Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

June 5, 2012

Trigger Warnings

Filed under: Uncategorized — Miss Plumcake @ 12:15 pm

So. Trigger warnings. Is that something you would be interested in?

I’ve got to admit, I’m not that sensitive of a snowflake, so I don’t think about it most of the time.

Sure, I would’ve liked a little heads up before I saw Un Chien Andalou because it was a little heavy on the eyeball slicing for my eleven year-old self, but I could do without the label on my bag of almonds reading “may contain nuts”.

And okay, I might occasionally make a teensy bit of fun of the fragile, fragile flowers that tend to mark out the more humorless neighborhoods of the fatosphere because I think there’s a fine line between being mindful in a responsible way of actual illness-triggering sensitivities (which definitely exist) and coddling a bunch of oversensitive bleating nambypambies who need to butch it up, walk it off and find a hobby other than Professional Victim.

I’ve heard metallurgy is very rewarding.

But seriously, if you’d like a little note at the top of a post that discusses eating disorders or things like that, I am more than happy to accommodate. I won’t go overboard, this isn’t that type of blog, but even though I’ve got an extra liver where my heart is supposed to be, I really do want to meet my readers in recovery a little more than half way.

Put it in the comments (anonymous is fine) Facebook me or hit me up on the Twitter. Just let me know.




  1. Though I have no triggers around eating disorders, I do think it’s a kind gesture to include a trigger warning at the top of a post for those that do.

    Comment by Khrishna — June 5, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

  2. Hate trigger warnings. Hate them with a passion. They’re so condescending. I have things I’m working through, but if something upsets me on the internet, I grow the frak up and move on.

    I’m with Susanna Breslin on this one. They’re just attention seeking.

    Comment by Liz — June 5, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

  3. oh Geez! this reminds me of the people who canNOT actually have a conversation because when discussing humans, they have to mention every pronoun describing actual/potential/conceivable gender both biological/surgical and political to show how uber PC they are.

    I second Liz on Grow the frak up

    And Thea’s liver grew THREE sizes that day!

    Comment by Thea — June 5, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  4. I prefer to err on the side of kindness include trigger warnings. It’s a small thing that tells people you care.

    Comment by Linda Mercury — June 5, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  5. ooops – there should be an “and” before include, there.

    Comment by Linda Mercury — June 5, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

  6. WTF! (And yet I so wanted my response to be mature, courteous, rational. I advocate being “kind” (totally with you there, Khrishna), and have actually been accused of it, but not “kinda stupid.” We’ve all seen and heard things that make us want to hit “Rewind” and then “Erase.” (Great. I’ve been provoked into using a technological analogy that only Baby Boomers will understand.) But ship hatpins and we deal. The only warning I want to see herein is as follows: “This post may contain acerbic wit, humourous anecdotes, thoughtful debate, helpful advice, diverse commentary, and altogether entertaining content.” Nah-nah-nuh-nah-nah!

    Comment by Desideria — June 5, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

  7. Trigger warnings are the more considerate thing to do, especially if you’re talking about anything to do with bodily harm or violence. And there are people (perhaps some of the readers here) who may suffer from eating disorders, or may be recovering from a disorder and who would find diet talk unnerving.

    “Grow up and get over yourself,” however, is the kind of callous response I’d expect to see on Fark or 4chan. I’m delighted for you if you don’t suffer from any kind of anxiety disorder, but please remember that not everyone has been so lucky. Is it really so much skin off your nose to make things a little easier for other people?

    Comment by dillene — June 5, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

  8. I have valid reasons to have trigger points around sexual abuse of children and adolescents, but I can read about them dispassionately and not freak out.

    I am a very visual person, so what upsets me are graphically violent scenes in movies. I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, so fortunately, when I watch(ed) the movies, I know at what parts to leave the room!

    I guess what I’m saying is, we each have our own “trigger”s, and it’s probably safe to say that *anything* can offend *somebody*. But *some* things hurt and offend *so many*, that it’s probably not a bad idea to preface those with a warning.

    As for the more rare “triggers”, well, folks that are triggered by those just need to find their own coping mechanisms. It sucks, but it also sucks to have unusual illnesses, unusual dietary requirements, allergies, difficult-to-manage hair, etc, etc. Surely it’s not a surprise that our difficulties that we share with many, many other people are more indulged than our rare difficulties?

    Comment by wildflower — June 5, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

  9. @dillene :

    I’m so sick of people bringing up the mythical masses of women who apparently need their widdle hands held in order to survive the big, bad interwebs.

    Who exactly are these weaklings? Some of the things I’ve known and experienced would probably put me, in the eyes of feminists, in that category (do NOT assume that I don’t know what I’m talking about) but I just find it condescending.

    Trigger Warnings are annoying to read, and blatant attention ho-ing to boot. They’re just attempts to show that the writer Disapproves of Bad Things. Whoop-De-Doo.

    Comment by Liz — June 5, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

  10. I view trigger warnings as being respectful of one’s audience. By giving them the information they need to make their own decisions about whether to read a posting, you acknowledge they are indeed “grown up” enough to choose for themselves.

    I have never understood how anyone could say “I’ve decided for everyone that my posts are ok so no, I won’t give you any information ahead of time” and “oh, grow up already” in the same breath.

    Comment by TropicalChrome — June 5, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

  11. Every time I see these trigger warnings… ugh. I just roll my eyes. I find them incredibly pretentious, and as someone else mentioned, condescending.

    Comment by Addie — June 5, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

  12. I think that it’s appropriate in certain settings to include trigger warnings for extreme triggers. The fat feeds are supposed to be a safe space for fat people in a world rife with fat hatred and healthism. I feel that it’s crucial to provide an advance warning that your post contains diet, ED talk, or fat/health-related abuse. It’s also important to let people know if your post contains quotes from known sizists and healthists.

    That said, I have seen an increase in what I like to call trigger warning abuse. Some people are just way too damn sensitive about everything and I sometimes feel that people cry offense or trauma when they are exposed to something they are offended by. Honestly, I have gotten to the point where I put content notes at the top of my posts if I feel that they are *politically* offensive to people. Not psychologically damaging. Not disruptive trolling. Just plain not agreeable to some people. Believe me, I hate doing it. I know I don’t have to and I shouldn’t feel obligated to. Yet I do it because I know I will be viciously attacked if I don’t warn people ahead of time that they might not agree with me.

    It’s absolutely stupid, but that’s the only way I can think of to preserve my own sanity, never mind the sanity of my readers. I find that I get less trollish comments if I tell people ahead of time to just not read.

    Comment by JoannaDW — June 5, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

  13. It seems like a fairly straightforward calculation: if trigger warnings can do a lot of good for some readers without harming others, then why not?

    Comment by Alison — June 5, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

  14. Sorry for the double-post. I got so absorbed in the comments that I neglected to answer the actual question.

    Personally, I don’t need trigger warnings, but a lot of people are in a legitimately vulnerable position and would benefit from them. So my recommendation is as follows:

    If your post contains graphic images or descriptions of anything, or extreme diet, ED, or healthist triggers, a brief trigger warning would be helpful.

    Anything less than that should not require a warning and people reading just need to deal with it.

    Comment by JoannaDW — June 5, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

  15. I only recently learned what a “trigger” was, and why people want warnings about them, to be honest. And although I’m sympathetic, it occurs to me that a meaningful post title or subject line might obviate the need for specific warnings. Call me old-fashioned if you like; I like email to have meaningful subject lines, too.

    Comment by Wendy — June 6, 2012 @ 1:16 am

  16. …wow.

    Some people have intense anxiety, a lot of them are on the internet, and a lot of them look for safe places where they can prepare themselves for a potential attack.

    Why is it that people with PTSD or even acute anxiety are ‘attention ho-ing’ or ‘need to grow up’

    Your privilege is showing. You look boorish and crass and unsympathetic.

    Examine why it is that you are so offended by a kindness offered to strangers, and why it is that you must attack them and condemn them for that kindness.

    Is this how you want to be portrayed? You have that choice ladies.

    Comment by Magnolia — June 6, 2012 @ 11:21 am

  17. I’m surprised by the hostility, too. It’s only a trigger warning/content note! And yes: Saying “suck it up, buttercup” is rude and inconsiderate as hell.

    I’m not easily triggered and don’t cry easily, but I have had situations where something that I was reading triggered a strong emotional reaction and I found myself holding back tears or having a reaction at a place where I wasn’t able to cry (e. g. work). Content notes (or, as Wendy posted above, meaningful headlines) generally help you decide if you want to/can deal with a certain topic x at the moment.

    MftBG usually doesn’t post about topics that could be triggering for *me* (at least not that triggering that I wasn’t able to control my reactions), but I’m not everybody – somebody may be strongly triggered by posts about EDs or food talk.

    Comment by Karin — June 6, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  18. You know, I’d like a trigger warning on all tv that contains or may allude to a marriage proposal/weddings/any kind of cohabitation that includes a wedding ring … just saying ;)

    Comment by Ash — June 6, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

  19. I don’t need them. (Let’s be honest, if I had a trigger, I think a warning would just guarantee that I would read something because I’m a busybody with poor self-control.)But I don’t see how they could hurt, especially if private feedback has indicated that they’d be helpful to others.

    Comment by Thinposter — June 6, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

  20. do people who think trigger warnings are for whiny babies also think that way about NSFW labels? come on, if you can’t handle seeing naked bodies, you’re not a real grownup. oh, you actually can handle it, you just think there’s a time and a place? suck it up, buttercup. or how about wet floor signs? pssh, what kind of delicate flower needs that? if you weren’t expecting a slippery floor, it’s your own fault if you fall.

    i have PTSD. (yes, i’m in treatment.) i really appreciate when people take the tiny bit of time to think “hey, this could hurt somebody” and mention what they’re about to talk about. it gives me a little bit of control over my world, and it makes me feel like i’m welcome.

    Comment by abby — June 6, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

  21. @Magnolia:

    You know what I find annoying about you? Your assumption that anyone who disagrees with you must have NO IDEA about things like trauma and PTSD. You’re taking ownership of this vast, amorphous group of “traumatised people”, and speaking for them/us. (Or do I not count, since I disagree with you? Serious question.)

    Comment by Liz — June 6, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

  22. The “attention ho-ing” comment was directed at the websites that offer “trigger warnings”, not the delicate readers. I said it because, well, they *are* attention ho-ing.

    It’s like the white triangle in the corner of the screen that British TV used to have in the 80s to “warn” of sexual content. It’s a giant “look at me, look at ME, LOOK AT MEEEEEEE!!!!”

    Comment by Liz — June 6, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

  23. Realistically, what is the assumption set would you use to assign a trigger warning? What assumptions can Plumcake make about who in her readership needs a warning, and about what?

    Comment by Lise in NJ — June 6, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

  24. Maybe I don’t frequent sites where they’re needed, but I’d never heard of a “Trigger Warning” until I read this. I’ve never felt the need for it on this site. I’m sensitive to graphic visuals of violence or surgery (just ’cause it’s gross), so warnings of those things have saved me a few nightmares while I’m sure anyone who had a stronger stomach than me just carried on.
    Miss Plumcake, if you feel a portion of your readership would enjoy themselves more on this site, I say go ahead. After reading you on this site since the start of MftBG, I trust they’d be used judiciously and not “abused.”

    Comment by Leah — June 6, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

  25. So, the anti-trigger-warning folks think that the pro-trigger-warning folks are overly sensitive to readers.

    The pro-trigger-warning folks think that the anti-trigger-warning folks are unkind to readers.

    So, worst case scenario, which would you rather be? I’d rather be overly sensitive.

    From the comments above from antis, it seems that they think that the pros need to toughen up. That may well be true, but I think the “toughening up” stage of recovery comes from within oneself, and with support of friends, not from shock therapy from strangers. To shock an overly delicate soul into personal strength is not only unkind, it’s ineffective.

    Comment by wildflower — June 6, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

  26. @Lise in NJ, you rock! So,if we remove all the inflammatory comments about delicate flowers and heartless bastards from this discussion – what criteria would be used to define a specific set of triggers and what would the triggers be?

    I currently have friends and family struggling with eating disorders, PTSD (combat and domestic), breast cancer, body image issues, and an array of other painful issues

    How would Plummie define her set of trigger warnings and at what point does it then become the responsibility of the reader to remove themselve exposure to anything that could cause them pain and/or setbacks. Honest question and I hope tactfully stated

    Comment by Thea — June 6, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

  27. It doesn’t matter to me either way, but should you implement them, I don’t expect to see them often(if at all) because this isn’t a Social Justice blog.

    Comment by ChloeMireille — June 6, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

  28. If all Trigger warnings are like the one posted above, I’m all for them! Always have been a fan of those two!

    As for the other, sometimes we just go too far. We become so concerned with being politically correct that no one can say anything.

    There was a warning on the last jar of peanut butter I purchased, “Contains peanuts.” Really???

    A little common sense goes a long way but anymore, there seems to be an absolute dearth of common sense.

    Comment by Sally — June 6, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

  29. I’m with Liz, way back at the beginning of the comments. The trouble with trigger warnings is that anything could conceivably *be* a trigger in the first place. I mean, I threw up nearly everything I ate between the ages of 18 and 25 and now quiver when I’m anywhere near a camera or mirror. The sheer number of potential trigger words or concepts that you, Ms. Plumcake, would have to post just for me alone approaches 20 to 50 discrete words. So let’s start there and add in the rest of the world? It’s nigh on impossible and we shouldn’t expect it, in my opinion.

    On the contrary, a large part of my (ongoing-for-the-past 13 years now) healing is learning to C-O-P-E and understand that the world does not exist for my comfort.

    Comment by Marsha — June 6, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

  30. @Liz:

    I see, so (for example) rape victims or people recovering from potentially life-threatening eating disorders are either “mythical,” or they are “weaklings” who are just out to grab attention (in what would seem to be an extremely traumatic and unpleasant manner).

    I don’t have the time or energy to analyze everything wrong with your response, and if I let myself get too worked up then I’ll be in danger of writing something that would get me banned from this website. But I will say that I’m confused by the level of hostility you’re showing. I hope our hostess doesn’t share it.

    I’ll ask again: what harm would it do to put warnings up? Does it really take so much extra time to add them to a post, or for a reader to read them? I really don’t understand the aversion.

    Comment by dillene — June 6, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

  31. trigger warning: may contain offensive material about pork, hoop earrings and rabbit fur articles.

    I think trigger warnings make sense for posts with significantly different content from the *rest of the postings for that site.* For example, several discussions about eating disorders on this blog have been prefaced with warnings. But does every mention of food on this site need such, or can’t we expect that the informed reader might see the header and go “gosh, I really don’t need to read about bacon-wrapped pork.” But said recipe, however delicious, would certainly require a trigger (or more likely, a pre-emptive deletion) on Context is everything.

    For instance, I don’t want to see Plummy put up the trigger “may contain snide remarks apropos the sexual proclivities of women who sport hoop earrings and rabbit fur” when she goes upon one of her great rants again. And I say this as a hoop-wearing individual who inherited some rabbit fur (eep!). If I can’t deal with sarcasm on MftBG, I’m clearly on the wrong site and should go elsewhere, right?

    Oh, and if Plummy has to post triggers on her articles, be prepared that commentators all should do what I just did above.

    Comment by SusanC — June 6, 2012 @ 11:55 pm

  32. I personally don’t like or need trigger warnings, and I question their helpfulness sometimes (because like someone said earlier I think, that lots of things could be triggers, and how does the blogger/writer know what topics might be “triggering” for their readers?).

    But, if Miss P decides to put trigger warnings on, it won’t turn me off MftBG!

    I wonder, if instead of trigger warnings proper, that using a “cut” (I don’t know if that’s the right word – I mean the link where it says “continue reading” after the intro paragraph) earlier in the post, and just making use of the existing categories might be a compromise? The categories that Miss Plumcake assigns to her posts include things like food, eating, love etc. Would this be enough for those who need/like trigger warnings?

    Sorry for the long comment, hope it makes sense!

    Comment by Loren — June 7, 2012 @ 2:48 am

  33. I also love the choice of illustration for this post.

    My (admittedly limited and potentially flawed) understanding is that trigger warnings, when used thoughtfully, are to prevent 1) relapses and 2) flashbacks/anxiety attacks.

    In category one go explications of certain types of thinking. I would not think that a post that mentions alcohol would need to be flagged as potentially triggering to an alcoholic, but a post exploring the kinds of thinking that go into being an alcoholic might be. In the fatosphere, this usually focuses on examinations of disordered eating or dieting mentalities. Someone trying to break away and recover from those things may be avoiding those thought patterns. More generally, detailed discussions of addictive or self-destructive behavior may deserve trigger warnings.

    In category two go stories likely to vividly remind someone of their own personal trauma. An explicit recounting of a rape, beating, vehicle accident, combat… when suffering (physical or emotional), pain and possibly death are the focuses of the post. Not MftBG’s usual fare.

    To me, it seems reasonable and compassionate to flag articles with that content. The exact words “trigger warning” may not be necessary, and I’ve noticed both Twistie and Miss Plumcake tend to tell us what they’re going to tell us before they tell us. But sometimes, there is the ‘metaphorical introduction with sudden sharp turn into main topic’ sort of post in which you may not see the content coming; if that content were of the sorts above, a warning would be in order.

    It also seems to me to be to be asking a lot of the universe to try and anticipate every possible thing which could be disturbing or unpleasant to someone in some context. But reasonable accommodations for major known problematic topics do not seem out of order.

    Comment by TeleriB — June 7, 2012 @ 8:04 am

  34. My knee-jerk reaction to ‘trigger warnings’ is ‘eyeroll’; but then, I’m a very lucky person, I’m blessed with good mental & physical health, and although I’ve had my share of traumas, I’ve managed to deal with them.

    So for those who haven’t been similarly blessed, I understand why some may find their internet lives a little less stressful with trigger warnings.

    I still reserve the right to eyeroll tho.

    Comment by Madame Suggia — June 7, 2012 @ 8:45 am

  35. Website has been around for a long time… no trigger warnings were necessary before and none should be now.

    I completely disagree that trigger warnings are a ‘kindness’. I actually see them as cruel and insulting.

    Comment by cadpig — June 7, 2012 @ 9:53 am

  36. a helpful link.

    Comment by abby — June 7, 2012 @ 10:16 am

  37. @dillene :

    Holy missing the point, Batman!

    I’m not denying the existence of traumatised people. I simply want evidence that they’re going to be sent into paroxyms of fear and panic without trigger warnings.

    I don’t particularly care that they wouldn’t do any harm. Typing “Liz is a goddess and is perfect in every way” before every blog post wouldn’t do any harm. But it would still be unbelievably annoying.

    Comment by Liz — June 7, 2012 @ 10:37 am

  38. I look at trigger warnings the same way I look at peanut bans in schools: they might be a pain in the ass to those of us who aren’t directly affected. But for those who ARE, they can be enormously helpful.

    It would be nice to hear from some folks who DO have “triggers”. Do you find the warnings helpful or harmful?

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — June 7, 2012 @ 10:58 am

  39. “It would be nice to hear from some folks who DO have “triggers”. Do you find the warnings helpful or harmful?”

    i have triggers (although not for eating disorders), and i find warnings helpful. i look at it like being an informed consumer: i like to know what i’m about to read before i read it. sometimes i’m in a good mental space for it and i dive on in; sometimes i think “you know, i’m going to wait and read this later”; sometimes i think “this is not something i’m going to read.”

    if the magic word “trigger” really bothers people without them, i don’t mind “content warning,” or “contains:”, or even just a descriptive title; they all work the same for me — just like how a conveniently-labeled bag of peanuts can tell one person “don’t eat these on pain of death” and another “here is a tasty snack!”

    Comment by abby — June 7, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

  40. @Liz: When I was in my early 20’s, I began to tackle head-on sexual abuse I had suffered as a child. I’m “over it” now, so I can now read graphic descriptions of child abuse and not have immediate panic attacks, followed by intermittent night terrors and nightmares for weeks afterwards. But it wasn’t so when I was in my 20’s.

    I would have appreciated a trigger warning; I would not have stopped reading, although some might have. But I would read gently, slowly, knowing what’s coming. So if you have “triggers” of food issues, and a “big girl” blog that mostly focuses on fashion occasionally delves into food issues, it seems fair that such an occasional deviation merits a trigger warning. Just has if the 23-year-old me had been reading, say, a blog about family life, and suddenly the blog discusses the sexual abuse of one family member.

    So, Liz, here is your circumstantial evidence. One data point. Me.

    And you’ll be happy to know that since then, I have indeed “grow[n] the frak up and move[d] on”, but I wasn’t so okay then.

    And I did, indeed, need my widdle hand held when I was going through it. My two best friends made clear that they were always a phone call away. And I’m not a weakling. I live alone in a rural area in a log cabin with no indoor plumbing, and split my own wood for heat, haul my own water from town, and use sled dogs for local transportation. And I’m about to complete my PhD. And I’m a mean shot with a rifle.

    Comment by wildflower — June 7, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

  41. Where have I been? I’ve got to be honest…i’ve never seen a trigger warning. Thinking about it though, I think it’s pretty doggone thoughtful of you.

    Comment by Tovah — June 8, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

  42. Hatehatehatehate trigger warnings. I have plenty of issues I’d prefer not to revisist, thank you, but as someone else said part of learning to deal with said issues is learning how to “turn the page” (so to speak) when you spot The Big Buggaboo a-comin’. I’m an adult. I should not have to make the rest of the world responsible for holding my hand. It’s a blog, not a peanut allergy.

    Comment by Whitney — June 19, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

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