For those who have never heard the term, a trigger warning is something that has traditionally been applied to something like a website or a discussion thread --- for similar reasons. Victims of rape, recovering addicts or those getting over eating disorders, cutting, etc....exposure to certain topics at critical times during their recovery can be harmful. And many times, dancing on into a website or wandering into a discussion thread there is no warning whatsoever of what you might find. A book, I'll argue here, is quite a different matter.
Now, before you go hating on California college students, please do be aware that UC is not the first or only university to be proposing these TRIGGER WARNINGS on books. Rutgers, University of Michigan, George Washington University, and Oberlin College are but a few of the other institutions of higher learning in America that have proposed this very thing.
But let's take a closer look here, just to see what it is we are dealing with. Clearly the proposal has good intentions. Someone, somewhere is concerned that the content in these books might cause another human being distress. Caring is a good thing. Most of the time. What they are proposing, however, is that each TRIGGER WARNING to be placed on a book be specific to that book. For example:
"The examination of suicidal tendencies in Mrs Dalloway may trigger painful memories for students suffering from self-harm."
The question here seems to be: how far is too far? In a world where a Google search is only a few keystrokes away, is it too much to ask that American readers take a few proactive steps to protect themselves?
Or is it society's responsibility to protect them from the evilness that lurks within the pages of a book? People recovering from the trauma of violence or addiction or disease need all the support they can get -- I'd like to think I'm a pretty big cheerleader, if only because we all face demons to various degrees throughout our lives and need to be supportive of one another. There does come a point, however, where we have to be proactive in our own recovery and not expect the rest of the world to hold our hands every step of the way.
And let's be honest, if we are going to place TRIGGER WARNINGS on disturbing print material, the very first one should really be slapped on this blog. I can be downright offensive sometimes. Pffffft.