On Triggers, Continued

So, after her first shot at trigger warnings, Susannah Breslin is back with more, this time explaining why "trigger warnings don't work."
In reality, trigger warnings are unrealistic. They are the dream-child of a fantasy in which the unknown can be labeled, anticipated, and controlled. What trigger warnings promise — protection — does not exist. The world is simply too chaotic, too out-of-control for every trigger to be anticipated, avoided, and defused. Even if every single potentially trigger-inducing blog post could be demarcated as such — a categorical impossibility — what would be the point?
Well, I don't guess I ought to be surprised that someone who describes the feminist movement as "women who promote themselves as victims of a patriarchy that no longer exists" fails utterly to apply even the most basic feminist tenet to her argument: Recognizing and respecting individual agency.

A trigger warning does not promise to protect readers of potentially triggering material, but provide them with the opportunity to decide whether they need to protect themselves. As I said in my last piece (which she links in hers and thus ostensibly read): We provide trigger warnings because they give survivors of various stripes the option to assess whether they're in a state of mind to deal with triggering material before they stumble across it.

Breslin accuses feminist writers of "handing out trigger warnings like party favors at a girl's-only slumber party," which is certainly designed primarily to insult writers like me, but doesn't say much for what she thinks of feminist readers, either. I don't view my readers as children at a party. I respect them as adults, with autonomy, agency, and the ability to consent—their own best decision-makers, their own best advocates, and their own best protectors.

The provision of a trigger warning is not one-sided. It is an exchange. It is a communication: I provide the information, and my readers assess their own immediate capacity to process triggering material and proceed accordingly.

Breslin's argument only works if feminist readers are infantilized, if (primarily) women are treated like gormless, passive babies who can't be trusted to make decisions for themselves. Which is pretty much the founding premise of the entire patriarchy which totes doesn't exist anymore, ahem.

The thing is, Breslin is right when she asserts that "the world is simply too chaotic, too out-of-control for every trigger to be anticipated, avoided, and defused." But this isn't "the world." This is one very specific space in the world which seeks to be different from everything else.

She frames that as delusional. Well, okay. But I call it being the change I want to see.

Tomato. Tomahto.

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