Wednesday, March 24, 2010

for people with "trigger" words

Lindsay Tan | The Onion - America's Finest News Source:
Dear The Onion,
Coping with my husband's death has been very difficult for me; it would really help if you stopped printing articles with the word 'John' in them.
— Mary Tomlinson, Newark, NJ
03.09.10

8 comments:

  1. Given that everyone I've ever known who has had a "trigger word" was some kind of abuse victim, I don't really see the need for self-congratulatory mocking.

    CC

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  2. Chalicechick: Or trauma victim, yes. I'm one of them.

    But I can't determine in advance who has triggers, nor can I know what they are. I can't edit my language in advance, first because I don't know what I'm editing around, and second because it's not my job to help other people avoid their triggers. I can't. It's impossible.

    Alcoholics who successfully control their addiction learn to live in a world of beer ads on TV, scotch ads on billboards, people drinking wine at the next table in the restaurant. They can't make other people responsible for their sobriety--it's not effective or realistic to try.

    I have triggers. I've put my energy into dealing with them, getting therapy to learn constructive ways of living with them, and when all else fails, wandering away from discussions that include them and finding something else to think about. I don't demand that people not talk about accidents or injuries around me. And I can't ask them not to use accident or injury as metaphors for other things. The meanings my trauma assigns those words are not the only meanings they have. I have to learn to live with that.

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  3. I don't really have any trigger words. I have trigger smells, trigger situations, and, apparently, trigger novels. (You'd think I'd have the sense to stop reading before I finish the damn things, but no...)

    While it would be amusing, I don't think trying to ban chalk dust, events at which other people get drunk, and Sherman Alexie from ever writing another young adult novel would really improve the world. Even for me. :)

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  4. The folks I know who use "trigger word" terminology the most are rape victims. They generally know damn well what will trigger them. If there are rape victims who want people to never mention rape or violence against women ever, I've never met one. My impression is that mostly, they'd prefer if they had some idea that rape jokes or a long discourse on sexual assault were coming so they could steel themselves or leave. That strikes me as pretty reasonable.

    The onion's joke reads me me about like:

    Dear The Onion Restaurant,

    Coping with my food allergies has been very difficult for me; it would help if you never made any dishes with peanuts again.

    -Mary Tomlinson

    Unless you're mighty proud of yourself for not having food allergies, that's not remotely funny. The fact that people with peanut allergies like to be warned when a dish has peanuts doesn't make it funny, or make Mary's request the logical extreme of the requests anyone with food allergies is going to make.

    It just seems cruel and unfunny. The trigger warning thing does too, to me at least.

    CC

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  5. I never know in what sense people who talk about "banning" words mean "banning."

    Like, "banning" in the sense of you get thrown in jail if you use that word? That doesn't really happen in America.

    Or "banning" in the sense that you get nasty looks and people think you are beneath them socially if you use that word? Because that's not really "banning."

    (In the same sense, I don't understand the massive freakout over "banning" the use of "retarded" as an insult. Given that the median age of people who use the word "retarded" as an insult is generally about 14, I've never considered it something that anyone with any sophistication did, so encouragements not to do it don't strike me as the tragedy that people seemed to take it as.)

    Political Correctness: It's really just good manners.

    CC

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  6. Oh, I don't know. Some states still have blasphemy statutes* so it isn't beyond the pale to imagine that you could get thrown in jail for using certain words in America.

    *There was also a Michigan man named Timothy Boomer who was convicted of using vulgar language in front of women and children although the conviction was overturned on appeal. http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=15992

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  7. Dear The Onion Restaurant,

    Coping with my food allergies has been very difficult for me; it would help if you never made any dishes with peanuts again.

    -Mary Tomlinson


    It still scans as ironically funny to me CC. Because if the Onion restaurant adjusts their menu for everyone's food allergies, they will shortly become a place for the contemplation of one's empty stomach, because they won't be able to serve food anymore.

    While one should be considerate of others, the only one that can truly be responsible for your happiness and well being is yourself. If a restaurant insists on using peanuts in their recipes, don't go there. If an individual makes statements that have a negative effect on your emotional well being, minimize their presence or if they are someone that has interest in your well being on a personal level, share your concern and upset with them. But to expect someone to anticipate everything that could cause emotional or physiological upset is a bit self centered. And that's all this piece in the Onion was about: someone being overly self centered and making a ridiculous request.

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