I chose the microgloss game, and wrote this all on an envelope (that also had a shopping list, so it seemed “primed” to receive more information). Here’s a picture of the envelope: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RNwzcvjURGpRnNuGvtai_2gEK37qPsTP/view?usp=sharing

Text:

Trigger warnings may be rather triggering, both to the warned and to the warnee. In fact, when first encountering a trigger warning be aware of its many forms, which may go by other well-apportioned and well-meaning names such as “content warning” or simply the well-abbreviated “CW”. Instances of such may be found outside of literature, for example, if one considers the MPAA rating system developed by the film industry and the Catholic Church to prevent young ones from seeking refuge in dark rooms away from the hungry eyes of God. In literature there may be less of, say, an appetite for this style of regulation, instead publishers may, when appropriate, ask authors to self-declare any harmful material. On one hand, one must be an advocate for the public good and watch the back of fellow man for the marks of preventable harm. On the other, how am I to assume what is harmful to me, or amenable, for that matter, might be harmful to you? Perhaps I have a certain acquaintance with death through our many brief, but always meaningful, correspondences over the years. Our casual nature, the way his finger lingers on my wrist a few seconds too long, that is another person’s scandalous trigger! For others, maybe abuse or rape, etc. But how shall I properly warn without triggering and how shall I know if the dispatch of my duty of protection is fulfilled? In discussing with myself as advocate for the devil, I would need to submit for evidence the fact that, especially for minors and others who may not be under the control of their own impulse, that some form of restriction ensures that their innocence is intact. Is my charge then that of a crusader King on horseback, defending a Christian morality? Or a conscious modern citizen protecting the psyches of the week and maladjusted? So the choice is King Richard or King Sigmund Freud. What an asinine impasse. There is a troubling in an individuality that insists upon both its own sovereignty and absolute vulnerability to any and all external damage. Compassion should extend throughout work, and maybe an extension of said compassion is when dad tosses one into the pool before one is ready. One will learn how to swim and drowning would seem embarrassing and out of the question. So now Father and Swim Instructor are added to the vocation list that writers must keep clipped to their belts to protect the morality of the world from its own yawning and tiresome extension. I still believe warnings have a place and I can’t assume my own trauma and experience of shielding is how everyone must feel (and is therefore correct). On the other hand, it does set up the expectation that life may provide some special sign to you in preparation of its calamity. Have we added God to the list of people one must be in order to fulfill…

9 Comments

  1. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Adrian! Absolutely. This extended critique of trigger warnings is a perfect fit for a micro gloss. The scale of it itself is a statement of what is and is not safe to say in our current protected/unprotected environment. The inter-textual layer over a shopping list plays on the daily common place underpinning or overlaying the critique. Thanks for posting. Applause. I hope others have a chance to read this. Too good to miss.

    (On late postings– I feel this, mine are late too!)

    • Alina Stefanescu

      Agree with Martha!

      I cried with joy when I read this. Adrian, I’ve been working on a fiction about a woman who is married to an academic that specializes in trigger warning discourse and after she is raped, he puts trigger warnings on everything–even though the word “trigger” reminds her of the gun the rapist used, and the husband gets a gun (which is very triggering to her) and then he is “triggered” by her hiding the gun and they have to go to therapy because he feels like he was unable to protect her, and so the therapist addresses his trauma (and the fault of the wife, who hid the gun that scared her) and how she is now taking out the rape on the husband who only wanted to fulfill his role of protecting her and….. I have only shared it with my husband, who laughed and shook his head. But all I can say is that I deeply appreciate this piece on many many many levels, both fictional and personal and ethical. 🙂

      • Martha Jackson Kaplan

        Alina and Adrian, My husband is a retired academic, a law professor. We ended up in a crazy trigger kind of thing (an entire misconception about what was and was not said, the chief accuser having not even been present in the class, not even registered in the class, and as “man eats dog” story– in any case, how does one teach anyway if no one should ever be offended, or even troubled. It’s not about being horribly aggressive, but I keep thinking that if one’s thinking, one’s feelings are never challenged in course of education, if you are never forced to reconsider, think through opinions, situations, preconceptions, what’s the point of paying all that money for an education? Stay home? So I love this piece and I love Alina, the piece you are thinking about! I lean left, but I can’t stand the shallowness I see too often, and I think it turns too many away from humane ideas.

    • Lisa Alletson

      Such a complex subject and I love this take on it, Adrian. You pack in so much using juxtapositions in the frames of “perhaps” and “on one hand” and “for others”. I’m going to read this piece many times again to unpack it and learn from it, but wanted to comment before things disappear on here. Wow! Not sure I’ve ever read a piece like this.

  2. Adrian Frandle

    thank you for reading Martha!

    re: timing, i always get these confused (since the dates say 18-20th i figured we had 2 two days). I end up starting too early or too late (ie there are 2 days of assignments, but the class is the 18th, 19th, 20th and that breaks my brain). in any event, thanks for the feedback!

    • Alina Stefanescu

      Hey, me too. I need until tonight to read everything and mull it and think about it and then rethink about it. 🙂 I’m a slow thinker but a fast talker, and it has not helped me in life.

  3. Len Kuntz

    Hi Adrian,

    You’ve certainly packed a ton in this piece. It’s so dense and rich with details and philosophical musings, both big picture and micro. I love all of the questions throughout–this might be my favorite:On the other, how am I to assume what is harmful to me, or amenable, for that matter,. You’ve created a really clever and inventive piece with this one. Way to go.

  4. Alina Stefanescu

    Adrian, what a piece!!! The thing I’ve been wanting to read for ages???? Thank you. 🙂

    Absolutely exquisite focus on “the hungry eyes of God.” On the mixing of sanctioned lust, on the tangle of the sacred and profane. Also in love with “scandalous trigger!” Perfect way of pointing out the link between scandalization, tabloid culture, and discourses around content warnings, all of which focus on identity and none of which ever notice guns.

    Isn’t it funny how there are no trigger warnings for guns in movies or stories even though guns are the ones who gave us the trigger? O it is funny, and that’s the most generous thing I can say about it.

    Lines and phrasings I especially loved for how they held things in the air:

    “ask authors to self-declare any harmful material.”

    “public good and watch the back of fellow man for the marks of preventable harm.”

    “Perhaps I have a certain acquaintance with death through our many brief, but always meaningful, correspondences over the years.”

    “the way his finger lingers on my wrist a few seconds too long, that is another person’s scandalous trigger!”

    “how shall I know if the dispatch of my duty of protection is fulfilled?”

    “myself as advocate for the devil”

    “some form of restriction ensures that their innocence is intact.”

    “Or a conscious modern citizen protecting the psyches of the week and maladjusted?”

    “Compassion should extend throughout work, and maybe an extension of said compassion is when dad tosses one into the pool before one is ready.”

    “writers must keep clipped to their belts to protect the morality of the world from its own yawning and tiresome extension.”

    “I still believe warnings have a place and I can’t assume my own trauma and experience of shielding is how everyone must feel (and is therefore correct). ”

    “On the other hand, it does set up the expectation that life may provide some special sign to you in preparation of its calamity. Have we added God to the list of people one must be in order to fulfill…” Yes. Exactly. Well said. Love it. Thank you for bringing me joy.

  5. Alina Stefanescu

    And to add the comment I put under Martha’s comment, just in case it doesn’t tag you:

    ” Adrian, I’ve been working on a fiction about a woman who is married to an academic that specializes in trigger warning discourse and after she is raped, he puts trigger warnings on everything–even though the word “trigger” reminds her of the gun the rapist used, and the husband gets a gun (which is very triggering to her) and then he is “triggered” by her hiding the gun and they have to go to therapy because he feels like he was unable to protect her, and so the therapist addresses his trauma (and the fault of the wife, who hid the gun that scared her) and how she is now taking out the rape on the husband who only wanted to fulfill his role of protecting her and….. I have only shared it with my husband, who laughed and shook his head. But all I can say is that I deeply appreciate this piece on many many many levels, both fictional and personal and ethical. 🙂”

    Anyway, it’s about the absurdity of his focus on his own feelings at the complete erasure of hers, and also the silencing of the rape as a topic. How the discourse centers his response rather than her lived experience.

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