings on things such as violent rape scenes, acts of domestic violence, things like that which could send someone spiraling back into a flashback of a terrible situation. But I also don't think that there needs to be trigger warnings for every little thing that might offend someone.
There's a difference between offending someone and actually triggering anxiety/fear flashbacks. The first is an act of pedantry. The second is something that can cripple someone emotionally. In dealing with the trigger warnings on books, if there is a violent rape scene I can see a warning about that in the book. It gives a person who has been raped the information it's coming and they can know what to expect, even brace themselves so they don't react as violently.
I use trigger warnings in some of my blog posts because I don't want someone having a flashback and losing control. I warn them what's in my post so they know what they're facing. This has driven some readers away. But others have come back and told me how much they appreciated the warning so they can prepare themselves for it.
There is such a thing as being too Empathetically Correct. The current trend for that is very disturbing. People aren't looking for success because they're being told everyone is the same. No one is reaching for anything because they expect to be given the same privileges as everyone else. The idea of over generalizing trigger warnings smacks of this.
Let's take a breath and do more research on it. I think everyone should get their voices in on this and let your opinion be known. If you're for it, that's great. If you're against it, that's great. Keep things civil and discuss it in the comments. Let me know what you think of all of this.