You know you’re kind of a jerk when you write a blog post basically mocking rape survivors.

Nice work, Susannah Breslin. Really.

So, here’s the deal with trigger warnings: They’re primarily used on feminist blogs on posts about sexual assault, and they just let people who have survived trauma know that the post may contain violent or disturbing commentary or imagery that they might want to avoid. Because the reality is, some rape survivors have post-traumatic stress issues which may be triggered by reading about sexual assault. Or maybe readers want to be able to go home and have sex without thinking about the rape post they just read which reminded them of their own rape, or maybe they don’t want to be reminded again that someone thinks this was their fault, or maybe they have a lot to do at work and don’t have time for a panic attack at their desk, or maybe they just don’t want to have their days ruined. Trigger warnings allow readers to evaluate that for themselves. So feminist bloggers put up trigger warnings as a basic human courtesy. I’d rather not do psychological damage to someone or inhibit someone’s recovery from sexual assault. And it’s pretty easy to just throw in the words “trigger warning.” So I do, because, why not? It is also pretty easy to skip over those words if you think that trigger warnings are silly.

You know what is much less easy than just skipping over trigger warnings? Writing a whole post about how feminists are just angry and we hate men and and haha rape victims are just easily upset, those babies. That is not only less easy, it is also intentionally malicious, cruel and actually significantly sillier than trigger warnings, which I understand many people think are kind of silly or condescending, but which most detractors manage to just bypass, because those people are adults about these things. Because really, what kind of asshole is like, “I would prefer that rape survivors, many of whom have requested trigger warnings on feminist blog posts about rape for this very reason, experience PTSD than for me to be inconvenienced for 1/2 of a second by having to read the words ‘trigger warning’ on a feminist blog, because those two words annoy me”?

Yesterday I would have said, “No one is that big of an asshole! Well probably someone is, but I would imagine they would keep it to themselves, or at least leave it on the Men’s Rights blogs.” Today I am proven wrong.

Now, we know that Susannah Breslin and feminism are not the best of friends. Fine. We will go on with our man-hating selves, and you, S, can go on harping on the feminists who type two words in a tiny effort to make life a little bit easier on sexual assault survivors (you know, those people who are “easily upset” and might “freak the fuck out”). Definitely keep using your platform to focus on the really good and important stuff, like telling rape survivors to quit being such whiney titty-babies. I think Gandhi said that once.

Also worth reading: Vanessa and Melissa.

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45 comments for “You know you’re kind of a jerk when you write a blog post basically mocking rape survivors.

  1. Roisin
    April 13, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Thankfully there’s only one comment on it and it’s basically telling her why she’s wrong. It’s disconcerting that she couldn’t figure that out for herself, but she doesn’t seem like the sharpest tool in the shed.

  2. PJ
    April 13, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    One of the many drawbacks of the internet is the ease with which those who lack critical-thinking skills, empathy, or basic human decency can be taken seriously as “journalists.”

    Yeah, she’s definitely kind of a jerk.

  3. Lindsey
    April 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Wow, please be more insensitive. I really love how she screeches that feminism has gone too far, while also saying that it serves no purpose. Which one is it?!??

  4. PrettyAmiable
    April 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Roisin, there’s actually 22 (if no one has mentioned this) – but you need to expand them to see. I recommend doing it if you read the article, because each is pretty heartening.

    I personally liked this one: “I found your post to be deliberately uninformed and cruel. May you learn empathy from following your ping-backs.”

    I’m super, super happy that Susannah Breslin doesn’t have to live in a world with trigger warnings, because I do. And it sucks.

  5. Roisin
    April 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks PrettyAmiable, I shall go back and have faith in humanity restored! :)

  6. Jadey
    April 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    There’s a extra link to click on to access the rest of the comments, and they are pretty much all solidly educational smackdowns for Breslin. I guess it’s like lazywebbing, but with more ass showing…

  7. Wednesday
    April 13, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Every so often someone in an online fandom (usually the fanfiction end of things) writes a self-important post about how trigger and other warnings for content on fanfiction are stupid, and people who are so “think-skinned” as to be triggered by reading about abuse or assault shouldn’t be on the internet anyway.

    I’m starting to think some of those people need a permanent “asshole lacking in basic empathy” warning?

  8. April 13, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    I’ll be honest. As a person who identifies as religious, I at times get the same treatment from similarly small minded individuals and for related reasons. Unfortunately I am one of her targets this time around along with others on Feministing, and I guess I could be upset if her argument was predicated on anything resembling logic or rational discourse.

  9. PrettyAmiable
    April 13, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    I LIKE that Wednesday. Because it’s a relevant warning for ALL readers, not just us super-sensitive feminist-folk. There’s a problem however in execution. Breslin writes as if she couldn’t imagine anyone being offended by rape imagery, and consequently I can’t imagine that she would have the self-reflective nature to realize that someone might be offended by her assholery. Anyone have an idea for solving the execution problem?

  10. April 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I couldn’t even bother to be offended personally because the woman is clearly and utterly clueless as to what she’s talking about. Reading that post was like reading something by someone with the emotional iq of a preschooler. Not worth the trouble of getting offended, as far as I’m concerned.

  11. April 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    So I do, because, why not?

    Yup. That’s basically what being a non-asshole boils down to. Fr’ex, when I entered the disability rights community, I found out that I was using all kinds of terms that people objected to or found offensive, and I had no idea I was doing stuff that was considered inappropriate, before. So I just changed the terms I used, because, seriously, what’s it to me? What does it matter to me to use the term “disabled people” instead of “people with disabilities,” when it really matters to other people?

    Some people just don’t seem to know how to not be assholes.

  12. Samantha b.
    April 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Faith, the old “getting offended” thing is just a bit tired for a feminist website. There is a value to critiques of problematic constructions even when we are not “offended” because they create the norms with which we have to live. This is sort of the operative stance of most feminist sites. If things happened in a vacuum, well, would you like to explain why it just happens to be that women get paid notably less on the dollar? Because that’s the endpoint of your logic that what’s societally normalized is incidental and irrelevant and not worth addressing even when one is not particularly “offended.”

  13. The Opoponax
    April 13, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    My feelings about this are actually sort of mixed.

    On the one hand, I’m a survivor of sexual abuse, and yeah, certain things are triggering for me. And, frankly, I would prefer to just ignore about 90% of blog chatter about rape and sexual assault, whether it comes from a feminist source or not. Because, as Jill says, I generally don’t feel like having a panic attack at my desk at work.

    On the other hand, yeah, I’m a survivor of sexual abuse, I am sometimes triggered. By all sorts of things, all around me, which exist outside of feminism and don’t come with a trigger warning. I wish rape scenes in movies and rape-oriented plot lines on TV shows came with a trigger warning. I wish Old Spice came with a trigger warning. I wish douchebags loudly griping about how they’re getting raped this year by Uncle Sam came with a trigger warning. But they don’t. So I’m used to dealing with these situations in real time, as they come up, without flipping the fuck out. I’m a big girl, and I can mostly avoid this stuff on my own, without anyone’s help.

    Additionally, and this is just nitpicking, I feel that if a potentially triggering subject is so important to your blog post, I should probably be able to spot it from the title or the first few sentences, without needing the “trigger warning”. So I often simply find it to be inelegant. If I can’t tell that your piece is about sexual assault until halfway through, it’s either terrible writing or unlikely to trigger anything in the first place.

  14. April 13, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    I don’t see why “trigger warning” should be any more controversial than “NSFW” or “graphic images of war below the fold” or any other warning. There’s some content that, for whatever reason, might be upsetting to some people, so you warn them about it.

    It’s common courtesy, and even though trigger warnings serve a feminist purpose, one doesn’t even need to be a feminist to see the utility of doing this.

  15. April 13, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Wow, good job, feminist community. Way to be completely derailed by a flippant and desultory critique of some minor little thing. Good to know you’re staying sharp, in case the boys take over again.

  16. April 13, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    “Faith, the old “getting offended” thing is just a bit tired for a feminist website. ”


    I absolutely did not say that there was no value in critiquing her writing and I’m a bit confused as to how you could even draw that from my comment. Jill is free to critique it and explain why it’s problematic. You are free to critique it and explain why it’s problematic. All I said – as someone who does appreciate the value and need for trigger warnings, as well as someone who sometimes needs trigger warnings – was that her arguments were so juvenile that I couldn’t be arsed to give a fuck about it myself. That’s my own personal feelings. You are free to have your own.

  17. April 13, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    “That’s my own personal feelings.”

    “Those are” my own personal feelings…

  18. April 13, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Trigger warnings are necessary for any responsible person sensitive to the needs of their audience (i.e. it’s just good writing). I could maybe, possibly, understand someone who has a second thought about using it if they don’t necessarily want the responsibility or have the time to host a “safe space”, and trigger warnings are so rare out in the world and in daily journalism that it’s easy to look at an online forum, or blog that uses it and think, “Oh, this is a place that I won’t necessarily have to worry about reading triggers in the comments or dealing with douchebags.” That may not be the case- even conscientious people can open up online forums and not have the time or skills to moderate it adequately for it to be a safe space.

    So in this context of managing expectations I might understand a certain hesitance to use trigger warnings. This could be solved with a disclaimer about how the space is not adequately maintained. I do think that if Breslin actually bothered to read the blogs she criticizes, she might realize how stupid she sounds. I find this attitude appallingly typical, that the stereotypes of what feminism is are so pervasive that people can’t even see the substantive evidence to the contrary in front of their faces.

  19. April 13, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    completely derailed

    Yeah, it’s amazing how when people are “completely derailed,” they write short, temperate blog posts.

    Seriously, what the hell?

  20. SEK
    April 13, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I’m not sure what’s “basically” about Breslin’s post, as it calls those who’d be triggered by a post about rape hysterical. I’m sure she thinks the same thing about soldiers returning from Iraq who have PTSD, because, after all, they’ve only been subjected to a violence they can’t shake.

  21. April 13, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    While I was using @tsaphanbabe I unfollowed a guy for making a rape joke. He tweeted, “why” and I told him. Some woman (claiming, I suppose, as it’s Twitter) told me I needed to “loosen up.” It’s been a long time since someone has responded in that way. I guess I’ve mostly surrounded myself with thoughtful people or something. TsaphanBabe has other “friends” who aren’t exactly on the same page.

    To be honest, I’m not even going to read the Breslin post. #1 I don’t want her getting more hits. And, more important, #2 I expect it would be too upsetting even though my life experience includes many “almost-rapes” that weren’t quite rape. Ugh. How horrible to even write that.

  22. April 13, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Regarding a point made by SereneBabe, I took a look at the page source and saw you weren’t using the “nofollow” attribute. If you use that in the HTML, the link in question will not get counted in Google and people hitting through it won’t be traced back to this blog. It’s a very handy way to link to people you don’t want getting traffic or a higher pagerank when something like “trigger-warning” is used as a search term.

    Google has a page describing the “nofollow” attribute and how to use it in links. I hope other bloggers reading this try to use it as well when encountering pages of this type. As it stands it’s a very underused tool even by people who know it.

  23. sabrina
    April 13, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Wow…she seems *fun*.

    Ignoring everything else that is obviously wrong and silly about what she wrote, the thing that has me scratching my head is the bit that implies that being angry at misogynist is a bad thing. i mean, being anti-dude? Well, yeah…that’s not cool. Most guys actually don’t suck. But misogyny? That sucks. Is there a time when it’s *not* a bad thing? Because maybe it doesn’t mean what she thinks it means…

    Beyond that, yeah…she’s an idiot just trying to get page hits and some hate mail. I’ll go back to ignoring her now.

  24. PrettyAmiable
    April 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    “Wow, good job, feminist community. Way to be completely derailed by a flippant and desultory critique of some minor little thing. Good to know you’re staying sharp, in case the boys take over again.”

    Is this sarcastic? Because seriously? Fuck you. I’m sorry my comfort isn’t important to you. Maybe if you were less of a douche, I would give a shit about something important to you. As it is, you’re not. Go start your own blog where you can ignore assault victims and focus on “important feminist issues” – just in case the big bad boys try to come in and prevent my right to charge my assaulter with a crime, blame me for reporting my assault and for wearing something scandalous because MEN JUST CAN’T HELP THEMSELVES!!!1!

    Oh wait.

    “I’m a big girl, and I can mostly avoid this stuff on my own, without anyone’s help.”

    The implication here is that anyone who can’t avoid this stuff on their own isn’t a big girl. Get over yourself. Sometimes people talk big picture rape statistics. That is often less triggering. It’s the details that get to you, and I don’t blame it on writing style if it takes them until the third paragraph to give voice to someone’s story. If you don’t need it, great. I’m glad. But I’m pretty sure you can handle two words of “inelegant” writing if it means someone else feels like they can occupy something that’s supposed to be a safe space.

  25. PrettyAmiable
    April 13, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    “It’s the details that get to you” — should have read “…get to me” – I’m not suggesting I do and do not know what is triggering for other people but that people are triggered by different items under the umbrella topic of “rape.”

  26. CharlestonAnon
    April 13, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    To me this is less about if trigger warnings are or are not neccessary or helpful.. it’s about being a rational grown up, capeable of filtering the information i encounter, and realizing I am not the only person who matters in this world. I am inundated with helpful info/warnings all day long. As long as the information isn’t offensive I filter it out. Just like I filter out tv ads for kitchen appliances, this info isn’t relevant to me (at least not right now) but it is for others and may be for me in the future.

  27. CharlestonAnon
    April 13, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    err… just for clarification, i am not equating trigger warning to commercials in terms of importance, I was just pointing out that we constantly encounter information that we may not find ‘neccesary’ or ‘important’ at the time but that doesn’t mean it should not exist.

  28. Tori
    April 13, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Wow, good job, feminist community. Way to be completely derailed by a flippant and desultory critique of some minor little thing. Good to know you’re staying sharp, in case the boys take over again.

    Lydia, do you realize how dismissive this statement is?

    On a personal level, taking steps to guard against dissociation is not a “minor little thing.” Strangely enough, being catapulted into vivid and sensory memories related to my assault is a big fucking unfun deal. Additionally, if I’m reading at, say, a coffee shop (or any other public venue) and then cannot drive myself home or explain to anyone else why I can’t drive myself home, that presents certain practical issues.

    In a broader sense, people put trigger warnings on posts because they recognize that some experiences like domestic abuse or sexual assault can effect lasting emotional harm, experiences that are often misunderstood and/or perverted by the world at large. Posting LOLZ! SILLY TRIGGER WARNINGS! doesn’t just dismiss the warnings themselves; it belittles the concerns that prompt the warnings as well.

    • April 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm

      Um, also? The idea that THE ENTIRE FEMINIST COMMUNITY was completely derailed because I wrote one relatively short post in response to Susannah Breslin throwing a punch is… interesting. I mean, last week I also put up posts about a hilarious Insane Clown Posse video and 10 songs from my iPod — those posts took just about as long to write as this one, which basically boils down to “Susannah Breslin is being intentionally ignorant and heartless.” And yet, posts with stupid videos or totally awesome music did not manage to derail Feminism: The Movement. I kind of doubt that it’s this post that’ll really set her off-course.

  29. April 13, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Lydia has a professional relationship with Breslin, which might explain her lovely little comment.

  30. curious man
    April 13, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    People use the trigger warning to avoid the details and accounts that they believe will trigger a negative emotional response, and they’ve likely learned to do this because of a negative experience reading/seeing something in the past.

    So, wouldn’t seeing the warning bring all those details back into mind and trigger an episode again? Moreover, only _some_ stories would be likely to trigger the response, but _every_ trigger warning could bring their abuse back to the forefront.

    Basically, I want to know- does anybody find that the trigger warning is enough information to be a trigger?

  31. cy
    April 13, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    good catch, snowe. haha.

    breslin: “If it weren’t for Lydia, I wouldn’t be a writer. I’d be a hack. Her keen insight, writerly savvy, and savage wit have helped me become the writer I am today.”

  32. Jamie
    April 13, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    This is from a comment under the article.

    Or hey, what if a person who is sent into panic attacks by topics like rape, eating disorders, and violence against women just *stayed away from feminist blogs*?

    The writer of this comment was not being sarcastic.

  33. karak
    April 13, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    My experience in the fanfiction community taught me warnings (including general warnings and trigger warnings) allowed people to avoid things they disliked/hated/feared, but at the same time, allowed them to find things they were looking for.

    What if a feminist WANTS to read a piece on rape? Because she’s been raped, or a friend has, or she just wants to better understand? A trigger warning will point her to a serious, detailed, discussion of rape. I’ve often searched by triggers when I’m trying to educate myself on something, because those are often the most important posts.

  34. abby
    April 14, 2010 at 12:21 am

    @curious man: sometimes, yes, on a particularly bad day – but at least i know someone cared enough to try to warn me.

  35. PrettyAmiable
    April 14, 2010 at 12:59 am

    curious man – it’s a thought, but I can’t imagine that the reaction would ever be worse than the underlying material. I’m thinking of Pavlovian responses where the associated stimulus never elicited a stronger response than the direct stimulus. I haven’t been triggered by a trigger warning in my experience (though sometimes they’re enough to piss me off in the abstract), but I wonder what the reactions are of other people for whom trigger warnings are aimed.

  36. piny
    April 14, 2010 at 1:14 am

    breslin: “If it weren’t for Lydia, I wouldn’t be a writer. I’d be a hack. Her keen insight, writerly savvy, and savage wit have helped me become the writer I am today.”

    Did she make you a horrible person, too, Susie, or did she just help you mold the setting you needed to shine?

    I just don’t understand this mindset. I don’t get it. How do you hear about this kind of agony and react with derision? If someone says that a memory will send them out of the daylight world for a day or an hour, why can’t you be generous enough to protect them? Why would that request offend anyone?

    I don’t think any of the survivors who need trigger warnings are saying that their reactions are rational, or proportionate. They don’t argue that we all need to read these stories in the same way. They’re saying that their history is non-negotiably present: the choice is between throwing salt over your shoulder and real demons in their houses.

    So, really, what is your fucking problem?

  37. Samantha b.
    April 14, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Faith, the word “offended” is a really loaded one in discussions of privilege. And, fine, you can’t be bothered to care about Breslin, but one has to then one wonder why you are bothering to care about commenting about Breslin. What’s implicit in that is that you find it somehow instructive that you don’t care about Breslin.

  38. Sheelzebub
    April 14, 2010 at 7:46 am

    That’s right Lydia. Your little buddy is the ONLY THING IN THE WORLD the feminist community is talking about.

    Here’s a ticket to the clue train–when your friend writes a nasty screed about feminists and rape survivors, when she uses strawmen and scare stories, and when she trashes rape survivors, she’s gonna get called on it. Put on your adult clothes and stop your whining. If you don’t want shit, don’t start none.

  39. Jadey
    April 14, 2010 at 10:26 am

    No, wait, everyone – it’s okay! Breslin has explained all. If we had only realized, she carefully labelled her post as triggering and if we read it and were still pissed off, then it’s our own damn fault! Because she warned us! Also, the fact that people did read it and were pissed off proves that trigger warnings don’t work and are as obsolete as feminism itself!

    I don’t know about you, but I feel oodles better now.


    (The link is set up as ‘no follow’, per the instructions above in the thread.)

    Oi, that said, fuck you to whoever out there went with the misogynistic insults to Breslin. It was not on this website, I know, but I’m putting that out into the universe – fuck off, not helping.

  40. Persia
    April 14, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Thanks for the link, Jadey, I think. What a grade A asshole.

  41. Tori
    April 14, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Basically, I want to know- does anybody find that the trigger warning is enough information to be a trigger?

    @ curious man — For me personally, no. The words “trigger warning” don’t contain information that’s concrete or specific enough to trigger me. It’s sort of like how the place holder “[Insert Name Here]” is not someone’s name, the words “trigger warning” are not, for me, an actual trigger.

    Ergo, the trigger warning is its own trigger.

    This is my new favorite quote from Breslin. I am So. Glad. Susannah Breslin — who apparently does not give a rat’s ass about the distinction between “vitriol” and a dissociative episode — is there to tell me what actually triggers me.

    Never mind that, you know, my lived experience is at odds with that. Or that there are other uses for/responses to trigger warnings than ZOMG! DON’T READ EVAR! As in, if I’m in a calm mood or reading at home or in another safe place, I am perhaps more willing to take a risk that I’ll be triggered by a particular post — whether or not I actually am triggered. If I’m already upset or reading on, say, my lunch break at work — where I have to be cool and collected right after — I am less likely to take that risk.

    And yes, of course I realize that there’s no way to remove all triggers from the world ever. (But also, thank you, Ms. Breslin, for ‘splaining to people who actually live with being triggered about how that works. I would never have figured it out otherwise.) But that’s one of the awesome things about reading in feminist spaces: someone here cares enough to give me the choice about whether I encounter this trigger.

  42. April 15, 2010 at 12:36 am

    I’d like to point out that Amanda Marcotte did something very similar and never caught flack for it. It saddens me when only BLATANT assholes get called on it.

    “I’m sorry you’re disappointed. Now you know how trigger warnings often make me feel—disappointed. I don’t like feeling like prominent feminists think an incident in my past makes me too broken to deal, and I want this to be a place where survivors who don’t appreciate the trigger treatment can go. ”


    Yeah, needless to say I never went back.

  43. The Truffle
    April 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Susannah Breslin is an asshole. An example of how she treated a would-be interview:

    Get over yourself, Susannah.

  44. April 18, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    @curious man – for me, the words ‘trigger warning’ have never triggered, but they have made me gulp a little air and give a little thanks that they were there and that I didn’t inadvertently see something that was going to fuck with my head.

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