All the *WARNINGS*!!!

thoughts orangutan

Once upon a time, back in my more edgy days, I drafted a post called “triggered by trigger warnings”. The reason I never posted that BEAST-OF-A-POST was because it ended up being 15,000 words of research and incoherent ramblings… so it’s probably for the best that I lost that post when my old laptop, the Mad Hatter, passed away in February (#RIP). Besides, since I worked on that post there’s been even more discussion in the scientific community on the topic- making this more fortuitous timing to have a chat about it. Don’t worry though, this post won’t be 15,000 words 😉

cracks knuckles batmanOkay *cracks knuckles* before we get started, I know this is going to be a sensitive topic for some people, so I may as well begin with a little self-defence and state for the record: I’m not going to get personal. I’m certainly not writing this post for any nefarious purposes. And I would ask those who disagree with what I have to say not to assume/attack/jump to conclusions about me ta-very-much… except that’d likely be a pointless request, since most people don’t need to be told not to be dicks and the people that do need it will likely ignore the request anyway 😉

So, we’re already at an impasse, where all I can say is that I understand the perspective of those who use trigger warnings and can sympathise with their intentions. Arguments range from protecting children from inappropriate books to helping those with PTSD/mental health issues avoid topics they don’t want to read. Personally, I believe that all readers should be able to self-censor, or to use a more common term CHOOSE, what they read. That’s a huge part of why we review books in the first place. you chooseAnd I will say, so we’re clear, if you want to put trigger warnings in your reviews, that’s entirely your decision. Reviewers should feel free to review in whichever way they see fit. But I do think there should be more discussion around this, since there are reasons bloggers like me do not use them. And, spoiler alert, it’s not cos we’re evil 😉

The main issue that I’ve always had with the use of trigger warnings is the consensus from a large swathe of the scientific community that trigger warnings are not only ineffective, they’re also counterproductive. Most recently, a study by Harvard PHD student Payton Jones, linked below, discovered that trigger warnings increased anxiety for those with severe PTSD. His findings were that trigger warnings “countertherapeutically reinforce survivors’ view of their trauma as central to their identity.” Other trauma psychologists, such as Metin Basoglu, previously stated “Most trauma survivors avoid situations that remind them of the experience. Avoidance means helplessness and helplessness means depression. That’s not good. Exposure to trauma reminders provides an opportunity to gain control over them.” Regardless of whether an individual can seek help or not, I would question whether it is wise to adopt a practice which can worsen an individual’s symptoms. This is not as cut and dry an issue as many are led to believe.

Sticking to the topic of mental health, I believe there is an alternative way to approach the issue. Logically speaking, it’s no wonder that trigger warnings can be counterproductive. They prime the reader for an adverse reaction. Starkly putting the words “trigger warning: rape” is far more shocking than explaining gently in the review that “there are sensitive topics in the book, such as sexual assault, so readers who don’t want to read this content may want to bear that in mind”. This is aside from the fact choosing the correct warnings in the first place is tricky if not nigh on impossible (I am not joking when I say that I’ve met a person with an intense fear of buttons for instance). Rather than picking out from a carefully cultivated list, readers are usually better at determining for themselves where the line might be. A good review will always facilitate that, letting you know important aspects of the content.

Here’s where the other issues come in. Chiefly, the spoiler issue… and yes this is an issue for a lot of readers. Not everyone, obviously- many people don’t care about spoilers and some even (*shock horror*) flip to the end of a book before they start to find out how it turns out! Yet, even for those who want to avoid certain topics in books, reading trigger warnings is a no-go because they are laden with spoilers. Given that people put in *every* detail into the warning section, from plot twists to endings, it is unsurprising not everyone wants to know the entire journey in advance. Thus, some reviewers prefer to explain any content issues in the body of the review- which most reviewers endeavour to do tactfully and in depth. This is the *purpose* of a review after all. I understand the desire to give people the information quickly- which is why trigger warnings are so popular in the age of immediacy- yet the words without context aren’t just spoilery. They can actually have other consequences for a book.

Think for a moment what the label “racism” does to your preconceptions of a book. Now if I tell you that trigger warning can be applied from To Kill a Mockingbird to The Invisible Man to Gone with the Wind to Huckleberry Finn, it should raise alarm bells- because these are v-e-r-y different books. Out of context, the word “racist” is off-putting- which is why a full review, with examples, explanations and in-depth explorations, is so important. Just sticking a label on a book is unhelpful if we actually want to examine the issues it contains- especially if its critiquing said issues. I’d argue it’s potentially censorious, except that labels like these have already been used to slam cancelled books. In fact, people often aren’t even allowed to have this conversation without getting cancelled (anecdotally, I saw Erika Sanchez getting serious blowback on twitter for daring to have an opinion on this). And it’s no secret that “triggering books” have been used widely to self-censor at universities (which, given the role of academic institutions, is rather different to self-censoring when reading for pleasure).

All of this- combined with the fiery-career-ending conversations around this topic- gets in the way of free and open debate. And that is what I am most concerned about. We need to have real conversations, not resort to “here’s what this book is about in 140 characters or less!” Maybe I’m wrong, maybe the quickfire culture is right- but personally I’d rather take my time figuring things out.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Before I go, I’d like to share a couple of fantastic posts from other bloggers having this conversation and presenting their own views:

Drew @The Tattooed Book Geek https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2019/02/08/lets-talk-trigger-warnings-bookblogger-bookbloggers-blogger-bloggers-blogpost

Confessions of a YA Reader https://confessionsofayareader.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/are-we-policing-books-too-hard-or-not-enough-are-we-helping-books-get-banned-controversial-book-discussion-post-massive-warning-for-triggers-and-hot-topics-throughout-the-whole-blog-post-do/

And more recent research that I’ve done:

https://osf.io/axn6z/

https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-03-15/do-trigger-warnings-on-tv-do-more-harm-than-good/

https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=13462

https://slate.com/technology/2019/07/trigger-warnings-research-shows-they-dont-work-might-hurt.html

https://slate.com/human-interest/2013/12/trigger-warnings-from-the-feminist-blogosphere-to-shonda-rhimes-in-2013.html

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/study-trigger-warnings-are-basically-useless-even-if-youve-been-through-trauma/

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/03/do-trigger-warnings-work/585871/

https://themedium.ca/features/going-too-far-with-trigger-warnings/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/11106670/Trigger-warnings-more-harm-than-good.html

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/20/trigger-warnings-college-campus-books

Sooo time to turn it over to you- am I going to hell in a handbasket for my opinions here? Do you agree or disagree with my stance on this? Let me know in the comments!

109 thoughts on “All the *WARNINGS*!!!

  1. This is a great post and it makes a lot of sense. It actually makes it a bit tough as a reviewer. Some readers get nasty if there are no warnings. Others, like you, prefer to present them in a different way. My biggest issue is trying not to hurt a readers, but also trying not to give the story away. I’m not really triggered by things, so I would love to hear from people who are. I also hate that warnings are used to attack books. I think a lot of my post was about that. People want to cancel or censor books because of mature topics. It’s such a tough topic to talk about. I was terrified to write about it, so I’m happy to see others addressing it, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you- I’m glad to hear it. I really agree with you- I’ve no problem if other people want to use them- but unfortunately some people think they *have to* be everywhere. And there is another side to this debate, one which I wanted to share. I think too often this is viewed as trying to “hurt” readers if you don’t include them, which isn’t the case at all. I get what people are trying to do (not something I wanted to talk about in the post, but I do have experience with this)- and I personally disagree with these methods. I especially hate how these are used to bash books and engage in cancel culture. I thought it was fantastic that you wrote about it- it gave me courage to finally go ahead and say something about it myself- so thank you for that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad I was able to help you bring this up. I think for me, I mostly read YA. I know at least one librarian who has told students about my site and she may use some of the recs. So I do like to include certain things or say it’s a more mature book for that reason.

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  2. I recently had this discussion with myself because the content part I put at the end of my reviews wasn’t really working for me. I am far from a detailed reviewer and I’ve been trying to improve with time (I think I’m better than when I started out). My main issue was that I wasn’t paying that much attention and my mild, medium, high ratings were so subjective. I read all over the place and there are things I don’t mind as long as they serve the plot and the characters. I will also admit that there are things that I’m triggered by but people don’t put trigger warnings for those things because they aren’t the “obvious” ones. I mostly did my content part because there are a bunch of library patrons who ask for “clean” books and I’ve enjoyed having discussions with them about it.

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    1. I can understand that. I completely relate to trying to improve, cos I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of leaving things out. And I really relate to that as well, so I can easily overlook certain things (although I do try to just tell people my reviews are mostly subjective 😉 ) Oh I totally get that- I have been blindsided more than a few times by people who use warnings! (but don’t state even the most obvious things in their review or warning section). So weirdly enough, I don’t even think this always works as a shortcut (it depends who’s using them, the same as it depends who’s writing the review). I do really get about leaning more towards “content warnings” (I kind of see the difference in my head tbh, but not sure I could explain it) Either way, I get why people use them, especially cos people have different preferences and want to know what’s in a book.

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  3. Lovely discussion. I do not usually use trigger warnings on me blog or in me reviews (there was one exception). Basically I feel that certain genres are more likely to trigger. For example I am not a fan of rape as just a plot point in books to show that the character is “a bad guy” and have been known to be vocal on the subject depending on how it’s used and have “debated” with publishers about me choices. I don’t think rape should never be written about however. Grimdark is, well, dark and so rape may appear there. The Poppy War was written about a specific historical time frame and its atrocities so it appears there. What I believe for the purposes of me own reviews it that if something bothers me about how an issue is raised or discussed then I share me opinions for readers to make their own choices about whether to pick up a book or not. Each person has to decide what they want to deal with and not every book is for every person. Also I don’t understand why some folks don’t get that THEIR experience is not everyone’s take. One book that changes someone’s life can be someone else’s idea of complete crap. Though can someone explain to me how trigger warnings help if they be at the end of a review?
    x The Captain

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    1. PS. I want to make clear that I don’t personally have triggers when reading but lots of reading is potentially uncomfortable (in me non-fiction reading specifically). I choose to read discomforting things sometimes to learn more about an issue or topic. How much discomforting things in any given period is dependent on me mood and the subject involved.

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    2. Thank you! I completely get what you mean here! And really agree! I can completely understand that- I think there are definitely ways a sensitive topic can be used. But yeah, it does make a huge difference what genre it is in. I think it’s harsh on the authors to go after a book which is telling you that it’s going to be dark from the off. It’s what most readers expect. I definitely agree that if you have a problem with something it makes sense to break it down in the review and discuss it. Absolutely agree with you there. Oh gosh couldn’t agree more- I find it frustrating that there are people who speak for EVERYONE (and sometimes it’s relevant to me and I’m just like “what?”) Couldn’t agree more! Hmm not sure- I’d have to ask someone that does it that way. Thanks so much for your amazing comment!

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  4. I like an up front spoiler alert. I don’t like to have any idea what’s going to happen. It spoils book/movie/ show for me, because I think how things appear makes something good or not so good. Trigger warnings are ridiculous. There’s lousy stuff in life. Deal with it.

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  5. I remember Drew’s post on this and really enjoyed reading his post! I love this too! I had a really hard time deciding if I wanted to include trigger warnings or not … the librarian in me says yes … but you’re right that there’s a lot of other things to consider. This part you posted really hit me as it’s something I’ve been wondering about: “Most recently, a study by Harvard PHD student Payton Jones, linked below, discovered that trigger warnings increased anxiety for those with severe PTSD. His findings were that trigger warnings “countertherapeutically reinforce survivors’ view of their trauma as central to their identity.” Not to get personal, but I’ve suffered some PTSD with certain things so when i see that in the trigger warning, I get really freaked out.

    For me, I think I want to still keep SOMETHING but make it more … sensitive? I try to do that now but I still have to work on it. Rather than saying “rape”, saying “sexual assault”. But again, is this still okay for those who have experienced major trauma? it’s a really hard thing to decide upon.

    And the spoiler thing is another thing I’ve been pondering. I actually removed “car accident” from a trigger list since it spoiled a major part of the novel. Same with “loss of a parents”, where I put “loss of a loved one” instead.

    Either way, I think this is really important to talk about … since trigger warnings could also cause more harm than good. Again, something I’m trying to find a balance with. Great post!!! I love these kinds of topics!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I really loved Drew’s post too! And I’m really glad you thought so! It means a lot!

      I do hear you. I get why people want to include them. But nothing I found when researching trigger warnings supported them and I found so many experts talking about how they negatively impact recovery. I’m sorry to hear that and I understand what you mean (part of the reason I struggled to write the post but also a massive reason why I wanted to do it is cos it’s a little close to home).

      I completely understand that, because I also like to know whether some things are going to be in a book before I decide to read it. I find that reviews which are sensitive are helpful. I definitely think putting something like “sexual assault” might be better, but I also think it comes down to framing, cos I personally think explaining is better than just WARNING: X! Like you said, I think it’s just a more sensitive way of dealing with it.

      I really like your point about changing “car accident” and “loss of parents”- cos I have seen people do things like that before and to me that just comes across as spoilery- whereas “loss of a loved one” wouldn’t be. The problem for me is that I’m too afraid to come across the former to look for the latter, if that makes sense.

      Yeah that’s the biggest problem I have with them. Definitely get what you mean. I think a lot of people talk about wanting various warnings for different things and I think it’s good to listen and try and include that. I just personally don’t see this as being the way to do it (although, again, it’s up to individual reviewers to find what works for them).
      Thank you! And thank you so much for reading and for your fantastic comment!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh no worries! It’s in the past and something I’m working with 🙂 And I actually did my own research after reading your post and a lot of it says what you were explaining! There were a few cases where it mentioned it COULD be helpful but then we are creating this “sensor sensitive” society … the whole avoidance thing. That REALLY opened my eyes … since I deliberately check trigger stuff for avoidance. I thought this was just really fascinating.

        Ooooo yes … I like how you say “explaining” rather than “warning” … that’s a really good point!

        Honestly … I think this is one of your best and most intriguing posts … which is saying something because you write so many amazing posts. Wonderful job!!! Honestly … it’s making me really think about whether i want to continue with trigger warnings and such in my own reviews!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Glad to hear it 🙂 And yeah- I see it as troubling on multiple- but especially because it seems to prime people for mental health issues, even if they don’t have them to begin with (I don’t know if I included anything from him, but Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, is really good on the subject).

          Thanks!

          Ah thank you so much! I’m really glad it could help, whatever you decide to do. I completely get why people choose to use them, I just wanted to explain why I don’t, but it’s amazing the post’s made you think about it! 😀 ❤

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  6. I’ve always hated trigger warnings because they spoil things in the book! I can definitely see how they can be useful but I think you should at least hide them behind a spoiler tag if you choose to include them, just like you would any other spoiler. I don’t include them in my reviews personally, I think if you are uncomfortable reading certain topics it isn’t that difficult to avoid books/media that include mentions. There are whole sites for cataloguing things like that.

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    1. I completely relate!! I really do agree with you there!
      And yes, I do agree with you. I think if you read reviews for books in general, you’ll usually be told various things about a book, including all the potentially uncomfortable topic (ironically, I find I’m more likely to be blindsided by someone who uses trigger warnings, either because I don’t like to look at them, or because they miss things out).

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  7. Great post! I’m not opposed to rating books the same way movies are rated — G, PG, etc — as I think that helps inform consumers … but having a “PG-13” on the back cover of a book next to the barcode is far different than a lengthy trigger warning statement.

    As you noted, the science on triggers/avoidance/anxiety is pretty conclusive. When I see patients with anxiety, one of the big hurdles we have to overcome near the start of treatment is understanding (1) avoidance doesn’t make things better and (2) you need to feel anxiety to get over anxiety – i.e., exposure exercises. (Lemme tell you … patients DO NOT like hearing that, and many don’t return for treatment because the task is so uncomfortable.) But, it’s a matter of short term pains for long term gains. And trigger warnings — which, as you said, communicate to people that they SHOULD be bothered — certainly don’t help with the recovery process.

    My personal policy as a university instructor is that no trigger warnings will be given. Students are given a syllabus at the start of the course. If they see a topic that they think will bother them, then they don’t have to attend lecture that day. It’s their prerogative as adult learners.

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    1. That ye kindly for the information about anxiety patients. I thought that was very interesting. On a teaching side note: I did feel that me students could skip whatever lecture they wanted – their prerogative. How does the university handled the absences and the grading for a missed lecture in that instance? We had to mark off points based on absences when I taught whether I felt they had a right to skip or not (unless doc’s note or related).
      x The Captain

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      1. Canadian universities — at least, the large research institutions that I’ve worked/studied at — don’t take attendance for lectures.

        It’s sometimes a bit different for seminars/labs — but, you’ll often be required to complete work during these class times that is later submitted for marks. (i.e., no attendance — no data — no assignment — no grade.) However, even then, there’s a lot of leeway for non-attendance … You can’t expect a high grade if you continuously skip lab, but you’d be able to pass.

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    2. Thank you so much for your comment! Firstly, I also have thought about whether there should be things like PG on books- especially with regards to how content in YA has shifted over the years, so simply labelling it YA doesn’t give parents reassurance that it’s actually appropriate. So yeah, I love that idea and really agree with it!

      I’m also so relieved to hear from someone that knows about this area, confirming what I (a layman) came across in my research. I don’t have so many links to journals, because I lost all my references when my old computer broke, but I did look into scientific journals and every article on the topic had the same sort of thing (I couldn’t find any scientific studies to back up the pro-trigger warning debate, though I was open-minded about it).

      What you’re saying makes a lot of sense. I actually worry that the pro-trigger warning perspective being so mainstream is very damaging, because it can make people even more resistant to treatment.

      I think your policy makes perfect sense!

      Thank you so much for your input on this! I’m really grateful for your take on this!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh man — all the yes, Re: YA books. I was SHOCKED the first time I read A Court of Thorns and Roses … there are some amazingly graphic scenes in there that I shudder to think of 16-year-old-me reading. The writing might be easy, and the font a bit large, but that is NOT a YA book!

        I can’t think of any research studies that are pro-trigger warning … though, I suspect that if done the right way (e.g., more a content rating: “this book contains mature subject matter: violence, sexual intercourse, coarse language”) it might be useful … if a person has quite severe anxiety/trauma and insufficient coping skills, exposure to an anxiety-provoking stimulus could easily overload their system. A content warning allows them to be reflective and purposeful about what they engage in, and make informed decisions. (Not out of instinctual fear/avoidance reaction, but more a mindful process of know-thyself … just like any other consumer.)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh gosh YES- that is the exact example I nearly always go for (and the later throne of glass books). There will be 16 year olds (who I’ve spoken to who are okay with it) but the vast majority I speak to have said it’s too much for them. I wouldn’t have been comfortable reading that at 16 and I just don’t think it’s YA.

          I can definitely understand people leaning more towards content warnings. And I do think that people like to know what’s in a book to a certain degree (though not explicit events) which is one of the reasons I think reviews in general are so helpful. And I agree that there’s a difference between encouraging avoidance and more of a mindful process of choosing what you read- like you said, just like any other product. That said, there’s always going to be subjects people don’t want to read, but it’s very subjective, so it’s hard to make a rule for it and it can easily be glossed over in reviews/warnings etc. Just as you can’t always help seeing unpleasant things online, for instance, you can’t always inculcate yourself from certain subjects in books.

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  8. Really interesting post – I must confess I didn’t fully understand what these ‘trigger warnings’ were when they started popping up on reviews. I assumed they were at attempt to add adult content/age warnings like for films, but I now see it’s more complex than that. I personally ignore them since I’m not worried about being triggered by anything, but I often wonder if other people find them useful. I’ve certainly seen epic warning lists that make a book I thought was fairly harmless sound like it’s going to be a horror show, so I agree with you about the nuance – just listing things without clarifying might scare people off unnecessarily… e.g. I’ve read books with explicit and disturbing rape scenes that I can definitely see why people might want to avoid, but I’ve also read others that dealt with the topic in a more oblique way, and to label both with the warning “rape” and no context might not be very helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Ah I can understand that- I follow a lot of other things (politics, psychology etc), so I had heard of them, but I can imagine they seemed random to a lot of people. And yeah, they’re not quite the same as adult content warnings, because of how and why they arose (basically they had been used in some women’s shelters and then people thought they should become mainstream). hehehe it’s actually funny when you describe it like that- cos I’ve seen that too (for some regular fantasy books or contemporary for instance). I totally get that- and I really do think in that particular case it’s helpful for people to know- though I’m still unconvinced by the trigger warning method. And like you said, there’s never any differentiation (for instance, people sometimes use that for things like groping, which, while of course unpleasant, is not the same thing).

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  9. It seems to me the term “trigger warning” has become more of a trigger in and of itself to some than the content of which it means to warn. To me it’s just a new term for an old practice. To piggyback somewhat off what Em @ The Geeky Jock said, Hollywood has been using content warnings since the Thirties thanks to the Catholics. While I don’t believe books (or blogs) should require a MPAA-like rating system — separating books generally by age groups to me is good enough — I do believe it’s a good idea for an to ensure somehow that everyone is made aware that the ride may get a little bumpy along the way. Great post/discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is very true. I definitely hear you about content warnings and I have seen more people shifting to that sort of standard. I also think including genre or age categories (sometimes I forget, which I feel bad about). And I definitely agree that people should know what they’re getting into, to some degree (Jenna gave the example of “car crash” being a spoiler whereas “loss” isn’t- which I think is a good example of the difference). But yeah, I completely get why people want to use them, just trying to explain the other side of the argument. Thank you so much!

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  10. Great post. Personally I am not a fan of trigger warnings for many of the reasons you give. I’m also not sure it’s possible to give warnings for every single thing that could trigger (assuming trigger is even the right word). As a reader there is certain content I find upsetting and in the past I’ve had a real problem with a very specific thing but I wouldn’t expect a reviewer to warn me. Most of the time as you say a well thought out review can give you an indication of things that may be upsetting. I’ve spotted some reviews with trigger warnings that are literally just a list of every single event that happens in the book. After the reading the review I didn’t see any need to read the book.

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    1. Thank you! I do agree there- I’ve seen people write definitive lists which go on for pages… and that’s just not a sustainable system in my opinion. I can relate to that. I definitely have particular things that bother me, but sometimes I will want to read the book anyway and I definitely don’t blame the reviewer/author if I wasn’t forewarned (although I find warning systems, rather than thorough reviews, can miss things more- cos I have definitely been more blindsided by this system). And yes, the spoiler thing is another issue, because it means that even if you are worried, you might want to avoid the warnings section, because it’s basically a play-by-play of the action (which is another reason why people can end up not getting the warning). I hear you!

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  11. I’m all for spoilers. And if something bothers me in a book, I let anyone reading my review know about it. I have zero problems with talking about things that bother me in books. However, I don’t really like the phrase “trigger warning” because of all the associated baggage that tends to go with that, ie, the people who use “trigger warning” religiously.

    None of this “rheeee” business and I have no problem with the idea of trigger warnings.

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    1. So, I hear you, and I’ve no problem if people have different styles of reviewing. There are certain types of books I don’t mind being spoiled for, but others where I’m more cautious. And I definitely don’t mind when people discuss the problems they had with books. But all that’s a personal preference thing and I definitely don’t want to tell people how to review- more just talk about why I (and other bloggers) don’t use trigger warnings. Especially cos it tends to cause moral outrage- which is not good. As you said, it’s the people who use it religiously. And unfortunately, it’s being used more and more to shut people down, which I don’t like.

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  12. I see what you mean. Explaining that the book *may contain* instead of the trigger warning sounds so much better. You don’t spoil anything and the people who might need it get to choose if that’s okay with them or not. I’ll keep that in mind for my future reviews.

    There’s only one thing I can’t bare to see, and that’s attempts of suicide or self-harm (which.. had a LOT in my Quebec’s prison Tv show I loved in the end of seasons..). When 13 reasons why became popular, my bestfriend just told me how good it was and « omg you so should watch it!! » — at the time I was at my lowest and suicidal, so it could’ve been very harmful if I wouldn’t had known from tumblr that there was VERY graphic attempts showed, so that show became a big NOPE for me.

    Every reader must know their limit, but I do believe that for them to decide if it’s within their range or not, some things need to be said. Another exemple, this time with a book, although knowing « my heart and other black holes » was heavy, I didn’t pictured how heavy it actually was. I was not in my lowest point anymore, so I was able to handle it – but it’s important to know how much suicide idealization this book has.. some books just need to be read within the right mindset.

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    1. Yeah, I think that’s a fair point. I think that in general people should know what they’re getting into with regards to content- like your 13 reasons why example. But that’s why I think it’s important to talk about content in general and that’s why reviews (and in that case descriptions/blurbs) can be helpful, if done properly.

      I definitely agree that every reader has their limit. And you definitely make a good point. I do think that readers should be clear on what the issues are and the extent to which they turn up. I hear you- I’ve definitely been caught unawares by books that were not for me/way past my limit. For me though, I find these types of warnings tend to skirt around the issues a little. I find that I get blindsided by things that may be listed in warnings, but reviewers don’t want to talk about, so they skirt over them in the review (and then it’s hard to gauge how big a part it is etc). Not to say whether or not people should use trigger warnings (that’s up to the individual reviewer) but if something is especially dark or heavy, it’s worth explaining that in the body of the review regardless. Even if it’s just to let people know they need to be in a certain mood for it.

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      1. Yep, I do agree! It doesn’t need to be in the « trigger warning » form – simply just put a little note to make sure other people are aware.

        Then again, maybe it would be worth mentioning how bad things are (light/moderate/heavy) for some things.. a book can have slight mention of sexual harm for exemple, without being too much – or it can be a constant that someone couldn’t cope with, with just a trigger warning mention, we don’t really have any idea upon which one it is.

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        1. Yeah true.

          And that’s a fair point- I do think that would be helpful to people. And yeah I’ve definitely seen that happen- especially with sexual assault. It can be really hard to know from those kind of blanket warnings what a book actually contains.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for the perspective! I’ve never paid much attention to trigger warnings, but I think you have some very valid points about spoilers and lack of context. When I review, I’m more likely to state in broad terms if there are pervasive thematic elements that some might find overly-disturbing (e.g. peril or harm to children, emotional trauma, explicitly described gore/sex/violence). Once or twice I may have used “trigger warning” as lazy shorthand for this when I felt like the author was deliberately going for shock value, but I prefer to just include the information as part of the review.

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    1. Thank you for reading! And I think that makes a lot of sense- I definitely think there is always room in a review to discuss something that is disturbing etc (in fact, I think not discussing it is stranger- which I see with some people who use trigger warnings instead). Yeah I completely get that, it makes sense!

      Like

  14. I remember reading that if trigger warnings are used to prepare people for exposure to the material, it can help them work through their trauma but the problem is that we don’t use it in that way – it seems like trigger warnings are used to avoid exposure to whatever it is that’s triggering, which means that people don’t get the chance to encounter difficult issues in relatively safer environments.

    Personally, I don’t do trigger warnings, but I will flag something in the body of my review if I felt it deserved it (like if it was unexpected and something that might have been a dealbreaker for me picking up the book) but I will also add in a spoiler warning before discussing.

    Another point I thought of: focusing on trigger warnings may end up distilling a book to those few key points when it could be a lot more nuanced than that.

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    1. So, that’s an interesting point. The problem I’ve found is that when the theory (that they can help people work through trauma) is tested it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. But yes, very much agree that they can be used in safe environments, which causes increased sensitivity even in healthy people (and has a negative effect on people who have had trauma).

      I think that makes perfect sense. I completely think it’s a good idea to give people a heads up too.

      Yes absolutely agree with you there- and unfortunately I have seen that happen.

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  15. I like trigger warnings in books. I know there are lots of bad things in the world, I have gone through some of them. So knowing if a book has child abuse or any kind of abuse is important to me. That ideally cannot be a spoiler. Only a person who has gone through stuff will know how nightmares torment you for days. Deal with it, saying is easy. For some of us, it isn’t.
    I don’t put them in my reviews as a warning but I do mention child abuse. Most times I stay away from books which would trigger me.
    For me, A COMPLETE YES TO TRIGGER WARNINGS.

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    1. I read more than 100 reviews per day so reading trigger warnings don’t really harm a book for me, as I don’t remember at the end of the day which book has what warning. I remember only the ones which would trigger me and read such books on my strong days.

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    2. I can understand that. I am sorry you went through that and how you deal with it is entirely up to you.

      I will say that I don’t say any of this lightly or without personal experience in this area- unfortunately I also have experience in this- so I would never say “deal with it” or pretend it’s easy.

      I do think it’s a good idea to tell people what’s in a book- but I prefer alternative ways of doing that. I think it’s cool for you to choose a particular method, if it suits you, but the reason why I did this post is to explain why I, and other people like me, choose not to.

      Like

  16. I used to put TW in my reviews but I don’t anymore. sometimes I do mention it somewhere in review. I have forgetful nature and mind so you might not see it often! Anyway, i like them if someone mention it. If there is abuse or rape I want to know it beforehand just to steel myself as it’s difficult topic even though I haven’t gone though it. It always make book difficult to read for me. I don’t consider them spoiler. Some people like it or dislike it. i guess it’s subjective thing.

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    1. I completely understand that! And it makes sense! I really do agree with you there- I think it’s helpful to give people a heads up. Really, I’m just trying to explain there are different ways of doing that, without using TW. I wouldn’t consider that a spoiler either- when I’m talking about spoilers, I’m referring to plot pivotal moments and that’s really a case by case issue. But I’ve definitely seen things like “car accident” or “murder” or other things you probably wouldn’t want to know going in. Yeah I definitely think it’s subjective.

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  17. At first trigger warnings centered around sexually related topics that were considered inappropriate for young (and sometimes even adult) readers, but the field exploded when the moral crusaders entered the literary battlefield. For me, the only valuable trigger warnings should be age related: fit or unfit for children. This may count as well for romance with murky sex scenes, a holocaust journal, the diary of a serial killer or other horror stories; you don’t want this kind of lecture into the hands of young children. ‘Not suitable for children under age of xx’: that’s where the censorship has to stop.

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    1. Yes absolutely agree with you! And definitely think that age categories are the most important and basically the only types of warning that should exist (I think there is a debate to be had about whether these labels, like YA, are failing, because of adults reading the genre, but that’s a topic for another day). Very much agree with you!

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  18. Really good points!

    I agree with letting people have a warning so they can decide if/when to deal with something, but spoilers shouldn’t be necessary.

    Yeah, a decontextualised ‘tw: racism’ can be so misleading. There’s a big difference between being racist and just depicting racism.

    I address things in the body of the review, and trust people to have some sense. Obviously a historical or grimdark novel might feature certain things…

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    1. Thank you!!

      And yeah, I definitely think it makes sense to tell people if there’s going to be something significant, like sexual assault, in the body of the review (like you, I trust people to have the sense to read the review so they get a full picture).

      I absolutely agree. Unfortunately, I’ve seen people primed for getting angry at a book, just because it addresses racism- but depicting racism is a critique of racism, so it doesn’t make sense for it to have the same label (I also think if a book has racist content, it’s important to actually explain what the problem is, otherwise it just goes over people’s heads).

      And yes, very much agree with you. I think some books are obviously going to have certain content and we can tell from the genre!

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  19. This is a brilliant post. I agree with your points and I learned things! 🙂 I admit I put a trigger in my review when animal cruelty is involved in a book, as I really can’t read about this and know people who feel the same. I’ve had to give up on books because of that, despite having a great time with the story. But as you said, anything can be a trigger, you can’t really put a full list, and it’s a difficult matter to tackle. xx

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    1. Thank you! I’m really glad you thought so!! I think that’s totally okay- I really understand that. Definitely not trying to criticise anyone for using them, just explain the other side of the argument. And I one hundred percent get that as well- I think that’s definitely something people would want to know, so whether it’s in a warning or in the body of the text, it makes complete sense to include it. Yeah absolutely. xx

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  20. ahh, this was such a good and eye-opening discussion! i, personally, always include them in my reviews because i want my audience to be safe, but now i’m doubly glad that i put the warnings under a ‘read more’ tag so that people can have the choice to read the tws or not! i agree that many people who try and start a debate about this get canceled immediately. i was on twitter when erika sanchez tweeted that tweet, and though i didn’t necessarily agree with her, i was appalled at the fact that people were rudely replying to her when she was politely stating an opinion. the amount of subtweets she got was just horrendous.

    i think i’ve just always seen people on the book community who value trigger warnings, and that’s why i value them too, so it’s nice to see someone give their opinion on why they don’t use trigger warnings. i never realized that, scientifically, they could have a negative effect, definitely some food for thought, and i’m really grateful that you brought that up. i agree that people usually use trigger warnings to cancel books. the ninth house drama surrounding that is a prime example, and that really has to change.

    ahh, so this comment is a mess. but this was such a great and eye-opening discussion!

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    1. That is a fantastic idea! I think putting it under a “read more” tag is the perfect compromise! And I like that you do that!

      And yeah that is definitely a problem- I saw that happened to Erika Sanchez as well and felt so bad for her (made me more keen to read her book to be honest). The subtweeting was absolutely awful. And the ninth house drama is another prime example of how they can be used as part of cancel culture.

      Yeah I’ve seen so many people talking about the pros of trigger warnings and why they use them- but it’s rare for anyone to say why they don’t. I get why people use them and don’t think badly of anyone who does- I just feel like it would be good to share why some people (like me) don’t use them. I think there can easily be two sides to this without one side being demonised.

      No worries!! Really liked your comment!! Thank you so much for reading ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I don’t even know what my opinion is on trigger warnings. I guess I don’t mind reading reviews or books with them. Maybe I’ve just never found my own triggers. I do have to say that I found this quote very interesting. I had never thought of things this way. It makes sense to me.
    “Most trauma survivors avoid situations that remind them of the experience. Avoidance means helplessness and helplessness means depression. That’s not good. Exposure to trauma reminders provides an opportunity to gain control over them.”

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  22. Great post! I’ve been starting to go back and add trigger warnings to my reviews, but I didn’t like the way they were working and I couldn’t really put into words why. Your post did a great job of stating what I was having trouble with.

    I do still like giving a gentle warning about when a book might have sensitive topics, but I’m going to be rethinking they way I word those warnings.

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    1. Thank you! Ah I’m really glad I could help!! And I’m glad you like that too- it really works for me personally and I do try to do that as much as possible. Obviously, it’s up to individuals to choose what works for them, but I think there is a happy medium.

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  23. I agree completely, again 🙂 I’d never use trigger warnings as such, I just might mention it inside the review if I find something in a book troubling.
    Personally, I think books are one of the safest places to confront your fears and worldviews you disagree with. Thanks for the solid data you included and links!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 I’m so glad you agree! I’m in the exact same boat. And that is an excellent and important point. In a similar way, I think experiencing catharsis, even for something traumatic, in a book is a really safe and healthy (and tried and tested method) to deal with traumatic issues. No problem!

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  24. Thank you for such a thoughtful post. I agree completely, and much prefer the approach of indicating within the body of the review if there are potentially troublesome topics rather than reviews that list trigger warnings up front (especially because of the spoiler issue you mention.)

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  25. Thanks for the mention of my post.👍📚

    Fantastic post, high praise for tackling this topic as well, it is one that can be a bit controversial and gets rather opinionated especially when the post isn’t just a version of the ‘you should all use trigger warnings’ post.

    I think my view on them is well known so I won’t go into detail and repeat it in this comment. I guess I’m slightly wary over the topic over backlash I received from my post which shouldn’t have got to me but did.😒🙄 But, honestly, I have no issue with people using them, it is there choice. Likewise, I feel that people should have no issue with those who choose not to use them, again, that is there choice.

    I think that, regardless of if you include trigger warnings or not at the start of/end of the review if you feel that something needs mentioning that happens in the book then you’ll mention it in the actual review. Take my Hellrider review, I don’t do trigger warnings but explained in quite a lot of detail why I didn’t like the book due to the constant sexual assaults that took place later in the book and that serves the same purpose as a warning, including in the review anything that the reviewer feels needs mentioning. Sure, sometimes we might forget to mention something, shit happens or, we just don’t feel it needs mentioning. But, if you list trigger warnings then you might miss warnings anyway as you can’t know what will trigger every person.

    One thing that I have noticed since I posted my own post as it was months ago is that more and more people who include trigger warnings in their reviews are making out that those who don’t are the devil, evil incarnate and don’t care about others and hating on them over it. Which is something that I don’t agree with, use trigger warnings, cool, don’t use them, that should be cool too.👍

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome! I really loved your post and thought it was such a brave thing to do- really inspired me to finally get on and write about the topic!

      Thank you so much! That’s really kind of you and means a lot coming from you 😀 Yeah I definitely think that. I feel like this is the kind of thing where people expect/want only one kind of view.

      I’m really sorry to hear you received backlash from your post- I thought it was very balanced, fair and well done. ❤ I agree with you that I’ve no problem with other people choosing to use them- it’s their choice. But it’s also other people’s choice not to use them and I feel like not enough people hear the other side of the argument/don’t really give it the time of day/have a problem with people making the choice not to use them.

      I couldn’t agree with you more. If something is so significant that it warrants a trigger warning, then it definitely should be mentioned in the review. I feel like when it comes to sexual assault, to use your example, I think it should be explained in the body of the review (I actually think it’s lazier not to mention it in the review and have seen people gloss over huge things because they use trigger warnings, which a lot of people deliberately don’t read, either because they think it might prime them for a negative reaction or because they don’t like spoilers). And yes, I definitely agree with you about how some things will be missed out in a review- but that is no different to having a shorthand list- things get missed out all the time (perhaps because some people are not sensitive to the same things).

      And yes, I have definitely seen people act like people on the other side of the aisle *must be* terrible people. I remember you mentioning to me you had a negative reaction and I’ve seen it on twitter multiple times (especially people who like to subtweet). But the thing is, not only is it a really toxic take to assume the worst in your opponents, a lot of people don’t use trigger warnings because (like me) they worry they could have a negative impact. I’m definitely not saying people that use them are the devil incarnate- I fully believe they have the best intentions- I just disagree with the method. And we should be allowed to mildly disagree with each other in a civilised society without being crucified for it.

      Again, I’ve no problem if people choose to use them, I’m just hoping to explain why other people (including me) don’t. I think it’s possible to understand both perspectives without condemning either side… or it should be 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks.👍 Don’t think it matters too much if the post is/was fair or not. It’s the topic, anything less than trigger warnings for all and there is likely to be backlash over it and I got it.😂 Serves me right for trying to be balanced and not just ranting.😜

        With regards to hassle over the post, it is what it is and I expected it. I’m quite thick skinned and can let a lot go but, at the same time stuff can annoy the hell out of me too.😂

        Trigger warnings posts are the types of posts where you expect that there is a high chance of someone disagreeing with your view and that you will possibly get hassle over it. Add in, I’m rather blunt and can rant and it was guaranteed someone would kick off.

        It wasn’t the hassle, as I say, I expected it but, it was how they went about it and what they chose to call me out on. People retweeting, quoting the tweet with a negative review and then tagging others in and badmouthing you isn’t the way to go. Then, I don’t know, I was pulled up on using extreme examples in my post and they really went to town over it and that really annoyed me. Yes, I used extreme examples, I used suicide and self-harming, of course, that’s extreme but I specifically used them as they are issues that I have suffered with, I’ve self-harmed and more than once, thought of suicide and that was why I used them. Because, I have experience of them and they don’t trigger me. Sure, I don’t like reading about them but I’m not triggered and, I guess anyone that does enjoy reading about suicide is a bit strange.😂 To get pulled up on them though, no. Disagree with my view, I’m fine with that, have an adult discussion/debate, cool, that’s what discussion posts are for but to criticise me or anyone for using self-harming when it is personal, no, not on.

        I don’t know, part of me always thought that if I was a 18 year old girl there would have been no issue and they wouldn’t have kicked off but, I’m not. I’m a white male, which to many is the devil.😈😂 Sad thing though, I’m a white male, late thirties, that is the biggest demographic for suicide in the UK and to get called out on using self-harming, the only polite words I have are ‘some people’.🙄😒

        I think that some need to realise that live and let live is a good adage.👍 People can disagree with each other in an adult way and that’s fine, some just seem to lack the grasp of being mature and an adult and accepting that sometimes, people have different views and that it is OK to have those views.

        I get it, people want warning, maybe I’m blind but I don’t see the clamouring for warnings on TV, film and video games to the extent of books. A blanket ‘the following may contain scenes that some viewers may find upsetting’ before the show starts isn’t a warning cos it could contain anything in the broadcast that could upset anyone.

        I went to see Joker yesterday, no warnings before that started. Obviously, it is a dark film and most would know that but, damn, very dark and would those clamouring for warnings on books complain to the cinema that there was no warning beforehand? I don’t know, I’m a bit like John Snow, I know nothing.😂 It seems that books, reading about things that could trigger seems to be seen as far worse by many than watching. Of course, you can turn the channel but, you still don’t have prior warning and without the warning you could just turn the page too.

        One thing I have noticed is that older people seem to be less bothered about trigger warnings, including them, not including them, etc, those most don’t use them compared to younger people, is it an age thing? Some don’t even know what trigger warnings are, or didn’t until they saw posts like mine and yours or tweets condemning those who don’t use them.

        I think that it is as simple as each to their own, you want to include trigger warnings, cool, you don’t, cool too and just let everyone be and do what they want.

        One last thing, I do agree with you about mentioning things in the actual review as well as in the list of warnings. As you say, some don’t read the warnings and if it is important enough to be added to the warning list then it should be important enough to be in the body of the review.

        Apologies, I think that I went off on a few tangents but it is a topic I have lots of opinions on.😂

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        1. No problem. Hehe that’s too true!! Hahahaha!!

          Ah I understand that- no matter how thick skinned you are, enough people being irritating is, well, irritating 😉
          And I do agree with that- unfortunately, it’s one of those topics that people realllly can’t take the disagreement. I see it way too much where the response is often just *BURN THE WITCH*.

          Wow, that’s shit. I’ve had people do that before (on a smaller scale). And it’s a shitty way to go about it- like, just have a conversation, don’t @ me a million times and try to publicly shame me. It just turns into mob mentality pure and simple.

          I think that’s especially unfair and not okay. I completely feel you- I’ve had people do that to me before in arguments/online/on the blog. It pisses me off no end if you mention any mental health problem, people will use that against you in an argument, as if they have the monopoly on what it feels like to have a mental health problem. And I say this as someone who has also had a whole host of issues 😂 It actually scared me off doing this post for a really long time, cos I wasn’t sure I could handle the whole “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE REEEEE!!!” (even if my answer is “yeah I actually fucking do”, the likelihood of actually wanting to talk about it is usually close to zero).

          Like I said in the post, people should try and be respectful and just not go in for the personal attack. It’s not an honest way to argue. I used to be scared to mention anything in personal in an argument (who am I kidding, I still am 😉 ) but I realised it’s not my mistake for referring to experience, it’s the assholes in the opposition for using it against me.
          Ahhh of course 😉 Yeah it really sucks that people are so blinded by categorising people by race/gender/ethnicity, they forget to look at reality.

          Absolutely! Part of living in a civilised society is having healthy debates- and yet unfortunately so much of this has become a warzone- even though a lot of it amounts to how we review/categorise media. People should be allowed to have different opinions on that without being labelled as monsters (crazy thought, I know 😉 )

          Yeah absolutely (I actually think that is the most useless warning ever, because I’ve seen it on *everything*- and sometimes it’d be good to get a heads up that the show is going to involve a half hour torture scene 😉 )
          Hahaha! You and me both 😉

          Hehe yes- and I say that as a (slightly unconventional) millennial- sometimes I just feel the need to apologise on behalf of my generation 😉 Completely agree with you there- I’ve seen people subtweeting about trigger warnings and similar issues, whilst explaining in long threads why people *need* to be extremely angry at the *terrible people over there*. And you see people literally getting riled up about something they knew nothing about three seconds earlier in the comments.

          And yeah- on a bit of a tangent, what I find surprising is people who use trigger warnings and then not bothering to talk about the actual issues which the book raised (which is, to use that horribly overused term, extremely problematic- I mean to use the example from the post, you can’t just tag a book with the word “racist” and then refuse to talk about it!)

          No worries- I really enjoyed your comment! Thank you for this!!

          Like

  26. I 100% agree with you. Tigger warnings can be so subjective to the reader that maybe benefits from them, and so just labeling something like To Kill a Mockingbird with “racism” does so many different things for various types of readers that it becomes almost confusing. And like you said, almost no one is going to think to label with things like a fear of buttons. That is the whole point of a review, though, to, if you choose, expand upon what might be worth talking about or not.

    Not to mention, in the end, life’s gonna happen to you one way or another. Not everyone is going to come with a warning label, and many warnings will completely spoil books.

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    1. I’m really glad you agree! Absolutely agree with you! I’ve definitely seen people primed to be angry at certain books (even if they’re designed to be critiques on societal issues). It just really confuses me to get angry at an author for showing something like racism or sexual assault is bad. And yeah absolutely. Yes! Couldn’t agree more- I’ve always thought if something was significant enough to make an impression on you, then that’s what you have to talk about in the review!

      And absolutely agree with you there! Even with warnings, it is impossible to cover every issue that might come up and might bother readers. Just the same as we can’t help it if we walk down the street and see a road accident- sometimes things we weren’t expecting come up in books- and we can critique it if we don’t like it, but we shouldn’t get angry about it.

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  27. Interesting! I can see both viewpoints. It bothers me when I see “trigger warnings”for things like spiders. However, if there’s an incredibly graphic sexual assault scene in a book, I appreciate being given a headsup. That being said, I think that there’s no way to warn for everything that could possibly bother someone, so it is our responsibility to self censor. If I’m reading something and it’s really bugging me, I can choose to stop reading. I’ll sometimes write that a book is harsh but don’t really do the trigger warning thing.
    I think I’m writing in circles. Ha ha!

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    1. I totally get that! And that’s a really good example! I do get that people have a fear of spiders, but if that’s a huge part of the plot, it might be on the cover or blurb… otherwise I don’t see how it bears mentioning (unless the reviewer is personally freaked out by the scene?) But if it’s something like sexual assault, I really feel like a reviewer should mention that in general. And yes absolutely. I also agree with that- if something is really getting to you, then put the book down (also if you don’t like certain genres, don’t read them). I feel like this should be a given, but unfortunately some people go after the author for things like this. And yeah, I agree with that- I think somebody else mentioned saying that a book has “dark content” and I definitely believe in doing that.
      haha no worries! I think so am I! 😉

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  28. Good post, and I appreciate the way you continue to tackle fraught subjects in a way that is balanced, logical, and, in the face of a mob, brave.

    Books have to have bad things happen in them. If they don’t, there is no story and they are not addressing the human condition. Of course the bad things will be things that some people do not want to read for personal reasons. No problem with that. It doesn’t mean the book is evil. I have even seen an agent point out that every agent, being an individual, might turn down a perfectly good book pitch for personal reasons.

    My blog isn’t primarily a review site, so I don’t have a dog in this fight directly the way that you do. However, this topic does cause me concern. It seems like part of a broader phenom, to wit: Someone starts doing something out of courtesy/sensitivity to someone who is hurting. Usually there’s nothing wrong with it, and in the original context, it was a nice gesture and actually helped the original intended beneficiary. It may even have helped them greatly. But then this nice gesture of sensitivity quickly becomes de rigeur and suddenly, anyone who doesn’t start doing it is considered to be refusing to be kind, sensitive, etc. It’s as if, by not jumping on that particular bandwagon, they are making some sort of declaration that they don’t care about the intended beneficiaries. Hence, it is OK to demonize them because they are obviously cold, uncaring people, etc.

    Yet, as with trigger warnings, the gesture might be one that when applied broadly as a social norm is not helpful and might actually be harmful.

    This has happened with preferred pronouns, declaring your privilege in a self-flagellating manner, and many other things as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! That really means a lot!

      I really agree with you. I feel like the only books allowed, under these sorts of sanitising rules, would be incredibly boring and flat and unartistic.

      And yeah, everyone has their personal limits and that’s okay. I think some people get the impression that if people someone says “hey I don’t want to use trigger warnings” that is the same as standing over people with a gun, demanding they only read Jude the Obscure 😉

      Funnily enough, I never have too much of a problem when it comes to reviewing (*touch wood*). I easily could’ve kept my head down on this issue and just never addressed it, likely never having any trouble. My interest in doing this is more about what I see happening to authors and books and bloggers- where people are bullied for having a different view and books are targeted for having certain “triggering content” (a lot of people have mentioned the Leigh Bardugo case in the comments, where she was bullied for writing a “triggering” account of sexual assault in her adult fantasy). It’s become intrinsically linked with cancel culture- and I think that effects both readers and writers (and I care as part of both those groups).

      But yes, I definitely think this is becoming a huge part of culture- there’s the idea that on the good side are the people looking out for a (rather disparate) group of mentally ill people and on the other there are people who are against it, ergo obviously evil. Which is why it’s all too easy to tar and feather anyone who disagrees with the trigger warnings. Never mind that the evidence does not point to this being an act of kindness, but rather a way to exacerbate existing symptoms. There are plenty of psychologists arguing this is a way to weaken the sufferer. And, while obviously a virtue, there are limits even to the positive attributes of kindness (I’ve heard Paul Bloom discuss the concept “Against Empathy”, about the limits of overbearing empathy; Jordan Peterson frequently talks about the idea of the Oedipal mother/the witch in the Hansel and Gretel story).

      Hehe yes, well fortunately for me, here in the UK they enforce such “kindness” with the brute force of the law 😉😂
      which reminds me, I prefer the monkey pronouns of OOH and AAH and EEK!! Kindly obey me! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha ha! I heard someone say recently that their preferred pronouns are “we” and “our.” That way it will be literally impossible to disagree with them …

        Yes, thank you for addressing this issue for the sake of writers and readers. I do think it is important.

        And yes, I agree, it’s definitely tricky when you are trying to show empathy to someone whom you love but yet who you think is delusional. It can really make your head explode. I have been there. (Brandishes exploded head.) I am still not sure how to handle it on a personal level, but I do think that on a public level, we need lots of courageous folks like yourself. Keep up the good work.

        Liked by 1 person

  29. How do you always make such great posts on timely topics?? This reminds me of the backlash to Ninth House, and the sheer amount of people who didn’t want to read it anymore because of the trigger warnings (of course, that’s their business, but they shouldn’t yell at Leigh Bardugo about it).

    It’s very interesting that you posted that research that said it’s counterproductive because I never knew that. But it also makes sense. And I agree about the spoiler-ness… there has to be a gentler way to put it because context always matters. Some people think that including the content automatically means the author advocates for it which is… no, just no. And some books have a more careful handling of sensitive issues compared to others. But yeah, I think turning the TWs into a plain list is such a disservice. It narrows an entire book down to just reasons why you should be wary. Compared to if you explain more “there are mentions of sexual assault and a few scenes with graphic violence” which is more reasonable, I think.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh thank you so much!! Yes I definitely agree with you about the backlash to Ninth House- a lot of people were annyed that she dared to discuss some of the issues in the book (issues that Bardugo pointed out, she’d personally experienced).

      Yeah it does make sense- especially because most therapy for PSTD and anxiety in particular revolve around making a person stronger to face the world. And yes I definitely think that too- I think that just expanding on something and explaining what you mean in the body of the review can make a huge difference. I definitely agree with you there.

      Like

  30. Thank you so much for posting this! I have often felt a lot of these about trigger warnings, and rarely include them in my reviews (though I have felt a lot of pressure to include them). It is such an interesting topic, and definitely one that many people tend to avoid.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I don’t use trigger warnings and it’s not that i don’t care about other people that like them or need them, it’s just not my style I guess? Or something I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about? Every once in a while I might mention something in a review if it’s something I found to stand out to me for whatever reason that may bother others. I don’t know if this lack of thought on my part makes me privileged or callous or what, but I also don’t feel the need to change the way I do things either. Idk. Great discussion, lots of food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand that- I think a lot of people are just chill about it- and that’s cool. It makes sense to only mention something if it especially stands out. I don’t think it makes anyone come across as privileged or callous- I think that would be a really harsh way to look at it- and I think your position makes a lot of sense. There can be a myriad of reasons not to discuss something in a review- either from it not being that extreme or not noticing or, just as likely, not feeling comfortable talking about it.
      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Great post as usual!
    I don’t use trigger warnings. I find when reading reviews which contain them – especially at the start of the review – I’m just put off the book completely. Which I wouldn’t be, otherwise. Also I have seen (no lie) – trigger warnings for Jane Austen books. It can get a bit over the top. Completely the bloggers’ decision but no one should have to feel obliged to use them or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!!
      Ah I totally get what you mean. I find them really off-putting and always skip over them if I can. and yeah I’ve definitely seen it get out of hand (sometimes I’ve seen longer warnings lists than reviews). Yeah completely agree with you!

      Liked by 1 person

  33. I am really enjoying your posts!
    Yeah, I don’t see much reason to include trigger warnings, because different things will set different people off and I can’t possibly guess at all that stuff. Also, as marydrover commented above, life doesn’t come with warning labels. We are all responsible for managing our reactions to things, and if you get to something in a book that really troubles you, you can always put the book down.
    I much prefer to see details discussed within a review – enabling me to make an informed decision about whether a book will ‘trigger’ me.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. This entire post could be a university course. You and your readers are thoughtful about what you read and how you discuss those books. I wonder if the average reader comes to any review with such perception, especially if that person is young or has been traumatized. Do they seek books that reflect their own frightening experiences? Maybe the true issue is that so many of these people need professional help to learn to overcome their genuine problems. How to guide them that way is the challenge. A book read under the covers may plunge them into an abyss, but a guided discussion may help them heal.

    Thank you to all those who lent their well considered views to this topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It was especially great to get all kinds of different feedback on this!
      That is a good question- and I’ll be honest and say I’m not sure, it depends on the individual. I do think readers are a more thoughtful kind of consumer, so I think a fair number will come to reviews/books with an open mind. It’s also fair to say that some people who are traumatised do seek out darker material to work through certain thoughts (personally, I think it’s possible for catharsis to be part of a healing process). Obviously, there are people who do not feel this way, and that’s okay too. I think part of the mistake that a lot of people make is to talk about all people who have experienced trauma under the same bracket, as if it is an identical experience and the response is always the same. Really though, there are different responses to trauma, including post-traumatic growth and it’s difficult to even put all sufferers of PTSD in the same category, especially when you divide it between those who have had treatment and those who have not. Personally, I would lean towards letting individuals decide what is right for them (and I very much agree with you about encouraging people to seek help, if they are able to get it- but also perhaps try to work through issues using other available resources if therapy is unaffordable). Ultimately, my opinion on this stems from the fact that with or without treatment, this does not seem to be a helpful strategy, although I do think giving people a heads up within the body of the review is a fair compromise.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. I’ve been wanting to comment on this post for a while, but you know – time. Plus, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a long comment or try to come up with a digest. I’m going for the digest, but I’m not sure things will go according to my plan LOL.

    It’s interesting what you say about trigger warnings ultimately being counterproductive, and I’m sure you did your homework – I know from experience you always back up your think pieces with LOTS of research (kudos to you!). On the other hand, I skimmed through the comments here, and most seemed to come from people who haven’t experienced traumas, so they can’t know if and when something can work as a trigger, and most of all, HOW. Frankly, a comment such as “There’s lousy stuff in life. Deal with it.” sounds ableist and insensitive. If one thinks warnings are no use or simply can’t get bored with adding them to their reviews, fine – but that was uncalled for IMO.

    My approach to warnings is a little more unique than usual, in that – as you know – I start my reviews with a short pros and cons list, so that one can get their bearings even if they don’t feel like reading the whole long-ass review. So it makes sense to me to address a few points that can unsettle some readers in the same section. The review just builds up from that – pros and cons AND warnings. I mean, the very first part of my review is a super-condensed version of what I mean to say, so it’s natural to me to point out a few things that “I” think can make people uneasy, or that are almost universally regarded as potentially unsettling, along with an equally brief list of good or potentially less good things the book contains, but that (in my opinion) are less hurting. It’s all part of the review’s digested form. And I don’t regard those potentially unsettling things as triggers, as much as things that one may not want to read about because they would ruin their reading experience (for instance: even if one has never been raped or beaten or cheated on, they may not want to read about those things because they need their reading to be an escape from everyday’s problems). So, basically, I put warnings in my reviews, but I only cover the most obvious things, and I don’t necessarily think of them as “trigger” warnings – more as “things some people don’t want to read about because they don’t want them to mess with their reading”. Like, I can read about bugs if the book is stellar, but if I’m on the fence about reading it, you just need to tell me there are bugs in it and I bail LOL (and if it’s a TV series/movie, I’ll outright refuse to watch it, or at least close my eyes at the right moment. And they better be an occasional sight, because for instance, I’ve watched every single Supernatural episode except…”Bugs”. I investigated, read that one was, indeed, full of them, and signed off. Not my idea of entertainment).

    …And of course, this was NOT a digest comment LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well I’m glad you took the time! It was good to hear from you!

      Yes, please feel free to check out the links, cos that does connect to the scientific research that has been done on the topic.

      There were a variety of comments on this post- from lots of different types of people- some who had experienced trauma and agreed with me, some who had and didn’t (which I was glad to hear from) and even a psychologist. If it helps at all (and I know I said I didn’t want to get personal, but I wrote the post a month ago and what the hell) I have experienced trauma (been diagnosed with PTSD etc), which is why I felt pretty strongly about doing this post. This is not to say that my view is the only view- for me, the whole reason to do this was to show that there is more than one perspective on this issue. And I’d say with regards to that comment (which I saw as directed at me), I wouldn’t have necessarily worded it the same, especially given that there are people who don’t respond well to the sentiment (again, everyone’s different/have different personalities), but I took it to be a blunter version of the Buddhist “life is suffering”, which many find can bolster you up, rather than trying to be insensitive.

      I think that’s an excellent approach. Like I said in the post, I think reviews are generally full of warnings (or at least the best ones are) and give a good gauge of what to expect. Regardless of experience, I agree that people should be able to choose whether they read books that are especially dark etc. hahaha I hear you about the bugs thing! I hear that… and I’m outta there!

      Sorry it took me so long to get to your comment- it was stuck in spam! So sorry about that!

      Like

  36. You are so brave to write this post. I HATE trigger warnings, whenever I see them at the bottom of a review, I actually panic & my heart races trying not to read it & get off the page as fast possible. They are SO spoilery! I could probably write a 15,000 blog post on it, too, lol. Well said, Orangutan!!

    Liked by 1 person

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