Fostering Felines, Trigger Warnings, & Impossible Standards

person with dark curly hair, tan skin, and fading henna on their hands sleeping on a black and white patterned bedspread with three small tabby kittens nestled on and against them
Clockwise: Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and Jubilee. Southern Californians, please note that they are as sweet as can be and will be up for adoption in about a month.

A few nights ago, I gave the felines I am fostering (The X-Kittens) baths to relieve them of their smelliness and flea-related itching. They’re too big for their mom to force them into tongue-baths yet too little to clean themselves adequately, plus they’re too young for the safe administration of flea medicine. That one bath won’t stop the fleas or the stank forever, but it will stop the poor things from itching their neck fur ragged and from being embarrassingly stinky when we take them to the vet tomorrow. Plus, sweet-smelling, fluffy, soft kittens make for excellent napping buddies.

Would you argue that I ought not to have bathed them because that option isn’t quite nuclear? Unlikely. So why hold trigger warnings up to such an impossible standard?

Imperfect measures are an essential part and fact of life. We take them all the time. Fastening your seatbelt won’t stop you from dying in every kind of automobile accident. Condoms don’t prevent every possible STI you can contract; every form of birth control, even surgical sterilization, still has a failure rate. Flu shots, Gardasil, and other vaccines don’t protect against every strain of the disease they help to prevent. Eating mindfully and engaging in aerobic exercise doesn’t fully guarantee against death by heart attack.

You don’t see widespread outrage against the abovementioned imperfect measures based solely on the fact that they are imperfect. People with religious agendas may bring up the failure rates of things like birth control, condoms, and Gardasil, but they’re using those numbers to bolster their existing abstinence-only stance rather than figure out a reasonable, fact-based position. Try to find a discussion about trigger warnings that doesn’t contain some variation of “I am opposed to trigger warnings because I can’t anticipate everyone’s triggers”, though. I couldn’t — and even inadvertently courted such responses with my previous post on the matter.

It is true that there is no easy or universal formula to determine what ought be noted or warned against. That is precisely why requests, call-ins, and yes, even call-outs are so vital and helpful. They bring attention to ways by which you might help others avoid unnecessary or even debilitating distress that you may not have been able to anticipate.

Being mindful of some of what might cause emotional distress in a viewer or reader is not a bad thing just because you may not know of everything that might cause such a reaction. It’s perfectly okay to be imperfect. Unilaterally opposing something based solely on the fact that there is no such thing as perfect execution is dubious at best. Like anything else in life, the various flavors of content notices are not an all or nothing prospect.

And frankly, it seems like an excuse to me to treat them, but nothing else, as such. A little bit of harm reduction is better than none at all.

Fostering Felines, Trigger Warnings, & Impossible Standards
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3 thoughts on “Fostering Felines, Trigger Warnings, & Impossible Standards

  1. 2

    Trigger warnings can also be set suitably broad, if need be. Sure, sometimes specificity is required, but for a lot of cases where a blog post or the like contains triggering material, it’s pretty easy to make a blanket statement that covers a lot of things. Since, as you’ve pointed out, the point of TWs is not necessarily to ward off, but often to just let a reader prepare themselves, the broader warnings can be MORE useful, so long as they aren’t completely meaningless.

  2. 3

    I object to abstracts on scientific papers becasue they both fail to note every detail of the study that any particular person might find interesting and ruin the suspense/surprise of the results by telling you what the author’s conclusion was. Plus, people might avoid studies on topics that don’t interest them if they know what the studies are about beforehand, and it’s really important that all people keep up with all scientific research that’s going on in every field, so we shouldn’t allow people to pick and choose what they read based on relevance or interest. (/sarcasm)

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