My Musings

Let’s talk Trigger Warnings. #BookBlogger #BookBloggers #Blogger #Bloggers #BlogPost

trig

I thought that today I would look at trigger warnings and, lose some followers along the way.

So, yeah, a controversial topic and in the words of Eminem:

Now this looks like a job for me
So everybody just follow me
‘Cause we need a little controversy
‘Cause it feels so empty without me
I said, this looks like a job for me“.

By trigger warnings, I don’t mean a warning for Trigger, Roy Rodger’s horse.

jack-freulich-roy-rogers-posed-with-his-horse-800x800

Neither do I mean a warning for Trigger from Only Fools and Horses.

trig

No, what I mean by a trigger warning is, well, firstly here is flasher Gremlin revealing himself as I prepare to reveal to you the definition for trigger warning! 🙂

grrm

The dictionary definition for a trigger warning is:

a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc. alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content).

So, that would mean that by including a list of trigger warnings at the start (or end) of your review that you are highlighting any sensitive subjects/topics that you think are likely to be triggering to a reader of the book.

A list of possible triggers (this isn’t an extensive list and I know that there are many many many more out there) are:

  • Suicide.
  • Self-harm.
  • Miscarriage.
  • Animal cruelty.
  • Death.
  • Decapitation.
  • Extreme gore.
  • Graphic violence.
  • Gratuitous sex scenes.
  • Racism.
  • Incest.
  • Child Abuse.
  • Rape and Sexual Assault.
  • Homophobia.
  • Transphobia.
  • Torture.
  • Addiction.
  • Paedophilia.
  • Mental and Physical Abuse.
  • Eating Disorders.
  • Hate crimes.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Sexism.
  • Xenophobia

So, yeah, all of them would probably be listed for the ASOIAF by George R. R. Martin book series! 🙂

I ran a poll on twitter asking if you included trigger warnings in your reviews.

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As you can see 224 people voted (I don’t know if that is a good number or not for a poll) and the results were very close! 47% said that, yes, they do include trigger warnings in their reviews while 53% said that, no, they don’t include trigger warnings in their reviews.

Now, I will say that personally, I don’t include trigger warnings in my book reviews and I don’t intend to start. Also, I AM NOT disputing the importance of trigger warnings to those who suffer from PTSD, those of you who are triggered or the seriousness of Mental Health.

Perhaps, I, like others are uncomfortable listing triggers when we are not triggered by things ourselves as we feel that it would be hypocritical to offer a list of possible triggers when we can’t possibly know what will affect others. I ask, how could I know what would trigger you and how could you know what would trigger me? I couldn’t and you couldn’t either! Yes, there are many lists of potential triggers available but they are generic, for the masses and what is to say that they include triggers that are obscure and innocuous anyway? A trigger, that for all your good intentions you may never think of including and miss in your warnings! Do you think of what triggers you when writing a list of potential triggers or do you think of what could trigger others when writing your lists?  

Perhaps, we just don’t agree with using trigger warnings and don’t want to see them (I’m sure that many people who are triggered do not want to see them, holla if you are one and you agree) which is perfectly valid and acceptable! If you disagree with that then that is fine but you at least have to respect the decision and choice by each individual person even if you don’t agree with it!

Even if someone doesn’t specifically use trigger warnings in their reviews it doesn’t mean that they don’t warn of upsetting themes in the actual review. Only that they don’t include a list of triggers at the start of or end of the review

Just because someone has been through something in life it doesn’t mean that reading about similar will be a trigger for them. I have stood at the edge, stared into the abyss and cut myself to feel, to keep myself alive and yet, I have no issue with reading about suicide or self-harm at all. It is not triggering for me. Sure, it is uncomfortable reading about it but that isn’t due to my own personal experiences, simply, it is an uncomfortable and tough topic and not something that any sane person would enjoy reading about. But, triggering? For me? No. Yes, I can understand how the subject is triggering for some who have been through it but it is not triggering for all. Same for any other possible trigger too. Just because it has happened to a person in real-life it doesn’t mean that reading about it will be a trigger to them.

Likewise, as I’m being objective, some things that haven’t happened to a person, that hold no relevance to them at all could be a trigger.

Is there a difference between reading something that is simply uncomfortable to read about and something that is triggering? Many situations are uncomfortable in life and often, you can’t ignore them and you have to deal with them.

So, yes, trying to avoid triggers, sure, I get that and that you want your reading to be a safe but if you are trying to avoid things that only make you ‘uncomfortable‘. Then, those are the things that you have to face as being mature means that you can’t hide, put your head in the sand and ignore them. Just because you read about something that upsets you that doesn’t make it a trigger. Most people will be uncomfortable reading about certain things and many others will get upset about other things too. You can’t label something as triggering just because it elicits an uncomfortable feeling and reaction in you otherwise nearly everything would need to be classed as a trigger.

There is a difference between reality and fiction. No one is doubting that words have power but fiction is fiction, it isn’t real. If you choose to read certain genres knowing full well that they include what can only be described as harrowing subjects then has that not been your choice to read that genre and book? Is it not on you if you find certain topics triggering and then get upset by reading a book that includes them not on the blogger/reviewer/review for not including a list of potentially upsetting topics.

Do you not think that there needs to be some personal responsibility involved? Maybe, if you love a specific genre but find many topics that it includes/might include in a book triggering then you need to think about avoiding that genre? Sorry but you can’t solely rely on or expect bloggers to list triggers for you as it is the emphatic and kind thing to do as you can’t rely on anyone in life, only yourself as if you do you will always be disappointed 

I do think that people should manage their own issues and triggers though and it is not up to the publisher, blogger and the review to list them for you! Many do but it is not a requirement on the part of anyone to have to do it.

What happens if the twist in a book is a massive trigger? Do you spoil the book for the sake of what could be a potential trigger to some when many who don’t have triggers will also read the review? Yes, yes, telling people about potential triggers far outweighs spoiling the book and it shows empathy and how kind and empathic you are but this is my blog and bite me!

The trigger warning itself is not a spoiler, I admit and agree with that. A list of potential triggers at the beginning or end of the review does not spoil the book. But, when someone then adds detail about each potential trigger, where it happens in the book, to which character, what effect it has on the story, etc then sorry but those things are spoilers! If you read a review and it told you that one of the main characters dies half-way through due to natural causes, asleep in their bed and that they drifted off peacefully to the land of eternal rest (nothing triggering) then you would be crying spoiler as you’ve just been told, how and when a main character dies. That is a spoiler and when, for example, let’s take suicide as the trigger you are warning people about you then write next to that trigger that one of the main characters dies half-way through due to suicide then that is also a spoiler! Your intentions may well be good but you can’t turn it around to your point of view that it isn’t a spoiler just because it is a potentially triggering topic. Trigger warning, NOT a spoiler, going into excessive detail about the trigger, spoiler. 

Do you think that books should contain a list of trigger warnings on their covers? Is it feasible? Video games and DVD’s/Blu-Ray’s often don’t. Take Red Dead Redemption 2, for example, it only states on the back of the box that it contains violence, gambling and bad language, nothing else. It is an 18-rated game and you expect violence and bad language! Take Logan on the Blu-ray only states that it contains strong bloody violence and strong language. Like RDR 2 it’s 18-rated and you expect that content! Suicide Squad, sustained threat and moderate violence, it’s a 15-rated film, again, you expect that type of content. No triggers insight just a content warning for what you would expect to find in that genre of game and film anyway! 

Would you want grimdark fantasy books to say on the cover that they contain strong bloody violence and bad language? Those are things that you expect from the genre so what would be the point? Romance books to say that they contain sex? Ya know, surely that one is obvious. Thriller books to say the same that they contain strong bloody violence/moderate violence? When, again, you would expect that to occur in that particular genre of book especially if it involves a serial killer! Obviously, for those who want trigger warnings, those mere content mentions wouldn’t be enough and would, in essence, be pointless anyway as you already expect those things to occur in those genres.

Likewise, before they start films and TV shows mostly only state that they may contain scenes that are upsetting for some viewers with no list of potential triggers at the start of the show or film! That is then followed by a phone number to ring afterwards if the scenes did distress anyone but no trigger warnings in site. Reading is a solitary and personal experience, I get it but often so is gaming and watching TV or a film. You don’t always do it with others you often do it by yourself and if you can just turn the channel for a few moments with no prior warning then switch back then you can skip a few pages of a book too. Even if you are with others then, when you see something triggering it would still only affect you so it would still be personal.

One might argue that giving a warning about potential triggers allows readers to make an informed choice about the book but does that not apply to all other media to and not just books or book reviews?! Do you expect to see trigger warnings in video game and TV show/film reviews? I checked out many video game and film reviews during writing this (hello procrastination and well, hardly any had any type of trigger or content warning in them). I would ask, when will it stop? When everything is classed as being potentially triggering? Let’s face it, in today’s day and age anything could be called triggering. Would we end up with no new books, no video games, no TV shows or films because everything is now classed as a trigger and the writers are scared of triggering people? Honestly, if that happened it would trigger my boredom threshold – yes, that point is tongue in cheek and self-deprecating.

What about catharsis, where you release possibly repressed and strong emotions. Could reading or watching triggering subjects, for some, not be cathartic?

Trigger warnings is a phrase that is associated with PTSD and not everyone has PTSD and not everyone is triggered. Some just don’t want to read about certain topics and/or events as they find the content disturbing and upsetting and that is fine but that doesn’t mean it is triggering to them only that they don’t want to read it. Due to that, perhaps the term content warning (if the blogger so chooses to use them at all) is better suited to book reviews and reviews, in general, to warn of potentially upsetting content rather than triggers as not everyone is triggered.

It might be a controversial question buy it needs to be asked, how do you know that someone is genuinely triggered by a certain topic and not just that they find it unsettling to read about? Because there is a difference, many topics are hard, upsetting, unsettling and tough to read about but that doesn’t mean that they are triggering to the person, no! Only that the person finds the topic hard to read. Most of the list of potential triggers that I included are what you would call tough topics as who likes to read about suicide, death, terminal illness, animal cruelty, etc? No-one! Those topics trigger many and don’t trigger many too but on the whole, they are all topics that people find uncomfortable to read. Triggering subjects aren’t topics that any normal person thinks, for example: ‘oh goody, suicide‘ in a book to read as they are tough topics and if someone seriously enjoys reading about suicide or animal cruelty, etc then they are a very disturbed person indeed. Finding something tough to read doesn’t mean that you are triggered by it though just that you found it uncomfortable. yet you label it as ‘being triggering‘ and that way of thinking is doing a disservice to all of those who are legitimately triggered by certain topics. Sadly, it will be the case, some people hide behind the term ‘triggered‘ when they haven’t been, they have simply found a topic uncomfortable to read about.

People who suffer from genuine triggers and have PTSD can be any age and PTSD is a terrible illness to have. Many readers during a book will read about a subject that is unsettling/upsetting and one makes them feel uncomfortable and they deal with it, stiff upper lip, tough it out, move on in the book and carry on enjoying their reading. With today’s culture do some readers instead of doing the same say that they have been triggered when in fact they have simply read (like the other reader) something that has made them feel uncomfortable? Because, if that’s the case, crying out that you have been triggered when you haven’t makes light of everyone who has genuine triggers and who suffers from PTSD. Yes, it’s controversial and scandalous but what would a blog post be without some sensitization on the part of the writer.

Bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, all ages too and I’ll ask, do you think that age has any influence on the attitude towards trigger warnings? Do you think that older bloggers are less inclined to include trigger warnings in their reviews and have a different attitude towards them than, say, younger bloggers? Or, is the age of the blogger irrelevant?

Also, the genre. Do you find that trigger warnings are more prevalent in some genres than others? Are bloggers in one genre more likely to include them than those in another? Take YA, yes, I know YA is an age range and not a genre but, for example, say, do you find more reviews with trigger warnings included in the YA fantasy community as opposed to say, the thriller community?

As I said at the start, I don’t use trigger warnings and I won’t be doing so either. Using and including them in reviews is not for me or my blog (for as long as I have it). I respect those of you who do, they are important to you, it is your choice on your own blog and I have no issue with that whatsoever. Much respect to you all, carry on doing what you want and I and the others like me who don’t use trigger warnings will carry on doing what we want. There’s room for us all in the book blogging community.


OK, I know this is a controversial topic and so, I ask that you all respect that this is my blog and that you do NOT get personal in the comments. Discussion and debate are welcome. After all, it’s a discussion post but personal attacks on me for my views and any other commenters for their views will NOT be tolerated.


Now, the discussion: 

What are your thoughts on trigger warnings? Do you include trigger warnings in your reviews? If yes, why? If no, why not? Do you think that all reviews should include trigger warnings? If yes, why? If no, why not? Do you think that trigger warnings are important? If yes, why? If no, why not?

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141 thoughts on “Let’s talk Trigger Warnings. #BookBlogger #BookBloggers #Blogger #Bloggers #BlogPost

  1. I honestly do not know where I stand on this one. I personally do not really ‘trigger’ with topics that I have lived through and I tend to read blurbs and avoid books that might upset me if it’s a topic that I am not okay with. Personal reasons.
    I have had readers say they wished they had known about certain factors in a couple of my books, such as a miscarriage but when I asked if they would have avoided the book had they known, they said no. So a warning would have been a book spoiler that made no difference to them in terms of avoiding it.
    I understand the impact some topics can have, I understand the need for certain warnings. I just don’t know how you would cater for the things which people take exception too. I have had critic for some really random things I would never have labelled a trigger, yet not pulled for some really borderline trigger topics.
    I wouldn’t know where to start if I had to pre warn my readers per book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Being schizoaffective bipolar, I have, in the past, hurt myself. However, because of intense therapy and love of others, I am able to NOT be triggered by some things.
    BUT, I do have some issues involving rape, domestic violence and child abuse of any kind,(PTSD). I know that sometimes things are said that involve these subjects, and they used to hurt me. So much so that I would be distraught for days. Now, I am stronger, I can handle it; but, I do know that there are many people that cannot.
    Without getting into the details of my life, I think it’s important to say that mental hurt is something we are not all aware of. I don’t use trigger warnings; but, I try not to talk about things that are triggering. I try not to read and review things that would trigger someone. I want people to be aware of the reality of mental illness and what it’s like. What madness and depression are like. The all-consuming terror. So, it’s safe to say, that when you are in a psychotic episode ( like the one I just recovered from), you want to make sure you don’t see things that will make you spin on your head.
    Trigger warnings are up to the blogger in general, and certainly any author. People scooting about the Internet should know inherently that there is going to be subjective material online and try not to be online of they are having a problem ( like me for a couple of weeks).
    But that’s just my opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I don’t generally but have on occasion, I’ll admit I’m not consistent about it at all. But sometimes if I know some of my friends that read a book found a particular incident in it to be an issue for them I may be mindful to mention it during review so others are aware. But mostly I just don’t bother framing those kind of things as warnings. Topics my get brought up in a review but generally not as a warning. If that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I find this post interesting because it’s something that I’ve struggled with as a reviewer. Do I post trigger warnings? Do I not? To me it depends on the topic.

    I recently read a book series that went into extreme detail of the sexual, emotional and physical abuse of a child. It was the author writing about his experiences growing up. I didn’t even rate the book but I needed to include it in my wrap up. I did separate it from the rest of the books and just basically said that if you can’t handle this subject matter, don’t pick it up.

    But I can tell you that if some books had trigger warnings, I wouldn’t of read them and experienced some of the most comforting reading experiences of my life.

    I think this is one of those things that you honestly can’t make everyone happy🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️

    Like

  5. I add trigger warnings to my reviews. For me, using trigger warnings means that my audience is empowered to make decisions about what they want to read and when they want to read it. For a long time, I felt that trigger warnings were not really important. That it would mean people would shy away from difficult topics or miss out on great books. But that was before I had anything to be triggered by… In my own personal experience, there was a time when I couldn’t read books or see films dealing with cancer. I remember being invited to the cinema a few weeks just after my father had died and the movie my friend surprised me with was about someone dying of a terminal illness. I had no forewarning of the movie or the topics and it was rough. I avoided cancer-themed books and movies for a long while, but eventually when I got into a better frame of mind I was able to start reading books that dealt with that issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t personally post trigger warnings in my book reviews, but I know other book bloggers who do so. As a survivor of an abusive relationship and an emotionally manipulative online friendship, I certainly appreciate those who choose to put trigger warnings in their reviews and posts. That said, I have put some disclaimers on a few of my general posts, but those have been mainly because I used language and/or obscenities that I don’t normally use in my regular posts. Fantastic discussion topic – Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks.👍📚 Obscenities that you don’t usually use, I’m intrigued! What obscenities are they?🤔😂

      That’s fair, I totally understand you and others appreciating those that do. It’s one of those topics that can be debated to the end of time and even then, everyone still wouldn’t agree.😂

      Like

  7. Terrific post, Drew. I wrote a post (on my old blog) about this issue, only I was focused on “classic” literature, the kind that gets read in high school/college classrooms. There, the students may be forced to read something that is triggering. I was in favor of trigger warnings in those situations. My view has shifted somewhat. Now, I think that if I were a teacher/professor, I would give a talk on the first day of class about this issue. Many of the things you’ve highlighted here would be in the talk.

    In my book reviews, I haven’t had “trigger warnings.” But I think that my reviews tend to be thorough enough that readers will realize what triggering issues are there.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my goodness *applause* all round for this post- it was nuanced and you addressed so many issues a lot of people ignore round this debate (like the fact people can be triggered and not want warnings- in fact there’s a lot of discussion in the psych community about their use/misuse- and how they can actually be harmful to recovery… So yeah, it’s really not cut and dry like a lot of people think) and like you said- most reviewers who don’t put warnings will do so in the body of the review- usually with plenty of tact that it acts in the same way. And there is a huge issue with people coopting terms they don’t understand and don’t have (I’m not keen on the self diagnosis trend to say the least or on people mistaking discomfort for PTSD- it’s no joke actually being diagnosed with it) and I definitely agree about personal responsibility. And yeah a *huge* number of trigger warnings are spoilers- and people can’t pretend this can be frustrating for many readers.

    I’m really glad you did this post and represented the other side of the argument- too often this is overlooked on the blogosphere. Personally I wanted to address it, but found I went to far down the rabbit hole and knew I couldn’t do this justice. You really handled this perfectly!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I really appreciate it.👍

      I got some hassle for the post. I expected it as it is a very touchy subject and one that everyone will never agree on. Just didn’t expect the hassle over what I did and reading that you think I handled the topic perfectly and that it nuanced was great, thank you.👍📚

      Exactly! It’s no joke which is why it’s such a tough topic to broach as even me, with my foot in mouth syndrome and general bluntness didn’t want it to seem like I was throwing shade on genuine sufferers or making light of the condition as I wasn’t and my heart goes out to them.

      The spoiler thing is very touchy. Many state they aren’t ever spoilers. If you read grimdark you expect gore and violence and listing triggers is similar in that it just let’s you know what is in the book and I don’t class it as a spoiler. But, when, they say where, when, to whom and if it is relevant to the story and how it impacts it then that is a spoiler.

      Definitely a rabbit hole type of post and a touchy subject hence the lack of swearing and sarcasm in the post.

      Like

  9. Very thought-provoking post as always Drew! There are some very valuable insights that I think you laid out beautifully. I myself do not do trigger warnings just because it’s difficult enough to put together a review in my mind and write it without having to worry about every single potential word or topic that may be offensive to someone. I just don’t have the time to do it nor the inclination quite frankly. I don’t begrudge those who do but for me it’s not realistic to go about constructing a review in that way. That being said, if there is an obvious sensitive topic that I know I am wading into that was described in the book, I will make a general statement as to the sensitivity of the topic that I am about to discuss before sharing my thoughts. But to go through my entire review with a fine toothed comb and try to decipher what could possibly be a trigger to someone reading my review is counterproductive in my opinion. People can choose to read my reviews or not but I won’t change how I write them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks.👍📚

      Exactly, if people do it cool, if not cool too. I don’t use them and I’m not going to start, it’s hard enough writing a review most of the time without trying to include the warnings and I can imagine reading a book and constantly thinking is this triggering to someone? This word? This event? And it’d ruin the enjoyment of the book having to be always in the lookout for triggering topics and I doubt we’d find them all anyway as many are personal to an individual person.

      Like

  10. Drew you handled this discussion with a lot of care, thank you for being vulnerable in your discussion as well as being respectful.

    I list trigger warnings for all of my reviews, but I prefer to use the term content warnings because I can’t speak to what will be triggering to other people. I have a list of the possible triggers similar to what you have, and just list anything that I come across.

    Personally, I think it is important to call out these things to potentially save a reader from a shocking or triggering experience. Recently someone on twitter actually mentioned one time she picked up a fun, lighthearted book a few weeks after having a miscarriage and was shocked/blindsided by the protagonist having one in the book. Another friend thanked me profusely for saying there was animal death in a book, and asked me to give her the page so she could avoid it.

    At the end of the day, I think it will only be normalized if more people call out potentially triggering content. If people don’t find the warnings valuable, they don’t need to read them.

    Again, thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Very interesting topic Drew!

    What are your thoughts on trigger warnings?
    I think trigger warnings are important for those that need them. I think trigger warnings should be included by the author/publisher at the end of the book. This way, those who want to avoid triggering content can see if the book includes any of their triggers & self monitor what they are reading. I do agree that those that are triggered by certain content are the ones responsible for doing the research, but I don’t see the harm including trigger warnings in the back of books for those that need them.

    Do you include trigger warnings in your reviews? If yes, why? If no, why not?
    I do include trigger warnings at the end of my reviews as long as the warnings are not plot spoilers. If the trigger is a spoiler, I will hide it in my review to allow people to look at it if they want to.

    Do you think that all reviews should include trigger warnings? If yes, why? If no, why not?
    I do NOT think all reviews should include trigger warnings. It is not the responsibility of the review to list potential triggering content. The reviewer is there to review the book. Bottom line. It is up to the reviewer to decide if they want to include trigger warnings or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is a great topic, I’ve been debating about this myself. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression, so some books I tend to stay away from, just cause they might depress me. But, I would just let people know if it can be sensitive, without spoiling anything. I also make sure to let them know if there are swear words, some might find that offensive. But other than that, the book blurb should speak for itself. Thanks, for helping spread the word, btw.

    Liked by 1 person

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