Bookish Ramblings · Discussions

Problematic Content and Trigger Warnings — Hashing it Out

Foto 9-10-18 2 51 35 p.m.

I want to tackle a kind of serious issue today.. (in my usual rambling style) I want to discuss trigger warnings and “Problematic Content” in books. First let’s define what Trigger Warnings are:

“a statement cautioning that content  may be disturbing or upsetting.”

At first glance this sounds like a good idea.. And in my opinion it is when we are talking about mature content in regards to age … We wouldn’t want a little kid stumbling upon a sexually explicit book (a parental nightmare right there I’m sure.. but something that has happened before and will continue to happen, because children have a knack ability to find the things they are not supposed to find) But I digress, what I think it’s that they are useful tools for parents to monitor what their kids are reading  and in that parameter it’s helpful..

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My issues come when we are warning about everything else… I understand that there are Topics that might be sensitive to readers regardless of their age.. like violence, drug abuse, rape, oppression … And perhaps it’s a good idea to have someone forewarning us of those topics being present on the book we want to read — It can help us prepared better.

However I’m concerned about those warnings because it may lead us to avoid some topics all together and that is not healthy in my opinion… Life doesn’t work like that, we need to expose ourselves to some  degree of unpleasantness in order to be able to form an opinion on things out of our comfort zone.. So, catering to triggers warnings in excess seems like treating everyone as we are all made of glass..

Which brings me to my Second point.. “Problematic Content” It seems like both of these always go hand in hand and yet I have been hearing this phrase so much when it comes to almost every book in the spectrum not only those with Trigger warnings… Heck, I think even Harry Potter has Problematic content…

But what is exactly “problematic”:

“constituting or presenting a problem or difficulty.”

This is the basic definition but I tend to feel that the Urban dictionary hit it more close to home in this context

“A word used mainly by people who sense that something may be oppressive, but don’t want to do any actual thinking about what the problem is or why it exists. Disagreeing with a piece of literature while not outwardly expressing that fact. “

Problematic can be so many different things to many people… We do have certain key behaviours that are easily fit into that category .. Drug Abuse, Domestic Violence, Racial and political oppression those are certainly problematic topics… and very easily identifiable, right?

But what happens when something isn’t so clean-cut?? Like for instance what if we are reading a Historical Fiction book and we are exposed to the cultural behaviour of that specific time period — like women getting married very early on (10 years old or so), Am I allowed then to say that the book is bad because “of its problematic content” even though it’s historically accurate …

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What about when we are reading about different cultures (with amazing representation) but it is so extremely opposite of what we believe it is the right way to live ?? Does that entitle me to judge the book as problematic and then just tell everyone how they should not even bother reading it??…

This is my fear regarding how easily we use some terms to encompass just what mainly are our opinions of something… I’m not free from guilt ( not at all) I have made that same comment regarding “problematic” books but I’m now reflecting that maybe what I thought wasn’t even a tiny bit bothersome to someone else.. and that maybe I should just say what was that exactly bother me within that plot, or character, instead of just labeling..

That is something I’m working on when it comes to my reviews or sharing my opinions on various topics… because we have to remember that’s just what they are — opinions — And we all have the right to feel, think, and judge differently based on our life experiences and our cultural backgrounds..

How do you feel about Trigger Warnings in books?? What do you think can be called “Problematic Content”? I want to know your thought in the matter so tell me all about it in the comments below…

As Always

Happy Reading

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6 thoughts on “Problematic Content and Trigger Warnings — Hashing it Out

  1. I think trigger warnings certainly have their place but I can appreciate your concerns. We shouldn’t avoid all uncomfortable topics. In regards to problematic content, I can’t say I’ve thought it necessary. If you are reading a historical fiction book odds are there will be statements or actions that are uncomfortable or infuriating. We don’t want our history books written with sugar so I don’t see how we can expect our historical fiction to be held to a different standard. As for other genres, I think my thoughts could vary. I’ll have to think about it.

    That said, As a reader that has experienced trauma, I prefer to be warned if there is explicit sexual violence in a book so I am able to prepare myself. I’m not perfect and do avoid some exposure if I feel it could cause problems for me. Recently there was a book I DNF because of a joke a female character made regarding rape and it being okay in the described circumstance. I stand by my decision not to read it but won’t blame others for feeling differently about that scene.

    Thank you for the thought provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree and understand that we all have different triggers… depending on our upbringing and life experiences… and we are entitled to chose the things we think will be tolerable for us… reading is supposed to be enjoyable after all .. But what I’m worried about it’s that we are becoming so very nitpicky with every single thing and sometimes it’s a little misguided… There’s nothing wrong with being critical as long as you have basis for your concerns…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is always an interesting topic when it comes up because some readers really love these and others do not. I personally don’t like to use the term “trigger warning” or “problematic content” because they have so many negative connotations; instead I use “reader safety” because I feel it’s more neutral. I know some reviewers will list anything and everything as a “warning” and that’s fine, but I tend to keep it to very hard topics (rape, abuse, graphic violence, etc.). Anyway, that’s just the way I handle it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, there are topics that can easily be defined as “hard or potentially difficult” for some readers like those you mentioned.. But there are so many that now get lump into this bag without regard to anything and I think we need to be able to deal with some of these topics… at our own pace of course… but not always being cuddle to every little thing…

      Liked by 1 person

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