Beth 'pidge' Flanagan's blog. Open source queer.

Monthly Archives: March 2016

Content Warn This.

I want to talk a bit about trigger warnings and content warnings. And why I’ve kind of decided to just stop using them in most places. But first, a bit of background.

Years ago, I was raped. I’m not going to get into details about it, because it’s not really pertinent. But suffice to say, I was treated for PTSD, spent lots of years in therapy over it and am now more or less “better”.

That said, a certain movie that was on while it was happening that still, to this day, sends me into that chest tightening panic. I’ve never seen it since. When it comes on, I either switch the channel or walk out of the room if I can’t. Agency, huh?

That movie triggers the panic I felt and sends me back to that day so long ago. Which is why I hate when people say “trigger warning”. Because that isn’t how PTSD triggers work people. It’s smells, a movie, a song.

What people are really asking for when they say that stuff is “content warnings”. Now, there are places where I will use content warnings. In groups where people have a shared trauma or there is an expectation that maybe talking about XY or Z is going to upset lots of folks in that specific space. But generally, in my own writing, I don’t use them for a very real reason.

With VERY few exceptions, content warnings and the language around them are controlled by a very specific set of people, with a shared culture and class and honey, lemme tell you, folks like me ain’t part of it. Tell me the last time you’ve heard of content warnings about “Discussions of wealth” or “Discussions of the state”. I mean, I’m sure it happens, but it’s not the norm.

And here is why it isn’t the norm. Because that discourse is one of middle class white folks. Bad things that happen to them are traumatic because they are aberrations. They’re not systemic. Those bad things aren’t shit they’re intimately familiar with.

When I was young I grew up around violence, as a target of violence. When you have the full expectation that you will see violence today, either in your school, your street, your home, it effects you. It becomes something beyond trauma, something you expect. It effects your language. It effects how you think.

When I was older I was in a LTR with someone and her brother approached me one day because he was “worried”. Because I used phrases like “kicked their ass”. Because my *language* had violent undertones. I looked at him like he was speaking another language but years later, I kind of get it. To him, violence was an aberration he had experienced in his nice white middle class cis straight guy life and as he was raised with the expectation that he would never experience it, that one incident was something that literally had him hyperaware.

To me, violence was literally something that was so systemic it was as familiar as an old pair of shoes. It changed how I think, how I talk. And because it was systemic, it was just *something* I expected would happen.

Trauma is political. Language is political. And while I have no issue with say, a sexual assault survivor group asking for content warnings, I’m not going to content warn my writing.

BecauseĀ I want you to feel uncomfortable.. I want you to have to see me. I want you to be forced, Clockwork Orange Style, to see people like me. I want you to have to deal with the reality of my life and and my past and no, fuck you, I’m not going to use your standards to make it so you can choose to avoid that.

If I don’t get to avoid the bullshit this society heaps on me why would I want people to be able to avoid actually reading about it?

PS. If your take away from this is “Aw, right on, content warnings SUCK!” because you hate people messing with your “freezedpeach” rights or whatever. You entirely missed the point and should probably piss off to whatever hole you crawled outta.

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