There has been something on my mind ever since I wrote my discussion about needing trigger warnings in books. Well, it was more of a question I had. Are triggers always bad? Are books that contain triggering material bad? Sometimes, is it those books that can be potentially triggering the ones that are the most important and powerful? Sorry, I guess that was a few questions.
A part of me would have to say yes to the questions I posed. Some of my favourite books are triggering, but that doesn’t make me love them any less. And then again, there are some books that I’ve found really important and powerful, but didn’t ‘enjoy’ because they were quite triggering. And then there are the books that we can all agree are harmful — those that discuss mental illness and other triggering topics in such a hurtful way that it could never be twisted so that we view those novels positively. But those aren’t the books I want to focus on today.
Have you ever read a book that makes your heart clench? That makes you feel sick to your stomach? That makes you feel like you can’t breathe? Have you ever read a book that takes you back to a dark time in your life and plants a seed in your head that makes you think you won’t feel the same until you relapse?
For people that haven’t been marginalised because of their disability, sexuality, culture, or haven’t experienced mental illness, it’s easy to assume that we don’t need trigger warnings on what we read. There aren’t trigger warnings in real life, right? But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a responsibility to your readers, especially when so many of us are capable of being harmed by what we read.
We’re not “sensitive”.
What we read does affect us, and suggesting otherwise is not only condescending, but highlights your own privilege.
I’m not denying the fact that the best books are ones that leave us thinking. Some would even argue that controversial novels are necessary because they spark conversations about the things that we need to be talking about. But trigger warnings aren’t an attempt to take away that aspect of novels. Trigger warnings are needed because they have the capability to warn or protect potentially vulnerable readers. If you care more about protecting the “integrity” of a novel than the people that read it, then you should question your place in the reading community or the industry.Read More »