Content Warnings are Necessary

Trigger Warnings.png

Hello guys !

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ve probably noticed that the past few of months I started adding content warnings (or trigger warnings) to my reviews and that for many reasons, which I will discuss later but the point is, as the discussion around the importance of these warnings grows and I become more aware and educated when it comes to mental health issues (a mix of school + my mutuals on twitter) I started realising how necessary they are not only for others but for me as well because I figured out that I have been triggered by books before and that wasn’t fun which means that I could have used them a few years back and still appreciate the heads up a lot right now.

The thing is a lot of people need these, more than you realise, especially people with PTSD, anxiety and phobias who have it the worst when it comes to triggering content. And whether you need content warnings or not, you should use them all the same. You don’t really need to understand *why* people need them (which isn’t that complicated to begin with) you just need to be empathetic to people’s trauma and what being exposed to something that reminds them of that trauma might do to them.

This post itself might be triggering so please proceed with caution. There is no explicit anything but I do talk about triggers, rape being my own experience is more prevalent.

Trigger Warning 1

Triggers are content that if read by a person with precendants of trauma related to said content, the person could and most likely will experience signs that include but are not limited to panick attacks, a set back in mental health, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, etc… These are all things that I’ve experienced before but could never figure out the source until the start of this year.

Now trigger warnings or how I prefer to call them, content warnings are simply a kind of disclaimer at that is put -preferably and most efficiently- at the start of whatever media that contains triggers, in our instance, books. Now why do I like the term content warning better, you ask? Simply because to me -and this is just an opinion, someone else might see things differently and it’s fine- trigger is an immediate and lasting reaction, like when I used to get panic attacks, nightmares and be unable to sleep for days after reading a rape scene I wasn’t prepared for.

But content is more universal and I think encompasses triggers as well, because, again fron my own experience, even if I’m not automatically triggered anymore I still want to know when what I’m about to read has a rape scene, pedophilia or sexual assault in general, because as much as knowing makes it somewhat okay for me to read, not knowing is like a slap and depending on how explicit it is, my reaction to it can go from discomfort to insomnia and nightmares.

Here are some warnings you might want to keep an eye out for, while keeping in mind that it won’t be an exhaustive list:

  • Racism, colorism, xenomisia, islamomisia, hate crimes, etc…
  • Eating disorders, panic attacks, depression, self harm, suicide, suicidal ideations, etc…
  • Abuse (physical, mental, emotional…), assault, rape, pedophilia.
  • Homomisia, bimisia, panmisia, transimia, acemisia, aromisia, etc…
  • Fatmisia, dieting, etc…

Note that I’m using -misia instead of -phobia because it’s the suffix for hatred opposed to latter which is the suffix for fear.

Trigger Warning 2

They are a heads-up

I can’t believe this still needs to be said because it feels like it’s obvious but since there are still people out there who think these warnings are unnecessary or just people being “extra” here it goes. Content warnings do not say “DON’T READ THIS BOOK IT’S BAD”, they say this book deals with such and such topics and if these could harm you you should be aware of it, read with caution or do not read at all if you know you will be triggered. It gives people the opportunity to get out of harm’s way. It’s the least we can do, really, as reviewers, authors and editors, we owe it to our readers.

They’re not censorship

First of all, censorship comes from a place of power and as an individual I do not have the power to censor a book just by adding a content warning and that’s not even the point of said warnings. Second, censorship is forbidding people from reading a book, destroying the book and potentially (but not automatically) punishing anyone in possession of said book. Now, do you see how ridiculous it is to claim that content warnings are censorship? As I said in the previous point, all they do is warn people to topics that they could handle badly.

They are a show of respect and empathy

If you notice triggers in a book and ommit to mention them, you lack empathy severely and it shows that you do not care about other people’s well being. Ommiting content warnings while being fully aware of them says “I do not care about the trauma you might have been true, I wasn’t hurt so it’s fine”. And if this doesn’t bother you, you should do a deep self-reflection and check your privilege. I am being bluntly honest here but I’m just tired of trauma survivors being hurt because others are careless and selfish.

They are not spoilers

This is the one that gets me worked up the most because it’s the first argument the anti-content warning crowd brings up. The infamous “you’re ruining the book”, “you’re taking the element of surprise out of it. Excuse me but I don’t want to be surprised, that surprise will most likely trigger a panic attack in some people among other things. So, to address this once and for all, a spoiler is something that can ruin the plot if known beforehand and if you consider any of those topics above spoilers, it means they’re used as plot devices which in itself is quite problematic, because trauma cannot and shouldn’t not be added in a book just for its shock value.

So, to finish of this post, a reminder :

Just because something doesn’t hurt you, it’s doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

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That’s it until next time.

What do you think of Content Warnings? Are they important to *you*?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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42 thoughts on “Content Warnings are Necessary

  1. Great post, Fadwa! I basically agree with everything you’ve said here. I wrote a similar post a couple of months ago about why I support using trigger warnings in books and included a lot of the same reasons you did. I can’t get over people saying that TWs are spoilers. It really makes no sense to me because a TW doesn’t tell you anything about who it happens to, when it happens, etc. so I just don’t see how it can be some huge spoiler. Yet so many people just take it as a fact that they’re spoilers. I really don’t understand it 😛

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  2. Great post my twinnie. I agree with you that content warnings is something that has to be there more often than not, as it is very, very important. I know I need to make an effort on my own reviews since I haven’t been mentioning content warnings on them when I started blogging and haven’t changed the format and everything, but I’m definitely going to be better at that. Thank you for this post 🙂

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  3. I think it’s important to put trigger warnings for the sake of your readers because it shows you care. I personally don’t use them explicitly because I don’t talk about triggering content deeply on my blog, but when browsing other blogs, I appreciate people who use content warnings even if it personally doesn’t affect me. I hopefully will start using trigger warnings more too 🙂

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  4. Thanks for posting this. I honestly haven’t added content warnings to books that in hindsight really do need them, and I’m going to go back and fix that in my older reviews from this year as well as be more mindful of them going forward. Usually I’ve only added content warnings in reviews for books that had graphic and recognizable triggers (i.e. sexual assault, domestic abuse, eating disorders, suicide, etc.) but I’m trying to start including them for incidents I may have overlooked, such as bullying and harassment, or just passing mentions of EDs or abuse. Content warnings overall are necessary and crucial, and they don’t have to be made into a huge deal; just a quick, “hey, there’s a scene in the book where the main character is dodging bullets, CW for gun violence” or just at the top of your review, “CW for sexual assault, fatmisia, parental harassment, intense bullying.” I’d rather know early than be surprised in the worst way if one of my triggers came up, and I’m working to make sure I show the same respect to others who read books I’ve posted about.

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  5. Great thoughts here. I don’t generally use trigger or content warnings but I may start now after reading this. Where I do use them is in the classroom as a heads-up to my students when we’re getting into heavy stuff. They are really important, totally agree! And in no way are they spoilers. Dear heavens. Also, love the –misia suffix. Perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is an awesome post & very necessary for the blogging community. I usually try to be aware of triggering content, but I know sometimes I can miss it. The list you provided is so helpful. Also, totally not spoilers. It’s just decently human to be aware of such things. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. I’ve seen people suggest there should be content warnings on books, and I just think that’s a complicated endeavor because there will never be a perfect, unanimously-agreed upon system concerning what deserves a warning, what “counts” as x topic, etc. But I think content warnings make tons of sense on blogs and reviews, if people want to include them. Reviews are to help people to decide if they want to read the book, so yeah, if a blogger things some readers might not like x, y, or z, happenings in the book, it could be work mentioning.

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    • I disagree a bit because yes there are some triggers that are very specific and can be hard to spot but some things are fairly obvious and there’s no going around them.
      And I honestly don’t think it’s a matter of “wanting to include them” it’s more an issue of understanding that content warnings are necessary and normalizing them because they’re not something that readers wouldn’t potentially like, they’re something that could harm them.

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  8. Huge yes to this entire post. Trigger/content warnings are so so so important. I really wish publishers would start implementing them in books. I know it’s not possible to get every triggering thing because some are so specific and not everyone is comfortable sharing, but all the major ones you mentioned should definitely be put at the start of a book. It blows my mind that there’s people out there who don’t think they’re necessary?? The lack of empathy is outstanding.

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  9. This is a great post! Thank you for articulating much of the discussion surrounding this topic so concisely. I agree that publishers need to step up on including content/trigger warnings in their books. Something I’ve noticed and appreciated is that some authors are starting to include content warnings on the book pages on their websites, which is a good start and handy for reviewers to share as well. (A few I’ve seen doing this are Heidi Heilig, Corinne Duyvis, and S.K. Ali.)

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  10. Love this post! You bring up a good point that trigger warnings are NOT spoilers, in that the concerned topic shouldn’t be used as a plot point. I haven’t been putting trigger warnings for my reviews (so far there is just one that is concerning) because frankly I haven’t thought of it. I will add it to that review and I will definitely do this for my upcoming reviews. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  11. Excellent post! I’ve noticed people using -misia/-misic but I wasn’t sure the difference so thank you for specifying that! I completely agree that content and trigger warnings are needed. I hope that publishing picks it up and starts using them regularly. ❤

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  12. Yes 👏👏👏
    Everything you’ve said cannot be emphasized enough! I definitely agree that content warnings are necessary. I think it can really mentally prepare a reader for what they possibly might experience in a book, also it can help a reader not to be shocked or suffer a trigger like you mentioned. I also don’t know how people see content warnings as spoilers, they are a necessity that need to be added to book synopsis or reviews.

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  13. I’ve started adding content warnings at the beginning of all my book reviews as well. I try to get all of them by looking at goodreads reviews because there are times that I don’t notice certain things. I think they’re useful in reviews and at the start of books and other media. There should be some sort of universal way for media to include them (like movie ratings) because sometimes the way they’re done isn’t enough (like in 13 Reasons Why). I don’t know how to explain that properly :/ Great topic!

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  15. As per usual, your augment is on point Fadwa! While I am sensitive to any towards of abuse to children since becoming a mother myself, I am not triggered by many of the heavy topics that are included in many books today. I consider myself very fortunate for this. I have personally witness a good friend in the throws of an anxiety attack during a book event where the author was discussing a situation that was triggering to my friend. These situations can be avoided! The argument that trigger/content warnings would contain spoilers for those who do not need trigger/content warnings is ludicrous. The people who view trigger/content warnings as spoilers should consider themselves lucky, because those are the people who are fortunate enough not to need them. If its that big of a deal, I’m sure a dedicated spot in a book (even towards the back of the book) to include the content warnings where those who do not want to read the warnings could skip over that section. It’s really not that hard of a fix. Unfortunately there are some very selfish people out there who need to learn to have empathy for others.

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