16 April 2010

Feminism, Triggers by Susanna Breslin

 (Didn't really know what a trigger warning was until I read this. . . )

I am intimately familiar with trauma, triggers, and post-traumatic stress disorder. That is precisely why the overuse of trigger warnings was of interest to me. 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? As one emailer put it: “To me, there is no better way to make someone think of the [trauma] than putting up a TRIGGER WARNING that will tell a person to avoid the post because it might make them think of what the TRIGGER WARNING invariably causes them to think about.”

Ergo, the trigger warning is its own trigger. Trigger warnings are a falsehood, a contrivance that pretends if triggers can be controlled, the trauma never happened, a National Enquirer-esque headline that screams in all-caps and big red block letters, but, in the end, signifies nothing but a preoccupation with its own salaciousness.

Perhaps most significantly, trigger warnings crystallize everything that is wrong with the current state of the feminist movement, if it can be called that. These days, feminism isn’t a movement at all, really, but a collection of blogs obsessed with the pop culture it claims to be victimized by, a forum for women who promote themselves as victims of a patriarchy that no longer exists, a pretend movement that contains within it no forward movement at all, only a fetal-like desire to curl up on itself, muttering Women’s Studies jargon, and handing out trigger warnings like party favors at a girl’s-only slumber party.


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