January 6, 2020
Did You Know Trigger Warnings Are Controversial?
Trigger Warnings: Yes or No?
A stated warning that the content of a text, video, etc., may upset or offend some people, especially those who have previously experienced a related trauma.
The distinction I make between a trigger warning and a content warning is that a content warning doesn’t involve content that triggers psychological or emotional harm. Some reviewers do not make a distinction between trigger warnings and content warnings. My trigger warnings usually consist of warnings about suicide, sexual assault, child endangerment, abuse, domestic violence, eating disorders, etc. Whereas, content warnings usually consist of content like profanity, crass language, open door romance, excessive graphic violence, references to body image, etc.
The inclusion of Trigger Warnings and/or Content Warnings have been extensively debated among reviewers.
Spoilers: Last week, someone questioned one of my Instagram reviews in which I had included a TW (trigger warning). This person was concerned that the TW could be considered a spoiler. Well, yes, that is a definite con of a TW. Interestingly, the next person thanked me for the TW!
This is a topic about which I have a strong opinion, but I don’t think I’ve addressed my position in a formal post. Since you are reading my reviews, you might be curious about my stance.
Pros and Cons of Trigger Warnings:
PROs of Trigger Warnings:
- Readers are alerted to sensitive content that might cause them psychological or emotional harm
- Readers can make informed decisions
- Readers are better prepared for difficult or triggering content
CONs of Trigger Warnings:
- TWs might contain spoilers
- TWs might give away an important plot point
- TWs might ruin the ‘twist’ or the ending
What do you think?
Do you have concerns to add to the Pro and Con lists? At first glance and considering common sense, you might say the Cons outweigh the Pros. Please hear me out.
I feel strongly that the pros outweigh the cons for this reason: I have come to the conclusion that a reader’s emotional and/or psychological well being is the most important consideration for me. Examples of important trigger warnings include suicide, sexual assault, death of a child, abuse, domestic violence, eating disorders, etc. I hear frequently that a person who has experienced a traumatic event appreciates trigger warnings. Readers report to me that knowing ahead of time (1) helps them decide whether or not to read the book and (2) helps them deal better with it when it comes up in the story. I’ve had readers contact me to ask more specific details about a trigger warning that I’ve hesitated to put in the review for fear of revealing too much. Please feel comfortable in contacting a reviewer for more specific, additional information.
One example of a book that needs a trigger warning is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Ove is frequently referred to as curmudgeonly, quirky, and lovable….leaving readers completely unprepared that the early pages of the book involve Ove attempting to commit suicide. One reader I communicated with was devastated by the suicide attempts because she had recently lost her brother to suicide and opted to DNF the book. She was unhappy that reviews did not include a trigger warning. Hearing from her swayed my opinion on trigger warnings.
So, despite possible spoilers, I always provide trigger and content warnings. For myself, I have determined that the psychological and emotional well being of readers is my highest priority.
TL:DR ….. All readers may not appreciate spoilers, and even though trigger warnings might be spoilers, preventing distress is kind and tips the balance of the Pro/Con List.
I do announce when I’m about to disclose a trigger warning and have them labeled so that readers can skip that paragraph of my review. I think I’m also going to include the words “possible spoilers” in my trigger warning label. If you are a reader who is extremely concerned about a spoiler, I would encourage you to skip all reviews (and even the publisher’s summary) and read the book cold. Even the discussion of themes could be construed as spoilers.
Amanda at The Lexington Bookie is one example of a reviewer who always includes trigger warnings. She places them at the beginning of her reviews and indicates that her review may also include trigger warnings.
What Do You Think?
As readers do you mind or appreciate trigger warnings? As reviewers, do you include trigger warnings? Let’s respectfully discuss in the comments.
There are reviewers who feel strongly on either side of the discussion. I want to use this post to clearly state my position so that you are not surprised by the trigger warnings and content warnings in my reviews.
In this post, I’m not trying to persuade anyone to adopt my opinion or debate the pros and cons. I simply want to clearly state my opinion.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments about trigger warnings!
I deeply appreciate being nominated for blogging awards! It makes my nerdy blogging soul deliriously happy because I feel extremely encouraged! However, I need to admit that I have an awful track record at following through with Awards. I think I’ve managed to respond to only one or two. One of my New Year Resolutions is to do a better job at acknowledging the Awards! The following lovely bloggers have nominated me for awards and I appreciate their kind support!
A huge THANK YOU and SHOUT OUT to
The Lexington Bookie for the Sunshine Blogger’s Award (Nominated me in April AND December! Thanks Amanda!)
I know I’ve been nominated for others, but I can’t even find my notes to thank them. I can do better. I will do better!
Happy Reading Book Buddies!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text
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