Just a heads up before you continue reading, I’m fed up with this discussion, hence there might be strong language and cussing. I will also be discussing trauma as necessary.
I’ve been thinking for a while about this and I finally sat down to write this piece after I had a horrible few hours thanks to an unwelcome surprise in a book some days back. I did not title this post “trigger warnings in books: yes or now?” because for me, there is no question in this. I strongly believe that we need trigger warnings in books (and films & shows & any other media to consume) and I nothing will make me think something else. I am not here to hear any “but Kat,…”. I’m just not. The discussion about wether we need trigger warnings or not is tiring and stupid because we clearly do need them. Seriously, you don’t need trigger or content warnings? Fine, don’t fucking look at them and just turn the page. You need them? Great, here they are.
This post is not really a discussion. I simply want to say why I think trigger warnings are necessary.
The necessity of trigger warnings
First of all: if you don’t know what a trigger or a trigger warning is, we should probably talk about this beforehand.
a trigger (n.)
to trigger (v.)
source: Cambridge dictionary
What is a trigger/content warning, then?
It is a word or list to warn readers of something that happens in the book and could upset people. Those warnings are supposed to help protecting readers from traumatic flashbacks. A trigger warning can be “self harm, bullying, alcohol, racism, homophobia” and other things that could have had an impact on someone’s life. Differences are made between mentions and scenes that are completely written out.
And why are they important?
To be quite honest, I think this question should answer itself. But apparently it does not and I could shake my head at people constantly because… where is your empathy? Your sense of protecting yourself and others? Hm? Where?
Anyways, back to the topic at hand. Warnings are important because they can help people immensely. They can help them from not falling back into reliving a traumatic experience in their life, they can help protecting them from themselves. If you never had a traumatic experience, lucky you. Others are not as lucky. Others might fall into a mental hole because of something they read or see that transports them back to one or more situations in their life where they were hurt, wether that was mentally or physically.
And trigger warnings? They help prevent that. Prevent people from falling into a hole, prevent people from hurting.
So yes, I think trigger warnings are important and should belong in every book.
I said earlier I didn’t want a discussion but here I am, being angry at things I’ve read on the world wide webs and especially some websites where people get a public voice who rather shouldn’t have one. Seriously, why would you be against trigger warnings?
No, they aren’t spoilers. Some people argue that they are because they already tell you about what happens in a book. How does it affect you experience in any way when you know there is alcohol? Did the proagonist drink too much? Is there an alcoholic? Do people drink it at a banquet? Who knows? Certainly not you.
So no, they aren’t spoilers and the thing is: when you know you do not need them, then just skip over them. Don’t read them. That’s fine. You do not have to read every single word just because it was printed into the book. You can skip things not relevant to you. Trigger warnings just say what happens somehwere at some point in the story, not to whom or when or give explicit detail. They do not tell you “hey, this event happens on page 215 and it will be a major plot point !!1!1! No, they just give you a warning that something happens somwhere in the book so it doesn’t catch you completely unawares. So, no spoiler. Nope.
And believe it or not, there are many ways to put trigger warnings in books. You can put them in the front for everyone. Or you can put them in the back with a note in the front that people might want to check the back if they need trigger warnings. Or you could do them chapter wise. Or put them on a website and talk about that website in a note. Give a foreword. Anything that suits you.
Well, I wouldn’t pick up some books if I knew beforehand what was in there. Does that somehow negatively affect the book or the possibility to sell it? No. The thing is: just because a certain thing affects me and several others, it does not affect everyone. Things I really, really don’t want to read about might be what others love to read. A book I wouldn’t get for myself, I probably would get for a friend. People can also ask other readers who’ve read the book how the scene is writter, if it’s graphic or not. You can protect yourself so much better with trigger warnings and it won’t have any impact on how well a book sells.
That I’m even talking about this. Wow, capitalism.
You might still think trigger warnings are spoilers or that people should actively work through a traumatic experience so they don’t need trigger warnings. Wrong. You can actively work through something and it still gets you down every single time you think of it. Especially since a lot of things are never really gone, they’re just there, at the back of your mind and then something happens (like reading a book) that reminds you a lot of that thing and boom! Evenings spent crying and hurting or worse. You can work through things when you want it but your traumas should spring up on you in surprise when you’re out there, just wanting to have a good time and read a book.
And that is why trigger warnings are a necessity. Was this a bit rambly? Maybe. Did I say what I wanted to? Yes.
If you want to discuss this, go for it. Tell me your opinions. Why do you think they are important? Where would you like to see trigger warnings? I’d love to hear your opinions!
Until next time,