Hey, Pubs! is a post series here on The Book Deviant that I’m hoping will call attention to flawed practices in the book publishing industry.
About a year ago, a well known author made a blog post claiming that trigger warnings were spoilers, and that they weren’t necessary. I made this (very old) post as a short response, and figured I should elaborate on reasons why they need to be normalized, and how they’re important.
I have triggers. Because I have triggers, I sometimes avoid certain topics, so I do not experience the pain that triggers cause me. That is what trigger warnings are for. Triggers could range from something that makes you extremely uncomfortable to things much worse. Being triggered isn’t feeling mildly uncomfortable or not liking something in a book. Running into something that could trigger you while you least expect it is one of the worst feelings ever. That’s why trigger warnings are important. They protect people from possibly harmful situations.
This is why trigger warnings need to be normalized.
Two examples: While reading an ARC of a dystopia, a character unexpectedly attempts to commit suicide. The scene came out of nowhere, and I found myself panicking within seconds of realizing what I had read. When I had calmed down (literal days later), I felt suiccint enough to send an email recommending a content warning in order to protect suicidal readers. (The book had a MC with anxiety, so it was highly likely that there would be those readers.) This was the response:
Not only was I at risk during those few days after reading the scene, but I then found this in my inbox when I tried to be helpful, saying that giving content warnings would be a disservice. If providing content warnings is a disservice, than what would it be if I had done more than panicked?
Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke was one of the most intense books I have ever read in terms of mental illness rep. I didn’t know that going in, though. Taylor, though, provided the page to the left, right before the first chapter. This warning enabled me to prepare myself for specific scenes that I knew would trigger me.
Why are warnings like these seen as such inconveniences? As spoilers?
You’d think that if something was meant to help people protect themselves, that people would support it.
In fact, every other entertainment except books have a content warning before it starts. Movies, video games, apps — a lot of them have ratings in a corner marking common triggers. In the email above, they mentioned that they don’t include content warnings because there is no set system. All it takes is one publisher, though, one author, to start implementing them to make them more regular. But they refuse to do it because no one else has done it.
Everyone may not understand the importance of trigger warnings, but knowing that they might save a life or someone strife should be enough for others to realize that they’re needed. Trigger warnings need to be normalized so people stop seeing them as something to joke about, and as something that is a serious need. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and trigger warnings are apart of it.
Think about it like this: trigger warnings for mentally ill people are the same as “yield” signs. They make us stop and think about what we’re doing, and how it might affect us. A yield sign is the same. If you forgo that yield sign, you might drive into oncoming traffic, giving you minor to major injuries, or even death. If mentally ill people don’t have those trigger warnings, it’s like there not being a yield sign in the first place.
What do you think about trigger warnings? What kind of system do you think there should be? Have you seen pages similar to Taylor’s above?
If you have any ideas for possible “Hey Pubs!” posts, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!