eumelia: (mystique)
[personal profile] eumelia
Trigger warnings are not for naught.

We are vulnerable people, we live in a world that is structured around power and that breeds a broad culture of violence, that (more often than not) men perpetuate and (more often than not) women are victimised by.

The culture of violence is something we live and breathe, we cannot avoid it, not really. We can, however, do our best to live gentler, more compassionate lives. We can do our best to empathise with those who have suffered under the tyranny of power disparity. Those of us who have been traumatised by events out of our control, whatever they may be, deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, not with indignation and ever so slightly veiled scorn.

When I read The Illusion of Safety/The Safety of Illusion by Roxane Gay earlier tonight, that's exactly what I felt.


Reading her post, it's clear she's been through a lot in her life, that she knows suffering and trauma.

She writes a long and relatively literary account about why trigger warnings do not work. Moreover, that they are, as the title suggests, an illusion in the face of reality and the way reality is conveyed via the media.

I hope you read the whole thing, but I want to focus on this one paragraph, as it had me bristling:

There is also this: maybe trigger warnings allow people to avoid learning how to deal with triggers, getting help. I say this with the understanding that having access to professional resources for getting help is a privilege. I say this with the understanding that sometimes there is not enough help in the world. That said, there is value in learning, where possible, how to deal with and respond to the triggers that cut you open, the triggers that put you back in terrible places, that remind you of painful history.

Where is the understanding that we are, in fact, different from each other? Okay, so trigger warnings don't suit you, who are you to judge if they are suitable for anyone else! That is what I want to know, because you know something? I need trigger warnings.

Not because I have a painful history that rips me open when I have textual reminders of something traumatising.

Trigger warnings tell me that this person is respectful of the subject. That they know what it is they are writing. It tells me that they understand the ramifications of writing subjects that are to do with the violence in our lives.

The quote above is a very condescending way of saying: "You who need trigger warnings are over sensitive, I don't need them and I've been through shit, so why should you."

Telling her audience that "trigger warnings" and "safe spaces" are illusions, empties out precisely why those concepts are necessary to begin with; they are reprieves from the brutality that is reality.

I do not expect to be accommodated by the culture of violence at large. My triggers are so specific sometimes, that I generally know what I can and can't watch at any given time (because my triggers are visual and aural), but you're side-swiped and it doesn't matter if you thought you were prepared for what was coming, sometimes your brain signals things to your body you know aren't true, but it feels that way any way.

However, when you are an artist and your medium is your message, what you want to convey isn't removed from the culture at large. When we write, when we create, we are part of a greater picture from which we take and return with not quite equal measure.

Feminist art used to be (at times still is) specific challenges to masculine supremacy and a type of in-your-face radical femininity. Now, for me at least, a big part of feminist art is approach to subject, and approach to audience.

Feminism, as a political standpoint, should be rooted in compassion, in the knowledge and awareness that we navigate and negotiate an environment that is hostile. Trigger warnings are a way to navigate through art. Does everyone need them? No. Should they be required? No. Should we begrudge those who use them? No. Should we question why people don't use them? Yes.

Roxane Gay also wrote:
Trigger warnings also, when used in excess, start to feel like censorship. They suggest that there are experiences or perspectives too inappropriate, too explicit, too bare to be voiced publicly. As a writer, I bristle when people say, “This should have had a trigger warning.” I think, “For what?”

I understand the defensive stance. I don't, however, believe there is such a thing as an "excess" use of trigger warnings, considering the discourse that even bothers to even talk about them is fucking tiny.

If you feel censored by the request of trigger warnings, I would suggest you ask yourself why? Do you want to add your voice to the culture of unaccountability when it comes to violence? Ask yourself if the mere thought of thinking of the effect your art has, as opposed to affect makes you rear and cry "censorship" in the face of criticism, what exactly your aim was.

We do not write, create, react, interact in a vacuum.

Those of us who have triggers, who have been traumatised, who walk this world hyper-aware and "over sensitive" don't need to be condescended to about being reminded of our painful history. We carry it with us, always.

It never goes away.

Asking and knowing that others know this, respect this and honour this, is a tiny and temporary reprieve.

Telling me that that reprieve is a childish illusion, is to me a show of extraordinary lack of compassion, a defeatist attitude when it comes to pushing back and being critical of the culture that enabled and enacted our trauma in the first place.

Date: 2012-08-29 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] amethystfirefly
(Just for the record, I'm speaking for the system as a whole.)

I recently defriended a semi-famous writer over on LJ for her stance on trigger warnings. It wasn't the fact that she was against them that I disagreed with; it's the fact that she mocked them that I disagreed with.

I mean, I get it. Trigger warnings are annoying. Even I'll say that they're sometimes overused and sometimes someone will warn for something and I'll just go o.O;

If you don't need trigger warnings, awesome. Nice to know you're made of stronger stuff than I am.

But you don't get to mock me for my weakness. You may not be able to understand the mindset of needing trigger warnings, but you will respect it.

I see trigger warnings as critical to our healing. Yes, I read what people warn for 99% of the time, but that small warning gives me a moment to pause and collect myself before reading. That way, if the bandage is ripped off the wound, I knew it was coming. And, as time goes on, I find that it hurts less or even that there's no wound under the bandage anymore.

In short, trigger warnings help me desensitize myself to the triggers. It's self-fucking-therapy. And, in this world where inequality exists and not everyone can get help they need, I'm all for giving people more tools to help them heal. It takes a few seconds of my time, so it's not like it's fucking inconveniencing me.

And I'm not fucking stupid. I know that it's an illusion of safety. I know that I'm going to come across a person who doesn't know some of my weirder triggers or even the occasional person who doesn't like trigger warnings or thinks it's outright censorship. And I'm also aware that not reading about triggery shit doesn't mean that that same triggery shit isn't going to happen to me IRL. Not reading about being abused isn't protection against being abused, y'know?

But what's wrong with the illusion of safety in a world that's so fucking unsafe, as long as people are aware that it's an illusion? What's wrong with spending a few seconds to be compassionate and give people a heads up?

After that recent defriending, I've come to the conclusion that I don't want to support people who feel the need to rail against something that is, quite simply, compassionate. I can deal with a quiet "agree to disagree" stance. I agree to disagree with people all the time, even on the big things. But if you're going to rail against fucking compassion, you're not the type of human I want to associate with, much less the type of human I want to support.

ETA: Mind if I signal boost this?
Edited Date: 2012-08-29 10:14 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-08-29 10:34 pm (UTC)
dharma_slut: They call me Mister CottonTail (Default)
From: [personal profile] dharma_slut
It astonishes me how often people interpret THE ATTEMPT TO MAKE SPACE FOR MORE PEOPLE AND THEIR NEEDS as stultifying or censoring.

No, we are using a few more words, not less. I dunno.

Date: 2012-08-30 06:37 am (UTC)
dharma_slut: a pencil drawing of a three-D thought ballon. Within it floats the word "sigh" (Sigh)
From: [personal profile] dharma_slut
Reading her post, it seems as if whatever her own trauma was it destroyed her trust in people's good intentions. I get the impression that the attempt to offer a safe space only makes her feel as if there are no safe spaces no matter what people try to do.

Date: 2012-08-30 06:55 am (UTC)
dharma_slut: They call me Mister CottonTail (Default)
From: [personal profile] dharma_slut
Suffering doesn't make people into saints. Sometimes it just makes someone into an asshole who has suffered.

Date: 2012-08-30 01:10 am (UTC)
silveradept: The logo for the Dragon Illuminati from Ozy and Millie, modified to add a second horn on the dragon. (Dragon Bomb)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
A lot of us, especially people with privilege, have been conditioned to believe that space is zero-sum. If you make space for someone else, then you have given up see power of your own space, and soon enough, by having made space for so many, you find that you no longer have enough space to behave like you want to. Which is totally bad, because you, as a person of privilege, have the right to stomp around however you like and not get called out on it. Plus, you can say that people who don't have your privilege are weak (or worse) because they can't do what you can.

Which is horse-urine, all of it, but there it is.

Also, we already have examples of what happens when there is no reprieve for someone from the harsh reality of life. We normally condemn it when it happens...that is, after the victim has already done something irreversible. Then it's a problem and a tragedy. How much of our callousness to things like trigger warnings were inculcated in us on the schoolyard from a lack of compassion in others?

Date: 2012-08-30 07:00 am (UTC)
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
A lot of people build their identities and realities around the concept that the way they did it can be the only objective solution, because if there was another way to do the same thing, usually without the same amount of suffering and effort, they feel that their work has been invalidated. When they could have done it another way that would have involved many fewer hard decisions, we have regrets and recriminations. Or doubts. I wonder if that's more the problem - if x could have gone another way, then maybe everything could have. That can be a scary place.

Date: 2012-08-30 06:43 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
I have two very specific triggers, both of which sometimes turn up in news reports, and not always in obvious ways. When I read the news, therefore, I am constantly braced against this so that it can't get in and hurt me. It's a relief to go somewhere where that isn't going to happen. Is it a cure? No, of course not. But it's respite and that's important in itself.


eumelia: (Default)

June 2015

 12345 6

V and Justice

V: Ah, I was forgetting that we are not properly introduced. I do not have a name. You can call me V. Madam Justice...this is V. V... this is Madam Justice. hello, Madam Justice.

Justice: Good evening, V.

V: There. Now we know each other. Actually, I've been a fan of yours for quite some time. Oh, I know what you're thinking...

Justice: The poor boy has a crush on adolescent fatuation.

V: I beg your pardon, Madam. It isn't like that at all. I've long admired you...albeit only from a distance. I used to stare at you from the streets below when I was a child. I'd say to my father, "Who is that lady?" And he'd say "That's Madam Justice." And I'd say "Isn't she pretty."

V: Please don't think it was merely physical. I know you're not that sort of girl. No, I loved you as a person. As an ideal.

Justice: What? V! For shame! You have betrayed me for some harlot, some vain and pouting hussy with painted lips and a knowing smile!

V: I, Madam? I beg to differ! It was your infidelity that drove me to her arms!

V: Ah-ha! That surprised you, didn't it? You thought I didn't know about your little fling. But I do. I know everything! Frankly, I wasn't surprised when I found out. You always did have an eye for a man in uniform.

Justice: Uniform? Why I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about. It was always you, V. You were the only one...

V: Liar! Slut! Whore! Deny that you let him have his way with you, him with his armbands and jackboots!

V: Well? Cat got your tongue? I though as much.

V: Very well. So you stand revealed at last. you are no longer my justice. You are his justice now. You have bedded another.

Justice: Sob! Choke! Wh-who is she, V? What is her name?

V: Her name is Anarchy. And she has taught me more as a mistress than you ever did! She has taught me that justice is meaningless without freedom. She is honest. She makes no promises and breaks none. Unlike you, Jezebel. I used to wonder why you could never look me in the eye. Now I know. So good bye, dear lady. I would be saddened by our parting even now, save that you are no longer the woman I once loved.


-"V for Vendetta"


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