Still more safe spaces: Columbia students want trigger warnings for Ovid

May 13, 2015 • 12:00 pm

Sadly, the decline in free speech at American universities, and the proliferation of ludicrous “trigger warning” mandates for books and courses, are topics covered largely by the right-wing media, so often I must hold my nose as I examine their sources. (This one is Legal Insurrection.) But even a right-wing venue can get stuff right, and face it—we’re not going to see the New Yorker or the New York Times decry the vigilantism, identity politics, and censorship that’s infesting American universities.  Those venues (with the exception of Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker) studiously avoid the new conflict between Englightenment-inspired concern for the disenfranchised and the essential value of free speech.

Well, here’s the latest bit of nonsense from American campuses: a request from students at Columbia University (a great school, by the way) to put trigger warnings—on the work of Roman poet Ovid! Yes, it’s true, as you can see from this op-ed in the Columbia student newspaper The Spectator, written by four student members of Columbia’s Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board (MAAB). Now such boards can be useful in ensuring that minority rights are respected on campuses, and in calling out (but not censoring) instances of racism and bigotry, but this time they’ve gone too damn far. Trigger warnings on Ovid—seriously?

Here are some excerpts from their letter, “Our identities matter in Core classrooms.” (In the US, a “core” curriculum is a slate of courses all students are required to take, usually comprising humanities courses designed to expose people to great thinking, writing, and a diversity of opinions that will inspire discussion.) But, according to the MAAB students, one course had some inimical effects on a student:

During the week spent on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation. She did not feel safe in the class. When she approached her professor after class, the student said she was essentially dismissed, and her concerns were ignored.

That professor was clearly wrong to dismiss the student, and perhaps he or she might have mentioned beforehand that there is violence and sexual assault in Ovid, but that’s as far as I’d go. After all, what body of literature, including the Bible and the Muslim hadith, doesn’t mention violence and sexual assault? The Bible even sanctions rape! Should divinity schools put trigger warnings on the Old Testament? I am sorry about the student who couldn’t abide the mention of sexual assault, but she should be getting help for her triggering from a therapist, not from a professor. Without such help, she’ll go through life triggered by every magazine and newspaper she sees.

The pathway of such trigger warnings—not just for sexual assault but for violence, bigotry, and racism—will eventually lead to every work of literature being labeled as potentially offensive. There goes the Bible, there goes Dante, there goes Huck Finn (loaded with racism), there goes all the old literature written before we realized that minorities, women, and gays weren’t second-class people. And as for violence and hatred, well, they’re everywhere, for they’re just as much parts of literature as parts of life. Crime and Punishment? Trigger warning: brutal violence against an old woman. The Great Gatsby? Trigger warning: violence against women (remember when Tom Buchanan broke Mrs. Wilson’s nose?).  The Inferno? Trigger warning: graphic violence, sodomy, and torture. Dubliners? Trigger warning: Pedophilia.

This is the road that Literature Fascism leads to (from the letter):

Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.

In the end, anybody can claim offense or triggering about anything: liberals about conservative politics, pacifists against violence, women against sexism, minorities against bigotry, Jews against anti-Semitism, Muslims against any mention of Israel, creationists against evolution, religionists against atheism, and so on.  This ineluctably leads to a bland homogenization of all literature, and a stifling of challenging viewpoints. As someone who’s culturally Jewish, I’ve deliberately read anti-Semitic books like Mein Kampf, watched movies like Triumph of the Will, and read “triggering” material like The Diary of Anne Frank (trigger warning: anti-Semitism!). I’ve deliberately visited Auschwitz to see what it was like (immensely disturbing and moving; everyone should go), and I’ve read accounts of its inmates, like Primo Levi’s moving Survival in Auschwitz (see the extract I published here).

All of that saddened me, deeply upset me, and brought me to tears. But I am glad I did it, for in a way it’s enriched my life. It’s awakened me to not only what “decent people” are capable of under the right circumstances, but also to how humans can, in impossible situations, function, and survive (or die) with bravery. Such literature shows us the full panoply of the human psyche, from its heights to its depths—and, after all, isn’t that what Shakespeare and Dostoevsky were about?

Again, don’t get me wrong. For too long colleges overlooked a wonderful body of literature by minorities, non-Anglophones, and those outside the Ancient Greek—>Modern democracy path. The “core” should include that literature. But the core is not a form of therapy; it’s a form of exposure to diverse ideas, and it should not have the aim of making people feel “safe.” In fact, that’s precisely the opposite of its aim. And that’s what these students get wrong:

The MAAB, an extension of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, is an advocacy group dedicated to ensuring that Columbia’s campus is welcoming and safe for students of all backgrounds. This year, we explored possible interventions in Core classrooms, where transgressions concerning student identities are common. Beyond the texts themselves, class discussions can disregard the impacts that the Western canon has had and continues to have on marginalized groups.

By all means, work towards avoiding a hostile environment for learning, but also promote a challenging environment for learning. The MAAB isn’t concerned with that last part; their main goal is to make students feel “safe” by deep-sixing what offends them.

Finally the students tender three recommendations:

Students need to feel safe in the classroom, and that requires a learning environment that recognizes the multiplicity of their identities. The MAAB has been meeting with administration and faculty in the Center for the Core Curriculum to determine how to create such a space. The Board has recommended three measures: First, we proposed that the center issue a letter to faculty about potential trigger warnings and suggestions for how to support triggered students. Next, we noted that there should be a mechanism for students to communicate their concerns to professors anonymously, as well as a mediation mechanism for students who have identity-based disagreements with professors. Finally, the center should create a training program for all professors, including faculty and graduate instructors, which will enable them to constructively facilitate conversations that embrace all identities, share best practices, and think critically about how the Core Curriculum is framed for their students.

No, students don’t need to feel “safe” (whatever that means) in the classroom. No, not every core must include literature from every ethnic group. And “no” again on trigger warnings, except of the broadest sort: perhaps a single sentence outlining material that bothers students most often.

As for supporting triggered students, we professors are not therapists, for proper training of that sort takes ages. What we can do to support triggered students is to refer them to professionals who can senstively deal with and, perhaps, defuse their anxieties. And yes, of course students can anonymously complain to professors; I have no problem with that, although such interactions are best done in person (most of us are not hostile to students, or we wouldn’t be teaching!).

Finally, a huge “no” to “sensitivity training classes” for professors. If some of us transgress big time, like making bigoted remarks to students, then we should be called out and perhaps punished, but most of us, after all, know how to comport ourselves in the classroom. Training us to “embrace all identities” smacks of Big Brotherhood, and of course there are some identities, like homophobia, I don’t want to embrace.

It’s time for students to learn that Life is Triggering. Once they leave college, they’ll be constantly exposed to views that challenge or offend them. There are a lot of jerks out there, and no matter what your politics are, a lot of people will have the opposite view. If you’re an atheist, you’ll live in a world of people whom you see as hostile and delusional believers. If you’re a believer, you’ll encounter vociferous heathens like me. If you’re a feminist, well, sexism is alive and well.

That’s why one of college’s most important functions is to learn how to hear and deal with challenging ideas. Cocooning onself in a Big Safe Space for four years gets it exactly backwards. “Safety” has been transformed by colleges from “protection from physical harm” to “protection from disturbing ideas.”

h/t: Jay

181 thoughts on “Still more safe spaces: Columbia students want trigger warnings for Ovid

  1. Some conservative literature decrying political correctness is presumably better than others. Contrast Dinesh D’Souza and Alan Kors.

    D’Souza practically GOT his street cred from the mainstream community for his first major book from a non-religious publisher “Illiberal Education” decrying political correctness, largely because it broke the ice and was the first public discussion of the subject AT ALL!!
    But the book contained many factual distortions (his description of the final outcome of the controversies at Stanford over the Western Civ canon is all wrong!!)

    A few years later comes Alan Kors’ book “The Shadow Univesity” far better than D’Souza’s in every way. Kors went on to become the co-founder of FIRE.

    Both Kors and D’Souza are self-identified political conservatives, though Kors is also a self-identified atheist while D’Souza is a Christian.

    Disclosure: Kors was one of my very favorite professors when I was an undergrad history major at Penn.

  2. “Death is an extremely important theme throughout all seven books, I would say possibly the most important theme. If you are writing about evil, which I am, and if you are writing about someone who is essentially a psychopath, you have a duty to show the real evil of taking human life.
    It’s very interesting how parents think that they have the right to dictate to you because you’re writing reading materials for their children. I got a horrible letter on book 2 – very, very stuffy letter – from a mother saying, ‘This is a very disturbing ending, and I’m sure a writer of your ability would be able to think of a better way to end the next book.’ So basically, ‘liked it two thirds of the way through but if you could really address this issue in the future and I’ll be back in touch if I find you unacceptable.’
    And it was at that point I snapped.
    I wrote back and said, ‘Don’t read the rest of the books. Yours sincerely, J. Rowling.’ There was no point, I mean, I’m not taking dictation here.
    Do I care about my readers? Profoundly and deeply, but, do I ultimately think that they should dictate a single word of what I write? No. No, I am the only one who should be in control of that. And I’m not writing to make anyone’s children feel safe.”

        1. I wonder why these people aren’t hiding from shame. Why is it noble to be a permanent infant?

          Why is it okay that women who fought for equality are suddenly portrayed as too weak even to give consent?

          1. Does anybody remember Strewl Peter? Now that was a disturbing lot of tales for kids. I wonder if you can still get it?

            1. That really shook me up as a kid. I don’t think my parents realised how terrifying the Struwwelpeter stories were, in particular the story of the thumb-sucking boy – that just went straight into the dark recesses of my childhood psyche like a heat-seeking missile. I still remember the illustrations(all of which were frightening) of the child in that story cowering in his room, his severed fingers lying on the floor around him, and the finger cutting freak looming over him. Now that could have done with a ‘trigger warning’. Something like ‘contains imagery that may convince your kid that if they’re alone in the house a terrifying monster-man will come and chop off their fingers’. Put it like that and it’s utterly mental that any parent thought it was a good idea to read it to their kids.

        2. Walt Disney was surely a sadist. Most of his cartoons contain plenty of violence and painful emotions. For the next generation of kids, these classic films had better have warnings above PG 13.

          1. He murdered Bambi’s mother! Just think of the trauma that that gratuitous violence must have inflicted on generations of innocent youngsters. Won’t somebody please think of the children?

            1. So I’ve heard alleged, but I think his cartoons and features show much less evidence of racism than analogous works from any of his contemporary studio heads.

              Of course, I haven’t seen everything, including Song of the South, which is so tightly under lock and key I doubt I’ll ever see it.

        3. Compare and contrast with Disney pulling the teeth of every story he ever told. Actually, more like rotted them out by replacing everything of value and interest with saccharine bloated sops.

  3. “Life is Triggering”
    As usual, reading that, every time I thought ‘what about…’ – you went & covered it in the next line.

    This is some sort of wooly nonsense for the ‘Parental Advisory’ generation.
    Best to tell them never to read any history. World War One – may contain unpleasant deaths – & certainly not Shakespeare! Titus Andronicus anyone…?!

    1. Life certainly is triggering. I am trying to imagine what kind of existence the student under discussion could lead without coming into contact with equivalent triggering material on a daily basis. No tv programs. No books or magazines, even glancing at covers in line at the grocery store. No watching or reading the news. No sitting in a public place like a restaurant where you might overhear a conversation at the next table. It’s not possible.

      1. It’s certainly possible. Some religious denominations actually achieve it. Everybody else calls them ‘cults’.

    2. Yes, indeed. Life is Triggering! Put it on everything, like the ubiquitous CANCER warnings in California. And if you don’t put a Trigger Warning on stuff, then there are a bunch of hungry bottom feeder law school grads who will be ready to bring an Unfair Practices action against you, to make an example (not to mention the attorneys fees).

  4. I read “The Sorrows of Young Werther” in college and was astonished when the professor told us that the work triggered suicides in its day. Now, I guess someone will worry that Goethe’s dreary Teutonic maundering (sorry, I didn’t like it) will start doing its dirty work all over. Conflict is an essential element in literature and if you remove conflict or start feeling compelled to warn people that discomfort lurks in them thar pages, then you’ve diluted its essence.

    1. Tchaikovsky triggered suicides.Not because it was maudlin, but because it was beautiful.

      Life triggers suicides.

      I feel badly for people who suffer from depression and anxiety. I had school problems dealing with anxiety, so I know it’s real.

      But the answer is not to falsify reality in the one place set aside to learn about reality.

    2. Generic Trigger Warning for all good fiction:

      “There will be a protagonist, but there will also be an antagonist. Sometimes the protagonist wins against his/her external or internal struggle, but sometimes they don’t. Please continue reading for more details.”

  5. I don’t recall the details of Ovid’s metamorphosis but I do recall that every single myth I’ve read in the original or in translation uses tons of euphemism to cover up rape. This way of glossing over rape is actually used in modern works (a Margaret Atwood poem from the point of view of Circe comes to mind). So I find it hard to understand how there are vivid rape scenes in Ovid. If anything there are euphemistic rape scenes (like when Zeus shows up as some animal and pursues a maiden; usually he is raping someone as a bull or something but it is written as just Zeus trying to seduce the woman.

    1. Yes, the same is true for pulp and golden age sci-fi: references to sex and rape are largely euphemistic. Anytime an author specifically mentions a couple closing the door on their room, you can assume that means sex at best and rape at worst. Its actually quite tame compared to modern lit. I can’t really imagine how anyone could get it into their heads to complain about stuff like that when we moderns have Cosmopolitan on the supermarket shelf and Playboys sold at 7-11 (not that they are equivalent, I’m just illustrating the breadth of both verbal and visual explicitness we accept as normal).

    2. Ovid has got form in offending.

      He made Augustus feel so uncomfortable that the ruler of the Roman Empire needed a safe space. So Caesar exiled him to the Black Sea.

      And Ovid remained vague about the trigger. While Augustus punched down, no doubt these students think they’re punching up. But they’re doing exactly the same thing.

      Frankly, triggering is a synonym for being offended. And in any colloquy I don’t know how to respond to a whine. x

      1. Yes – “triggered” is the new “offended”. They’ve worked out that they have no right to not be offended, so they’ve hit on triggered. It’s a tactic used in multiple contexts.

      2. I have never actually figured out what “trigger” means in the is context. What is “triggered” a memory? A panic attack?

        1. “Triggering” is a way of saying: “This might expose people to thoughts to which I don’t want them to be exposed because exposure to such thoughts might trigger them to develop opinions and ideas that I don’t want them to have because I find it inconvenient when people disagree with me and I have to defend my opinions against their contrary opinions.”

  6. I’m almost entirely lost my ability to empathize with these people.

    “Finally, the center should create a training program for all professors…”

    The gall, the sheer gall of these know-nothings.

    What’s next, reeducation camps?

  7. From the little I know about psychological trauma therapy, exposing victims to their past trauma is one of the best ways to overcome said trauma. It has been shown that avoidance of PTSD increases anxiety and depression. The more I learn about “trigger warnings” the more I believe they are grossly misguided, and becoming absurdly ubiquitous.

    1. AIUI ‘trigger warning’ comes from the idea of mentally preparing for a psychologically difficult experience, rather than trying to avoid it. Which is IMO a good thing to do with upsetting subjects or experiences or a person who has been traumatized. If someone has developed a fear of dogs after being bitten, you don’t surprise them with a dog encounter.

      But even if we recognize that there are certain circumstances where that sort of forewarning is warranted – and heck, even when we recognize that forewarning may be appropriate for some books, like Huck Finn – this case is ridiculous because of the overreaction of the students. You don’t ban books from the curriculum or require training for an entire University staff because the Metamorphosis discusses rape.

  8. I cannot help but think my reaction would be exactly the same as the Professor in this example. I’ve had occasion to discuss orangutans in class, and some student almost always asks whether they are indeed the only other primate that commits rape. I have never and will never provide trigger warnings on my syllabus. I don’t know what to make of a student who doesn’t feel safe from a discussion of apes.

    1. I also wouldn’t be quick to blame the professor for lack of sensitivity in this case, we don’t know what was said to the student. What could be said after the fact to soothe the student? Agreeing to remove Ovid from the curriculum?

  9. Coming to a campus near you: safe spaces that forbid atheism.

    Talk of no God might trigger the painful experience of losing one’s faith and God abandonment. It might make religious students feel unsafe, threatened, insecure, defensive, offensive, mommy-seeking, sky-daddy-seeking, unreasonable, or cerebrally assaulted.

  10. I wonder, in the population of people who are currently bullying professors and universities into installing trigger warnings and “safe spaces” everywhere, what is the ratio of female to male? It seems to me that the majority is female.

    Now, this simply could be that colleges, and life in general,are simply more hostile to women. But it could also be that this manipulative form of getting your way by claiming extreme weakness and sensitivity is a primarily female tactic. In that sense, it is actually quite sexist and patronizing to abide by it and take it seriously. It seems that many college administrators are buying into the myth of the delicate female.

    If a group of young men were demanding safe spaces filled with stuffed animals and trigger warnings on Greek mythology, hopefully they would be laughed off and told to put on their big boy pants.

    1. In the past, women were more likely to study Humanities and Social Sciences and men Physical Sciences. There are far more topics in history (which I studied) that could be considered required trigger warnings than probably any other subject. Our ancestors, especially the ones that made it into the history books, were pretty ghastly by modern standards.

      One of today’s snow flakes wouldn’t make it through her first history lecture, let alone manage to graduate. Now all the misogynists can tell me how good it was for me to have spent 18 years knowing I was worth less than every man on the planet before I went to uni. They were actually doing me a favour!

      (This is not a dig at you Blitz442, just a thought that was generated by reading your thoughts.)

      1. On another note, I went to uni many a moon ago and there were women all over the place.
        I don’t know the breakdown for different fields but in mine, philosophy, history of religion legal studies computer science and stuff women were well represented and were as bold and competent and confrontational when needed as any body.
        That was just after the start of the women’s movement in Australia. All the fine women that I knew would find this triggering snowflake crap just that, crap.

      2. This reminds me of the comments and article about the jewish idiots not wanting to sit next to women.
        These days I am quite isolated in my living location and I work in a male dominated environment (although more women are coming in now).
        One thing I really miss is having women around.
        That was one of the best thing about uni. Smart competent interesting women all around.

        1. I think you’ve misjudged the tone of my post. It involved quite a lot of sarcasm, which I obviously didn’t make very clear.

    2. “It seems to me that the majority is female.”

      Unfortunately, it seems so to me, too. Of course our culture has always told males that it’s a sign of weakness to show signs of sensitivity and insecurity. Come to think of it, I think evolution has “told” males the same thing.

      I wish the current cohort of “unsafe” women would think this through and realize what they’re really doing to not only themselves but to the perception of women in general.

    3. Also women are more likely to have been raped or sexually assaulted than are men. So other things being equal, you will have more women than men feeling the need for trigger warnings (of the set of people who feel the need for trigger warnings).

  11. I’ve deliberately visited Auschwitz to see what it was like (immensely disturbing and moving; everyone should go)

    I agree. Life-changing.

    Imagine the list of trigger warnings that would be required on some tourist sign outside the camp for these delicate visiting students. I suspect the irony would be lost on them.

    Places like the camp at Auschwitz viscerally remind us that the loss of legal ‘safety’ that permits such a monstrous undertaking comes first from people of good intentions failing to support free speech (whether we find it offensive or not). Such brutal history is a lesson all of us need to learn anew every time we forget the danger that accompanies pandering to the false yet ever-so-popular narrative that criticism is a worse crime than anything being criticized.

    1. I visited Dachau when I was 17 and it was indeed life-changing. The terror there was still palpable, and the ambiance of weeping and sorrow haunted me long after the experience. Dachau was also infamous for many notorious experiments the Nazi’s performed; many of those photos were beyond ghastly, and I can see them in my mind’s eye to this day, almost 30 years later.
      My wife and I visited Munich in 2000, and she wanted to visit Dachau. I told her I couldn’t go through the experience again as I found it too traumatic. She understood, but sometimes I feel guilty for not letting her experience the atrocities in person, as nothing I’ve ever seen on TV or read about comes close to standing in the midst of it- hell on earth.

  12. The pathway of such trigger warnings—not just for sexual assault but for violence, bigotry, and racism—will eventually lead to every work of literature being labeled as potentially offensive.

    All Colleges and Universities can just put up a big entrance gate. But instead of carving Dante’s “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” over the lintel, the modern University can carve “Trigger warning: disturbing material and circumstances lie within.”

    No, students don’t need to feel “safe” (whatever that means) in the classroom.

    Well yes they should feel physically safe. The problem here is their mixing up psychological comfort with physical safety. Unless you are in an Evil Dead movie, reading books is a largely safe activity regardless of the content.

    [not Jerry but the put-upon students]the texts themselves, class discussions can disregard the impacts that the Western canon has had and continues to have on marginalized groups

    The reason you have introductory classes in Western canon literature is to study exactly stuff like that. If you want to discuss how the ancient Greeks treated women badly, you do that best by reading ancient Greek books that illustrate their attitudes towards women. Like the Metamorphosis.

  13. Hmm … Oresteia, Oedipus Rex, Medea … what about these? Not only are they far more graphical, but unlike Ovid’s Metamorphoses, I think most people know what they’re about. So is mentioning of the title already triggering?

    1. You forgot Lysistrata. Now there’s material that triggers all sorts of male trauma. Women in power! A fine war stopped! Men not getting what they want! Trigger warning, triiiiiigggggeeeeeerrrrrr warning!!!!!

    2. And then there’s Catullus who, were he still around, might respond to this theater of the absurd by quoting himself: Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo! (Trigger warning: Look it up.)

      1. Maybe he’ll settle on Catullus 36 instead of 16: At vos interea venite in ignem, pleni ruris et inficetiarum Annales, cacata carta!

        1. Stop! You’re triggering some powerfully fond grad school memories. I’m categorically opposed to book burning, but, yeah, 36! A great literary-critical bonfire of the pen, courtesy of the 1st century BC, that I’d forgotten about. (OK, classics nerd eruption over; you may now return to your regularly-scheduled thread.)

    1. Almost. There will be female-only classes, and co-ed classes. There will be no male-only classes because that would be sexist. The female-only classes will be justified on the basis that men are generally toxic and females need a safe space from male interference.

      We have this situation now, actually. Female only colleges still exist, and justify their continued existence on those very grounds.

      We also have female-only fitness centers, and within co-ed gyms there are often female-only gym sessions. This was the case at the YMCA that I used to attend.

      1. I’m okay with it. Some extra resources floated towards traditionally marginalized groups seems fine to me. As an old white guy, I don’t need every single dollar spent equally to think I’m getting equal treatment. Its sort of like holidays: we don’t need a national men’s day to make people aware of the contributions of men, that’s pretty much every day. Likewise we don’t need all-male colleges so that men can feel free to express themselves in classrooms: that’s pretty much every classroom in every (co-ed) college in the US.

        1. We may not need all-male colleges (I am not advocating those), but as females now comprise the majority of college students, and are only increasing in proportional representation, the rationale for female-only colleges is wearing thin. It does seem to be the case however that female-only universities are reflecting this reality and are now seeing declining enrollments.

          Your argument makes a bit more sense if we are talking about African-American universities.

          And I disagree that every classroom in every co-ed college privileges men. Whiteness and maleness in particular seem to be indicators of character and epistemological deficits at many universities these days.

          And here is at least on professor who would probably not give special treatment to white males in her classroom.

          1. as females now comprise the majority of college students, and are only increasing in proportional representation, the rationale for female-only colleges is wearing thin

            Maybe. But AFAIK studies still show professors (even female ones) still tend to pay more attention to male students, and frankly if we are going to err on the side of caution, let’s cautiously expect that this is continuing and that somehow the unprecedented situation of women getting ‘too much’ attention and respect has not yet occurred.

            Yep, there will be exceptions. Nope, those exceptions do not give us any reason to think that co-ed colleges in general are undervaluing or ignoring the voices of men.

        2. I just commented above about my time at uni. Women then didn’t have any trouble expressing themselves any more than a man.

          Why would you assert that females are not free to express themselves?

          What about shy males? Bad luck your just not using your testosterone properly, or what?

          1. Because research has shown that even well-meaning good honest teachers often unconsciously favor white males in a variety of subtle ways. Below is a journal article and lit survey, both supporting essentially the same point even though they were written 20 years apart. I believe there is plenty more such research if you look in the literature.

            The role of target students in the science classroom
            School Culture and Gender.

            Of course your individual experience may differ; nobody expects these findings to hold in all cases at all times. If they hold for many cases at many times, that is (IMO) sufficient reason to allow all-women colleges and other such things to continue to operate.

    2. IME, women in women-only groups respond quite differently than in co-ed situations. It’s a revelation to feel you can speak out without feeling like an interruption, or that you’re being evaluated by looks, or that men are going to resume dominating the conversation as soon as they can. For that reason I’ve always wished I’d gone to one of the Seven Sisters, back in the day.

      1. I experienced the opposite and wished the opposite. That is, in England I went to a co-ed school but – about the time we realised girls were different and potentially interesting – we moved to New Zealand and I went to a secondary school that was (and is) single-sex. Then I went to University – Engineering School which was de facto single -sex. So I never had the chance to mix with girls and by the time I was 20 I could hardly talk to one without blushing and drying up with awkwardness. Caused me many embarrassments which I did NOT describe in Jerry’s competition.

        I am, therefore, much in favour of co-ed classes.

        1. You seem to be in favor of co-ed classes because of the socialization benefit to young men. Socialization is important but I think if we’re talking about school the focus needs to be on what gives students good educational opportunities. Put bluntly, if the choice is between you becoming an awkward engineer and more women successfully going into engineering, vs. you being a smooth engineer and fewer women becoming engineers, I’d choose the latter.

          1. Somewhere I read (unfortunately I don’t remember where) that some research suggests girls are better off (academically, socially) in all-girls schools. However, the same review also concluded that boys are better off in co-ed schools. This is referring to secondary schools – not higher education (or I would have said “women” and “men”).

          2. That presumes that single-sex classes are educationally superior. I’d seriously question that.

            In my view, the quality of the teaching and coursework is the chief determinant of how much you learn, not whether girls are present.

          3. Eric, I appreciate all your contributions in this comment thread, and completely agree with them.

            1. Not sure what you’re agreeing with there. I think Eric has got his alternatives mixed up.

              When I was at engineering school (decades ago) there were NO female engineering students, not because they were excluded but because girls just didn’t do engineering. IMO, a lot more women would have been both good for us pimply males socially _and_ good for women engineers. I don’t agree with ‘fewer women engineers’ being a good thing (which is what eric seems to be saying)

              1. I re-read the post you’re referring to, and it does seem to say what you say it does, and I’ll admit I read it differently. However, I wonder if Eric just slipped up in his last sentence?

                You seem to be in favor of co-ed classes because of the socialization benefit to young men. Socialization is important but I think if we’re talking about school the focus needs to be on what gives students good educational opportunities. Put bluntly, if the choice is between you becoming an awkward engineer and more women successfully going into engineering, vs. you being a smooth engineer and fewer women becoming engineers, I’d choose the latter.

                I really think he meant to say “former” rather than “latter,” judging by the rest of his post, but I guess he’ll have to weigh in himself so we can be sure.

              2. Well yes, I agree eric may have got it jumbled. But his first alternative, “you becoming an awkward engineer and more women successfully going into engineering” is NOT what I said. Maybe I was confusing. Try again:

                When I was an engineering student there were virtually no women engineering students. (If I prod my memory there may have been – literally – one or two. Not enough to make any difference, socially. No question of segregated classes, there weren’t enough to segregate even if anyone had wanted to).
                So my standpoint is, MORE women engineering students would have been good for us and good for women in engineering. I certainly don’t think, academically, it would have made any difference.

                Hope that’s clear now?

              3. Oh bugger, that ‘anonymous’ was me. My browser is being _very_ flaky today…

  14. It has occured to me that as they (rightfully) add more lit from minority sources, they will find plenty of triggering material there. Literature from all cultures features clashes between good and evil, heroes and villains, power and weakness, victory and defeat.

    Great lit is never safe and gentle. Do they censor the minority lit also?

    1. It has occured [sic] to me that as they (rightfully) add more lit from minority sources

      I wonder of Columbia has a greek student group. If they do, it would be amusing to have them protest that this is lit from a minority source. Ancient Greek lit may have been standard fare in the middle ages, but it isn’t now. Columbia’s requirement is fairly exceptional, not the rule.

  15. It’s sad that some people take a lifetime to get over trauma, even after psychotherapy. I met one woman in her 60s during a community English Lit class, who couldn’t bear to read “The Road”. She had seen the movie earlier and the brutality and horrors brought back memories of a sexual assault she had suffered years ago.

    1. That can be true. I still feel a funny feeling whenever a movie or show has a mother dying. It pokes me inside. That’s after 50 years.

      1. Yeah, since my kid was born I have a very hard time watching anything where very bad stuff happens to kids. And that isn’t even trauma, that’s just normal empathy at work. However, that’s my issue, I’m not going to insist everyone go out of their way to prevent me from feeling upset about a book or movie.

  16. You know how sometimes a finely-tuned, accurate, sensitive instrument goes awry and needs some recalibration? Something like that has happened to higher education.

  17. All of Life is a trigger … all of it! This simple observation is not an endorsement for accepting oppression, evil, or ignorance. In order to change anything, including your own identity as an oppressed person, you must understand and accept all the forces bound up in that oppression: the violence, the mercy, the brutality, the healing, the sacrifice, the selfishness, the senselessness, and the purpose. Healing is only achieved by integrating that pain into your sense of self in such a way so that the triggered response is reduced. You cannot change refusing to deal with the nuts and bolts of that which has harmed you. That, as science tells us, only makes it worse.

    Of course, most people who have voted for conservative candidates for the past thirty years in America have done exactly that: ignored the nuts and bolts of that which has harmed them, and voted based on fear and ignorance anyway.

    Racism? Classism? Sexism?

    Don’t study them, don’t read great works of literature that show them in all their colors, and don’t let others point to the plank in your own eye!

    Drown out all the facts and the pain with the din Patriotism, Principle (blind faith), and Political Correctness!

  18. Sorry, one last comment. I have been trying to think of why these concepts of “triggering” and its close cousin of taking offense are so problematic. The reason is, as Jerry noted, that one could be triggered or offended by anything. The corollary to this is that once it is claimed that one is offended or triggered, there seems to be no facts of the matter that could falsify that statement.

    But there should be. Being offended or triggered should be objective in some real sense. It should be possible to tell someone that no, I’m sorry, but X is not offensive and you should not be hyperventilating over Y. If that is not the case, then we are just at the capricious whims of the chronically offended.

    The burden of proof should be on those who claim being offended or being triggered. I could see a Jewish student perhaps legitimately claiming offense in a history class where the professor claims that the holocaust never happened and that it was a big Zionist conspiracy, but even then it comes down actual facts that could prove or disprove the professor’s case. But, for argument’s sake, what if the facts supported the professor? Then would it still be “offensive”? I would argue that truth nullifies any claim to “offense”.

    Triggering is trickier to deal with in that a person who is “triggered” may grant the truth of the statement, but still have an extreme emotional reaction to it. It is more difficult to try to come up with an objective reason why their reaction should be considered over the top and therefore “wrong” in some sense.

    In years past, there were social and psychological mechanisms that either prevented college students from reacting so emotionally to new ideas, or at least molded them to process this emotional reaction in a different and more productive way. With those mechanisms seemingly eroded, resulting in young people who are apparently immune to embarrassment or worry about being thought of as pampered softies, there seems to be little to stem the tide of the chronically offended.

    1. Yes, part of the problem is the overuse of the word “trigger” to coincide with

      In my understanding (my partner is a counselor), “Triggering” as a term in psychology has a particular and narrow meaning of an out-of-control physiological response, because of a triggered deep traumatic memory.

      This is hugely different than being offended or upset.

      Someone who is truly “triggered” would be in a situation analogous to a panic attack. It’s unlikely they will walking up to you a few minutes later to chat about it.

      1. If this is so – I’ll grant it ex hypothesi – then we have another case of a technical term within a science and technology being coopted. (Cf. our discussion earlier on delusion.)

    2. The problem is not whether people are being genuinely triggered, or claiming that because they were offended (or thought they should be offended). The issue is the response, and its validity.

      We’re basically back to the principle of freedom of speech. A person has a right to be triggered or offended, and they shouldn’t have to prove they feel that way. However, that doesn’t give them the right to stop others saying what they want.

      If a student who, for example, is going away to uni following surviving a sex attack that has left her or him majorly traumatized, that student is probably aware that there are situations they will have difficulty coping with. Imo they should speak to an appropriate person at the university about their situation to find out if there are any classes in which there may be content upsetting to them. Universities are mostly pretty good at this stuff, and will handle it well and confidentially. My point is, the student has some responsibility here too.

      It’s like the mother and daughter with autism kicked off a plane this week. Disgusting as this situation was, the mother knew her daughter would require warm food and the airline didn’t provide it. She should have been prepared.

      I find the comments about the majority of uni students being women these days irrelevant. To me it seems you are blaming women for this whole issue. There are, of course, plenty of women who have got it wrong on this issue, but you are making it their fault.

  19. A few years back, an English professor at the U of Texas published a version of ‘Huck Finn’ in which every single instance of the n-word was euphemized, and this of course euthanized the novel. Would that the prof were locked in a mausoleum for a day or two with Mark Twain’s Shade. Oh, the fulminations!

    1. Fair point, Anonymous. But the irony of the line “the n-word was euphemized” made me laugh. It didn’t look like an intentional joke.

    2. Ironically, it was reading Huck Finn over and over as a kid that helped me learn to recognize how flaky that sort of person is.

  20. I have a hard time accepting at face value that these students, aside perhaps from a very few with extremely fragile psyches, are actually traumatized by accounts of what occurred to ancient fictional characters. I suspect instead that their complaints are lodged in pursuit of secondary gain — to claim “victim” status on campus, with whatever perquisites and privileges that entails, and to exert passive-aggressive control over their intellectual betters. But for these perverse rewards, almost all students would draw intellectual and (speaking metaphorically) spiritual sustenance (and, for the traumatized, perhaps even solace) from reading of how others throughout history have dealt with analogous experiences.

    Will these pampered students emerge from the overprotected environment of college life prepared to deal with the arduous world events faced by generations past (especially in a world where life, outside the campus bubble, remains for many “nasty, brutish, and short”)? How would they have coped with, let alone overcome, the events faced down by their great-grandparents in the last century — the Great Depression, or the War to End All Wars, or the War after the War to End All Wars?

    1. Sadly this type of lunacy is happening everywhere. Check out the Kafka/Stassi reporting system that Ithica college is instituting-

      The real question is what is happening with regard to the responsibility of the administrators? These people have lost their minds.

      1. This is as it should be.
        And when we have fixed this terrible problem we can go after those awful mini-micro-aggressions.

      2. Holy fracking Jesus Christ on a bicycle.


        I think I need to kill something…

      3. How depressing.

        When I lived in Ithaca (early 70’s), IC had the rep of a sort of funky, non-Ivy, Rod-Serling-y (he was an alum), cool place on the hill. The other hill.

    2. If someone is that fragile, maybe they should talk their parents into paying for a good psychiatrist instead of Columbia. Or just stay home and suck their thumb.

  21. Who knew Farenheit 451 was a documentary? Because that is where we appear to be being dragged.

    1. Ray in 1979: “Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with the censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony. Judy-Lynn del Rey, one of the new Ballantine editors, is having the entire book reset and republished this summer with all the damns and hells back in place.

      Damns and hells? Uh oh, trigger warning!

  22. Promise to self: I will NOT shelter my daughter to the extent that she collapses from psychic trauma anytime something is potentially mildly offensive.

  23. I think we are trying to be too “fair” look, I am not for being biased in any way, but if something is a fact, then it is a fact. I do get tired of people saying all the time, and yes universities over look brilliant pieces of work by minorities all the time.

    Even teachers sometimes like to dumb down society to fit their point of view. Which is disingenuous to say the least. The reality is, America is a melting pot of cultures, races, religions, and ethics that are mixing together, and to try and act like this is still a white Christian nation is not only delusional, but kind of scary too.

        1. Don’t forget too, people different from us were “us” a generation or two ago. The waves of immigration began with the Mayflower and has not stopped. After settling in, each group then begins to fear the group following on their heals. Not so long ago waves of Irish and Italians (exotically Catholic!) were reviled in the press and in the work place. Their main supporters were industrialists who made fortunes on the cheap labor of immigrants.

  24. When can we start holding liberals responsible for the nightmare they’ve created? This has reached a point of total insanity and yet college administrators capitulat and continue to endorse this type of idiocy.

    I am sad for what is being “taught” in colleges today and frightened for what is being turned out. These are not people who will do well in life.

    Btw, as for diversity, are there any conservatives that work in even one sociology dept. at any school? How about African American studies? It’s time to provide a legitimate alternative viewpoint.

    1. Yes, perhaps there should be more conservative academics following the Ronald Reagan dictum:

      “Intellectual curiosity should not be subsidized.”

      (Re: 1. “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life,” Richard Hofstadter.

      2. “The Age of American Unreason,” Susan Jacoby.)

  25. “perhaps he or she might have mentioned beforehand that there is violence and sexual assault in Ovid, but that’s as far as I’d go.”

    That’s sounds reasonable, and it’s as far as I would go too.

    But mentioning this beforehand is exactly the same as a trigger warning. So where, exactly, is your objection?

  26. A trigger warning belongs on a blog about puppy dogs, when they are going to report about cruelty of diseases or something — i.e. it’s unusual or unexpected. No one should want to even enroll in a university course, especially literature, if they don’t want to be confronted with challenging or disturbing material, for heavens sake.

    I prefer a different cliche to describe this idea of “feeling safe” — a comfort zone. It’s not something that a university should pride itself in seeking to maintain.

    (Incidentally, the only thing ever really disturbed me on this site was Jerry repeatedly, and without warning, posting graphic photos of Indian sweets. Really, that stuff should go below the fold or have a warning.)

  27. As a college teacher, I think the best place to set expectations is in the course syllabus. It’s sad that a literature course would even have to do this, but something like this…

    “This course is a literature course that studies adult books: as such they may occasionally contain graphic descriptions of sex, violence, or other adult themes. By participating in the course you accept that it is your responsibility to handle any difficulties you may have with such material”.

    …would at least make sure that the student cannot claim that they weren’t aware of the situation.

    1. Hey, John, just like in the movies. Maybe college professors should get together and develop a universal rating system for literature. Not.

    2. That seems perfectly reasonable and sufficient. It also clarifies something vague that’s been bothering me: apparently, there are university students with no prior exposure to literature. Where do these students hail from? It’s not the foreign students; as others have already noted, literature in any culture addresses the same types of themes.

  28. OK, I’ll make a comment. First, I am opposed to avoiding teaching any acknowledged classic because of fears of offending students (this is the first time I’ve heard of ‘triggering’).

    I am also in favor of professors not being dismissive of student concerns. Time was when professors weren’t expected to be trained counselors. They were there to deliver the goods and answer intelligent questions. Those days appear to be gone. Have students become more thin-skinned? Do they have a heightened sense of entitlement? I do think things are a bit out of whack there.

    Overall, I am happy to be retired, because of the way things seem to be headed in higher education generally.

      1. Then folks in favour of juvenilization should should talk to my high school English teacher, Doug Floen. He said *to us* (not merely to parents) that he went out of his way to assign books and materials others found distressing or “bannable”. In this case, I believe it was in the context of _The Grapes of Wrath_, but he also would cover things like _To Kill a Mockingbird_, _Merchant of Venice_, the Shakespearian history plays, and of course (in a course I didn’t do) large amounts of Mark Twain.

        He was also fond of a vocabulary exercise called “word fondling”.

  29. When I was an undergraduate, and still a couple of years from abandoning my religion, I signed up for a creative writing class. For that class we were required to read several books of Polynesian literature, mostly poetry. I bought the materials and when I opened it up, it was chock full of exceedingly vivid descriptions of all manner of sex. Being a good Christian kid who labored day and night not to think about sex, I was freaked out. After a day or two of anxiety, I dropped the class.

    It was, in retrospect, profoundly stupid of me, and the loss was all mine. My feelings were genuine, of course, and I was genuinely upset. I didn’t drop the class for show. But I deprived myself of what was probably a very enriching class because my mind had been warped into thinking that I needed to be afraid of other people’s ideas, of even hearing what someone different from me thinks. I am, however, glad that it was only me who was deprived of this experience. How sad if there had been some censor to rise up and “defend” my sensibilities and so deprive the rest of the class as well.

  30. Columbia needs a trigger warning. “Any one attending classes at Columbia and expecting to encounter young people on their way to adulthood should withdraw immediately.”

  31. Ah, the Liberal Regressives ride again!

    Does make me wonder though, is this the real reason we have baby changing stations in restrooms on campus? Is there a place for these delicate children to get burped after their Starbucks latte in the student union? I better check the syllabus next time I sign up for a class, just in case a pacifier* is required along with the text book.

    now, back to my reading of deGrasse Tyson’s Pluto Files (TRIGGER WARNING! Pluto-philes, it’s no longer a planet) and Sacks’ Musicophilia (TRIGGER WARNING! This might offend people who have normal hearing, or people who don’t have normal hearing, or people who get upset by music, or people who get upset about not listening to music or…)

    *(aka “binky” or “dummy”)

    also, I might need a trigger warning for trigger warnings, or else I might start another expletive-filled rage against stupidity.

  32. Hold your nose for this too:

    what struck me while writing the book is that the illiberal Left reminds me of religious zealots, except of a secular religion. The average religious person has their beliefs, but they’re not trying to get people fired who don’t have their beliefs. But zealots do do that. It’s not enough for them to believe it; they can’t tolerate other people who don’t believe what they believe, and they have this absolute certainty that they’re right. It’s self-sanctifying. They have to establish that they are morally superior to people who disagree with them

  33. ‘…Huck Finn (loaded with racism)…’

    I’m certain you meant that ironically, but it still bears observing that Huck Finn is one of the great antiracist tracts of all time. It was written in the mid-1880s, but set historically in the antebellum western U.S., a decade or two before the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter.

    The book’s turning point (and, to my mind, one of the most moving passages in the Western Canon) comes when Huck tears up his letter disclosing their whereabouts to Jim’s owner (the Widow Douglas’s sister Miss Watson), deciding he will consign his soul to hell (which he’s been assured by good church-going people is the condign punishment for helping a slave escape) rather than redeem himself by aiding in Jim’s recapture.

    The novel has been slanderously mislabeled “racist” by dummkopfs who can’t see past its use of one of the terms that must be known only by its first letter and “-word.”

    1. I’m certain you meant that ironically, but it still bears observing that Huck Finn is one of the great antiracist tracts of all time

      Of course it’s racist! Pointing out the evils of racism by using racist words to make a nuanced point is punching down!

      1. Point taken, but it’s certainly not the same as saying it’s antiracist, either — and it suggests the former more than the latter.

        1. In the context of trigger warnings, I didn’t take the comment to suggest the book was racist in intent but that it describes a time and place where racism was ubiquitous and generally accepted as ‘normal’. The overall message may be anti-racist but the situation of Jim and the way he is treated in various scenes in the book might nevertheless act as triggers to someone predisposed to be triggered. (Not that I am in any way advocating the printing of trigger warnings on the front of the book! – just suggesting how ‘loaded with racism’ could be interpreted in this context).

          1. To someone predisposed to be triggered, the whole of “Black History Month” would, then, be one big trigger, since the history of black achievement in the U.S. is the history of overcoming racism. After all, “the problem of the twentieth century [wa]s the problem of the color line,” as W.E.B. Du Bois said, and before the twentieth century the situation was worse. Anyone who avoids “triggering” on this basis will remain ignorant of a huge swath of American history.

            Huck Finn first drew the attention of the PC crowd because of its (historically accurate) use of what is euphemistically called the N-word. That is still the attention-grabber, I think, since American literature is chock-a-block with other novels and stories dealing with racial situations that haven’t been attacked, ones for which no one has yet (so far as I know) proposed “trigger warnings.”

    2. It was quite clear to me that Jerry was referring to Twain’s making an anti-racist statement by showing, not telling. I’m sure he assumed that most WEIT readers would understand that.

      1. I do not doubt that that was Jerry’s intent; I simply thought there was potential ambiguity in his parenthetical.

        Then again, I don’t claim objectivity regarding Huck Finn. Like many readers, I’ve taken a proprietary interest over those novels I’ve loved best.

    3. That it is one of the great anti-racist tracts makes Jerry’s point even pointier.

      First, description is not affirmation.

      Second, addressing societal ills can hardly be accomplished without representing those ills in some form of communication. The trigger-happy folks are shooting themselves in the foot when they imply that there’s something wrong with depicting negative-thing-X even in an attempt to combat it.

      1. Exactly, It’s to the point that you can’t state certain words or ideas even to criticize others for using those words or holding those ideas. How ironically dumb is that? You live in a vacuum, you die of suffocation.

  34. Well, I do have to thank Columbia snowflakes for one thing. My parents could not afford to send me to Columbia, so I went to a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. The literature course for science majors there was Major British Writers — only humanities majors had to take the “real” classics. So I never read Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”. But I’ve downloaded that (and the Iliad and the Odyssey) to my Kindle and I’m rather enjoying them. So far I haven’t had to pull the covers up over my eyes…

  35. The Op Ed column in the Columbia Spectator newspaper describes the incident, and I think is an original source for much information about it. The comments after the article are priceless & fascinating. There are plenty of commenters on both sides, and is worth a look. One comment that said a lot:
    “Oh Precious! Precious? My precious little snowflake, speaking as a black man who has been around the block more than a few times, all of you need to grow up and get over it. You re not the center of the universe, none of us has a right to not be offended in a democracy and if you can’t handle it repair to your padded room with your lollipops, Valium and whatever other pacifier makes you happy or better still make an appointment with a shrink. We are all always going to be offended by something. Using ‘feeling safe’, ‘respect’, and ’trigger-warnings’ are just treads in a rope to lynch free speech.”

  36. It’s remarkable that people who get triggered always, I’m sure by sheer coincidence, happen to be postmodernist intersectionality identiarians (“social justice warriors”), which becomes apparent from the ridiculous metaconcepty academese they use…

    […] material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression […]

    How can you marginalise an identity — in a classroom? These people are fascists who use pretences to hang their propaganda posters onto everything. Soon you can’t even discuss crotcheting without that they find some way to leak their hivemind drivel ideology there, too.

    “Safe Spaces” are like Churches in an all-is-text worldview. Any space can be transformed into one, then the SJWs can preach their BS unchallenged (dissent is unsafe, of course).

    1. It supposedly happens as soon as you read an author from the “canon”, whatever that is.

      There’s a movement to for example start having philosophy students read more female authors from the history of philosophy. I.e., from prior to the 20th century, where they are, alas, few and far between. But the problem then is – one needs a very historically nuanced course, or one cannot understand the history of the discipline at all. *Why* is Princess Elizabeth traditionally considered largely irrelevant in the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, for example? One can only teach so much, for example, and if a figure had next to no influence, why discuss him or her. Should the women have been read more *at the time? Should they have been encouraged and allowed to contribute? Of course. But trying to “shoehorn them in” cannot end well for certain sorts of courses. An ambitious course where students have to figure out counterfactually where they *could have*, is interesting and worth while, though.

      Should instructors also comment on racism, sexism, etc. in the “canonical authors”? Of course, and especially if it vitiates what they are saying – and most interestingly when it produces corner cases, too. (Mill, for example.) But one can be great and import and most crucially *influential* despite these failings. Or maybe, in some cases, *because* of them.

  37. I’m thinking of the video game Grand Theft Auto which has alot of violence in it some towards women.Its very popular among teen and 20 something boys very popular, but never heard of it triggering a violent episode. My son has that game don’t think he plays it much there are other ones that he likes better.Suppose Video games are an entire different topic.

    1. No I think video games are probably very relevant, given their popularity with the young. As is TV. I wonder how many of these delicate flowers who get ‘triggered’ by Ovid then go home and watch tabloid TV full of crime-of-the-week.

    2. Have you considered why you wrote “some towards women”? Why did you feel the need to single it out? Is violence towards women worse than violence towards men?

      Regarding video games, the topic has been studied to death. No negative social issues found in video games leak out into real life. But that’s not stopping the politically correct brigade from attacking them today (which is part of the reason for the consumer revolt called GamerGate).

  38. This may just be tin-foil hat paranoia on my part, but I get the sense that those who demand trigger-warnings are not doing so only to “protect” themselves, however misguided the notion that protecting yourself from X means avoiding mentions of X, denying X, or insisting that they control any discussion about X.

    I think they also demand trigger-warnings in an attempt to demonstrate greater sensitivity, thoughtfulness, or even intellect than others, while also trying to shame whoever forced them to encounter the “trigger”. It comes across to me as an ego-boosting tactic.

    1. This is, in fact, at the heart of the Social Justice Warrior definition: to appear social justicer than thou in order to gain social standing in SJ communities, who are the their audience. Hence, SJWs don’t argue, are never charitable and there is never a conclusion or a take-away — every encounter, especially online, ends in maximum excalation where the foil (someone who is found to have uttered something “problematic”) is shunned, shamed and ostracized. There is no agree to disagree for that reason, too, for SJWs will always gravitate towards the dissenter to be seen “fighting the good fight” to farm SJ points.

  39. I should demand a trigger warning. Any time I read certain loaded words such as, ‘transgression’, ‘privileged’, ‘hegemony’, ‘narrative’, ‘interventions’, ‘identities’ I get a psychotic urge to run amok screaming at the top of my voice and perpetrating mass slaughter on the self-important sanctimonious priggish little pillocks who peddle this sort of crime against the English language.

    But I suppose the title of this post should be a trigger warning in itself.

    1. I know, right? Trigger Warning: pomo idiocy ahead!

      And should they succeed in removing all conceivably “offensive” material, I’m gonna need a “Trigger Warning: Boredom.”

  40. “These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression”

    Don’t they mean ‘fraught’ or possibly ‘freighted’?

  41. These are the same kids who will have a shelf full of computer games which would make most of us just a little bit sick in their mouths at the level of gratuitous and graphic violence which makes up most of the gameplay? Trigger? Yep, keep on pulling it until you run out of ammo then go find some more.

    1. Maybe. There are probably both types of protestors involved: the type who only complain about sex & violence when an adult is making them read something they don’t want to read, and who otherwise enjoy it gratuitously. Plus the type that protests violent video games and music as much as they protest Ovid.

      Frankly, come to think of it, I think I prefer the former. I think I’ll take a hypocritical politically-correct-when-convenient type over a dyed-in-the-wool fanatic.

  42. I would be asking these kids:

    Did you come to this university to:

    A) Pay a lot of money to listen to the things you already accept and know reiterated, in exchange for a piece of paper that can be parleyed into a job.


    B) To think and learn and learn how to think?

    If A, then you’re pretty pathetic and don’t deserve a degree: You aren’t mature enough to earn one.

  43. I am SO out of touch with USian culture these days! I must figure out something I can be the victim of.

    Got it: I am the victim of the disability of being unable to blame my problems on others and order them to stop it. I’m going to apply for full disability benefits.

    1. Indeed!

      Our society priveleges the immature and the emotionally needy. Their reign of terror must end! It’s high time reasonable and responsible people rise up and demand their share of silly accommodations!

  44. The worst part is, according to all I’ve read on the topic of recovering from trauma, these “trigger warnings” are the worst possible course of action.

    Being confronted by reminders of the trauma is the only way to heal. Being sheltered from any mention of it lets the mental disorder fester.

  45. It seems to me that “trigger warnings” are being used as an attempt to stigmatize the expression of ideas with which certain factions disagree.

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