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[personal profile] rainbowmods
Trigger Warnings And You
Written for us by [personal profile] shipwreck_light, who volunteered for the job

Back in the wild, untamed Internet of 1999, we didn't have trigger warnings. We had epic mailing list arguments that went on for weeks, but no trigger warnings. To me, they're a new concept. I'm not sure how long it takes Internet newbies to stumble onto a site which makes use of the idea. But, I am very sure someone out there reading this is scratching their head just like I did the first time I saw the phrase "trigger warning".

A trigger warning is a note in the heading matter of a post stipulating that content beyond can trigger people. Subjects which often receive trigger warnings include abuse, violence, rape, self-harm and eating disorders. Basically, everything that writers of Gundam Wing angst fic ate for breakfast and posted to their mailing lists between epic shipping wars.

Another tidbit of information I'd like to share is that triggers and squicks are not the same thing. Now, there is overlap and plenty of people conflate the two, but they are different.

If something squicks you, that something might make you nauseous or angry. (Also, there's a general semantic construct of "squicky" equaling "purposefully gross", say involving graphic gore or bodily fluids, although this doesn't have to be the case.) A triggered reaction on the other hand, can involve panic attacks, flashbacks, recurrence of self-harm and other debilitating situations that hamper the daily lives of those who experience them.

This is the Internet and on the Internet, everything gets exaggerated. A lot of people will say they are triggered when they mean they are squicked. On one hand, this is kind of understandable since the difference might not be apparent to casual readers. On the other, it's best to know what a word means before throwing that word around. Saying something triggers you when you mean something squicks you is not cool, and I'm sure the people out there with trigger reactions would be better equipped to have a word with you about that than I would.

They are why [community profile] rainbowfic has trigger warnings. Readers being grossed out is not the problem.

So, here's the thing that may surprise you. I'm not actually pro trigger warnings on fiction. Short version: I think they're rude to the reader. But that's not what this post is about. Enough readers plainly disagree. What’s more, the owners of this community disagree.

I still volunteered to do this writeup. I know where a lot of you who object to trigger warnings are coming from. I know the trigger warning rules might not be what you wanted to see. Maybe they even made you a little bit angry. And that's OK.

But I don't want you to not participate because of trigger warnings and neither do the mods. The mods want as many people to be happy and comfortable here as possible. Whatever you and I may think of trigger warnings, they do maximize comfort on significant portions of the Internet at large, including [community profile] rainbowfic.

Let's look at it this way. Say you have a friend with a pet axolotl. You just love the little guy and the little guy seems to love you too in his own amphibious way. A chance to feed him just makes your day. In the spirit of this post, I'd like to point out to anyone about to google "axolotls eating" or somesuch that you're going to get results involving axolotls v. live food, on the chance that would bother you.

So, one evening, your friend invites you over to watch a new episode of your mutual favorite show. You show up at exactly six, the axolotl's usual feeding time. However, when you get there, you friend asks you nicely not to feed the axolotl. He already had a treat and he doesn't need any more today.

You're probably disappointed. All the way over here you were imagining the fun of handing that last fish to the axolotl. But, you're not going to wait until your friend leaves the room and feed him anyway, are you? A) that would be rude. B) nobody wants to see an axolotl with dyspepsia. C) consider of all of the other fun things you can do in your friend's house. Is it really worth not being able to do them ever again over one gleeful, fish-devouring moment? In this scenario, not feeding the axolotl has the most benefits of any course of action. So think about that when you're biting your lip grumping about the trigger warning field on your posts.

No one is telling you not to write potentially triggering situations. Imagine if you would what the world would be like if certain subjects were outright banned. They wouldn't even have to be triggery subjects for that situation to get awkward and constricting. A writerly world with no puppies, balloons, violence, pecan pie or grasshoppers is not a world I'd want to take part in. “No” and topics of fiction do not belong in the same sentence, ever. That is not what writing is about.

Heck, no one's even telling you not to post these things. It's just been asked that if you do, you put a sticky note on them. Don't feed the axolotl- he already ate. Except these aren't axolotls and food. These are real people and some of the disturbing things you're writing about really happened to them and their loved ones.

If you want to be meta about it, you can still stipulate via sticky note that there will be no sticky notes. It's not going to be the norm, I can guarantee that, but it's always an option which the mods welcome you to take if you so desire. I welcome you to stick with your opinions in the non-asshole manner, which is opting out.

That's really all this boils down to. Don't be an asshole. It's all the mods want from you, period.

Editor’s Note: Some, if not all, of your loving mods have written very triggering material in the past. We are not, in any way, shape, or form, against writing triggering material. If it fits your story, if it’s cathartic, whatever--in other words, if you want to write it for any reason whatsoever--you are entirely welcome to do so. We just ask for warnings or a note that there will not be warnings because you prefer not to use them, whichever works best for you. - Kelly


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