The newest anti-progressive internet-breaker is how silly it is to have Trigger Warnings in college classrooms; more ammo for MRAs, racists, misogynists, queerphobes, and all that great stuff. Well known internet-based magazines have published OpEds about it (the opinions expressed within usually lean towards the negative side or preach indifference at the very least); social media statuses plaster news feeds; niche-publications like Bitch magazine and Everyday Feminism have weighed in; professors wax nostalgic about the days they weren’t ‘terrified’ of this new wave of ‘liberal’ students; it is whipped out of back pockets as a last resort in arguments. These [insert respective demographic here] are out of control with their ‘safe spaces’ and ‘political correctness!’
Well, here’s the thing: trigger warnings have always been in college–and high school and middle school–classrooms. Professors nearly always have given and continue to give what amounts to a heads-up when there will be a discussion etc. that may be difficult for some people–or everyone. If you read Huck Finn for high school or/and revisited it in a college setting, you were probably told something along the lines of “we will be starting a unit on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which contains many instances of violence, racism, child abuse; the book and discussions may stir some very strong feelings, so please see me after class if you are having trouble so we can effectively get through the unit.” Put simply: heads-up, folks, so you’re aware of intense content of curriculum beforehand, and can prepare yourself mentally for this part of the curriculum.
The key phrases there are will be going over, and will be starting a unit. Nothing about eliminating a given topic from academic curriculum. Still, these are trigger warnings. Accepted, expected reminders given by educators when delving into harsher subject matter. And, I’d venture so far as to say it would be frowned upon by students and higher-ups in academia alike if a professor didn’t mention briefly prior to the unit the content matter, and to alert students to feel free to step into the hallway for a moment to regroup if videos, images, or other material are graphic, induce severe amounts of distress, and so on. (Such as demonstrated in the Huck Finn example.) This becomes conveniently irrelevant when raving about how trigger warnings in academia is wildly outrageous, borderline coercion by X, Y, and Z demographic, unreasonable, just another part of the [insert relevant descriptor here] agenda!
As much time and emotional energy it takes to rant and rave and oppose without critical thought, taking two extra moments when writing a syllabus to include something along the lines of “some curriculum content may be graphic or emotionally disturbing,” doesn’t seem all too daunting of a task.
‘Trigger Warning’ or ‘Content Warning’ has become what the cool kiddos call a ‘Buzzword.’ That is, a word, phrase, etc., that is associated with an expectation, action, or ideology. In this case, an expectation, action, and ideology associated with queer folks, people of color, disabled people–the list goes on–forcing political correctness with those pesky ‘trigger warning’ demands. In reality, it has spread through the internet as a succinct way of saying that X, Y, and Z contain A, B, and C.
In classroom or college settings it is not elitist Feminist-lingo for “don’t read this;” “don’t write about that;” “don’t talk about the other thing in my, or anyone else’s, presence.” Nobody is asking for omitting a given something-or-other from an educators’ curriculum; nobody is demanding that something-or-other should not be taught; we merely ask educators to continue as usual with their heads-ups, but be a bit more vocal and transparent. Trigger warnings were developed in part for survivors, individuals with PTSD for example, and they have spread beyond specificities and are important and relevant to all of us on one level or another.
The term itself has, as mentioned, become associated with movements, demographics, viewpoints, ideologies and so on that a dominant majority find petty and trite. The term–and subsequently the concept of application anywhere off the internet–being used as a descriptor is undesirable, frustrating, silly, unnecessary, ‘Politically Correct’ and indicative of a feminine-type weakness. Even if a given thing already exists in the same form without a specific description, application of ‘trigger warning’ (and what it is applied to) as a descriptor should be removed from the academic arena. Because Millennials are coddled sore-sports.
Trigger Warning: ‘Trigger Warnings’ have always had a strong presence in academia. So, heads-up.