Trigger warnings…

Considering some of the topics I cover, I think my name as a byline ought to be construed as a trigger warning for some things.

After reading a couple of really interesting posts on the subject – from the September 2015 Atlantic, and an August 2015 Salon post – I decided maybe we should simplify things.

There is just no way to effectively communicate all possible triggers in content, especially if we’re talking in college courses. Think about this for a minute.

Imagine a college professor teaching a class on Shakespeare. There’s rape, murder, thievery, mysogyny, and more. Let’s say the professor has 30 students in this class, a fairly small number, actually. The professor may not know their full student list until the first day of class. It would be impossible for them to modify the curriculum to address triggers they were unaware of.

So, on day one of class, the professor has to determine which students, if any, have what triggers, then quickly go about adapting the curriculum to address each one’s individual sensitivities. What happens when one student’s needs are in conflict with the needs of another student in the same class?


How about a simpler approach?

Rather than trying to read minds, or cater to each individual’s needs (even if they are not the majority), how about simply labeling things in broad categories, kind of like movies or television content?

Think HBO-style warnings before the start of the show.

“This class/program/book/post/whatever may contain content not suitable to all audiences.” Followed by a list of codes.

Each person is responsible for deciding which types of content they are willing to be exposed to. Each person can make the informed decision on what is right for them, without asking others who may not share their sensitivities to be governed by the same values.

While we’re at it, let’s add some warning labels for content of a religious nature as well.

Oh, and sarcasm. Don’t forget sarcasm. That’s a really important one.