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 realize, especially people with trauma, PTSD, 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.
Triggers are content that if read by a person with precedents of trauma related to said content, the person could and most likely will experience signs that include but are not limited to panic 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 are simply a disclaimer that is put -preferably and most efficiently- at the start of whatever media that contains triggers, in our instance, books. I use the term content warning simply because being triggered is an immediate and lasting violent reaction from your brain that send a fight or flight signal to your body and literally makes it react in a way that can be a huge mental health setback, like when I get panic attacks, nightmares and be unable to sleep for days after reading a rape scene I wasn’t prepared for. Trigger is used by medical professionals who treat trauma survivors predominantly, so the two are not to use interchangeably and here’s why:
But content is a broader that I think encompasses triggers as well, because from my own experience, even if I’m not automatically triggered 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 mild ruminations to insomnia and nightmares. So, when using the term content, instead of trigger, we allow for more freedom and leeway as to what we can warn readers to, which allows them to decide whether or not those *heavy* topics they do not/cannot read about.
Here are some warnings you might want to keep an eye out for, while keep ing in mind that it won’t be an exhaustive list:
- Racism, colorism, xenophobia, islamophobia, hate crimes, etc…
- Eating disorders, panic attacks, depression, self harm, suicide, suicidal ideations, etc…
- Abuse (physical, mental, emotional, sexual…), assault, rape, pedophilia.
- Homophobia, biphobia, panphobia, transphobia, acephobia, arophobia, etc…
- Fatphobia, dieting, etc…
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.
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.