Trigger warnings very rarely tell me that I should opt out of a conversation. Instead, they tell me that I’ll be safe if I try to engage. To some extent they’re a signaling mechanism that lets me know people care about my mental well being. But more than that they’re a reminder to me that I should be considering my mental health and engaging the skills that I have. And it gives me a heads up of what skills I’ll need to use based on what kinds of content will be there. […]
When I don’t have the warning it hits suddenly and I don’t have coping skills at hand. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s easy to let myself slip quickly into an anxiety attack, or even to use symptoms. TWs help me protect myself.
–Olivia on how trigger warnings help.
This, incidentally, is why I always side-eye people who argue against trigger warnings. It’s like, okay. At the most generous reading, they’ve just never thought about what it must be like to be someone who has experience with things like trauma and anxiety disorders, in which case I have a box of empathy here going cheap. At worst reading, they’re actively asshats who get off on causing other people mental anguish and in which case I don’t actually care what they have to say about the issue.
I’m Internet Old enough to remember when the former class of people were fairly common. If you’ve ever wondered why, for example, the AO3 has a “choose not to use archive warnings” option–which you can also leave blank–it’s because of the massive flamewars that used to go on between pro-trigger warning and anti-trigger warning camps. And, like, full disclosure: I used to be an “anti-warner”, with the standard excuse of But It’s My Artistic Vision How Dare You Question My Need For This [Completely Gratuitous Bullshit Thing I Put In Because I Thought It Made My Stuff “Edgy”]. Like a lot of terrible opinions I had as a teenager, I grew out of it, mostly because, a) I started to read more people talking about how trigger warnings help them engage with topics in a thoughtful way, and b) I started wishing non-fandom spaces would introduce trigger warnings so I could, for example, opt-out of watching TV shows and films with gratuitous rape scenes.
But that stuff was all going on literally a decade and change ago. It’s gratifying now to see that “warning culture” has so permeated fandom culture that it’s very rarely questioned any more. Even if people don’t personally like or use warnings (to which see above), I don’t tend to see the big arguments questioning the very concept any more.
That’s in fandom spaces, anyway. In non-fandom spaces, it feels like it’s 2002 all over again…1