Spoiler warning: douchebags think trigger warnings are bad

Quick linking post — was quoted over on Skepchick in re Richard Dawkins’ latest nonsense, wherein he rails against warning rape victims about rape discussion on college campuses. I need to write a fuller post about how exactly people are getting this wrong, but this is a great one-two punch.

Dawkins is right about one thing: Secular Safezones have an important place, especially in areas where being non-religious (or not belonging to the majority religion) can lead to marginalization. But if he acknowledges that, how can he argue that same care isn’t warranted for those coping with PTSD from rape, assault, or other trauma? Does Richard Dawkins think there isn’t enough oppression to go around? That if he shows compassion for victims of assault or rape, his pet cause won’t get enough recognition? Or is the reality more damning?

Spoiler warning: the contents of this post includes discussion about trigger warnings. Douchebag discretion is advised.

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Spoiler warning: douchebags think trigger warnings are bad
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10 thoughts on “Spoiler warning: douchebags think trigger warnings are bad

  1. 1

    Quite honestly I just think people are putting way too much thought into words. And now I understand, to relate before i seem like an arse, that people do not always cope well with traumatic events like this. Some turn their chin up and are for the most part all right, others alas do not. I only wonder where we are to draw the lines here. For instance, say that an open discussion is taking place where they are debating the punishment sentences for rapists, in a room on some university campus somewhere. Would it be necessary for them to setup signs that warn people of the discussion at hand on either side of the corridor to prevent someone from hearing something harmful to them?

    Is that the levels we begin to need to set these things? Personally, I do not think so. No more than I think that if you are in a criminology classroom you should go into it, expecting the possibility of hearing about violent acts. And now usually professors will summarise the contents of the lesson before the lesson has yet started, but what if a question comes up in class about a previously unstated subject pertaining to violent acts? How would one even go about giving sufficient prior warning to that? It’s not really something you can do, which would naturally lead to the question being unanswered. For fields like criminology specifically, but more widely gender studies and sociology, it may be impractical to even consider employing such measures.

    And on a public scale, it really breaks down without employing thought police. People can be held accountable for their words if they imply harm to another human or if they are used as a form of harassment. Considering this, would someone saying the word rape around someone who had been significantly emotionally affected by a traumatic rape incident be considered an act of harassment? Or would it just be an accident? What if one didn’t know that the person they are talking to had been sexually assaulted in this way? It leads to gray areas that would be difficult to map out in a legal system. And it is an issue that needs to be addressed as such.

    Essentially, the idea behind a trigger word, (phrase, action, etc.) is too broad an idea to employ in a university to be employed effectively. It needs to be something more specific that needs to be addressed, say for instance that course curriculums need to be specific about the content of the classes. Also that professors have to be willing and able to receive emails from students simply stating topics they’d like to avoid discussing during the semester, so that the professor can plan lessons and such well in advance to accommodate these issues, and make the lectures as comfortable and relaxed as possible for all of the students in the class. If no one has any problems with the course content, then there is no problem. If someone does have specific problems relating to a large portion of the material, it may be recommended that they not take the class as examinations will take that knowledge into consideration. If someone has a problem with a very small subject that is not to be covered on an examination and is merely there for informational purposes, the professor may be able to sort something out to avoid direct references and the like in classes.

    In short, universities are places where knowledge and opinions congregate. To keep the flow of knowledge as open as possible, its necessary to very seriously consider limitations upon it. A matter between any student(s) about course and lecture materials should be handled inside that specific professors classroom, assuming the requests put forward are reasonable and do not significantly affect the learning of the students in question and their classmates, the professor should oblige and adjust things accordingly. This also leaves a lot of gray area that all sort of comes down to the professor(s) in question, which is much more achievable and reasonable than limiting an entire population of students ability to learn.

    But that’s just like, my opinion, man.

    On a side note, the students would not have to be specific to their circumstances in any regard. It could be as simple an email as “I’m not emotionally comfortable with hearing lectures about *such and such*. Is there anything we can work out with this?”.

  2. 2

    There’s definitely some hypocrisy on offer there, though I would say that in regard to that specific Tweet, I’m pretty sure he was mouthing off about the current drama surrounding Germaine Greer, rather than rape victims as such.

    Coyne is perhaps the worst offender here, in that the ‘TOUGHEN UP, PRINCESS!’ ideology goes out the door whenever a pro-Israel student encounters Palestinian activism.
    eg. https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/judeo-phobia-another-word-for-anti-semitism/

  3. 3

    Wow, this discussion is incredibly muddled. The petition against Greer is a standard no-platforming effort, taking the position that Greer should not be paid to speak on campus because “trans-exclusionary views should have no place in feminism or society.” Dawkins isn’t actually effectively attacking that position when he says that a university cannot be a “safe space”.

    Moreover, the debate over whether a university as a whole should be a safe space is a different one from whether safe spaces should exist on campus. Neither of those discussions necessarily entails a position on whether “prior warnings about rape discussions” should be given in college classes. Finally, whether professors should proselytize at all is a totally different discussion altogether.

    A perfect case study in why twitter discussions suck.

  4. 5

    Waaaaait… what? This was about Greer??? From literally all the conversations around it (the anti-SJWs clapping him on the back for instance), it looked like it was about trigger warnings. Again.

  5. 6

    Context:

    Tweet 1 – “Students who suppress a distinguished scholar’s lecture because they disagree with her have no place in a university” with a link to the Greer story.

    Tweet 2 – “Well OF COURSE if university societies want to invite flat earthers, Islamic “scholars” etc to speak, they should be welcomed with courtesy”

  6. 7

    Wait hold on, as a trans woman I fail to see what exactly is wrong with the tweet Dawkins posted about trans people. If anything he’s expressing a live and let live world view that is positive. He’s saying how you define what gender someone is subjective to what you’re going by. He is failing to raise the point of separation of sex and gender but he’s not doing it out of malice or spite, he’s making a response to the societal movement in conservative communities about people’s genders being defined by their chromosomes, and saying that in either case he will use their preferred pronouns regardless of opinions because its what we want.

    That’s actually pretty fucking good.

  7. 8

    The petition against Greer is a standard no-platforming effort, taking the position that Greer should not be paid to speak on campus because “trans-exclusionary views should have no place in feminism or society.”

    So, she was to be paid for giving this talk? I’d like to have that point clarified because, one, that information doesn’t appear in the petition, and two, there’s a big fucking difference between allowing someone to speak and paying them to speak.

  8. 9

    @LykeX, while I had seen that claimed or implied by a number of commentators, I can’t find a source saying she is being paid. She has been invited to give the “Hadyn Ellis Distinguished Lecture” by the university, soure, and it seems quite likely that she will be paid an honorarium, but I can’t find a definitive answer one way or another.

  9. 10

    Wait hold on, as a trans woman I fail to see what exactly is wrong with the tweet Dawkins posted about trans people. If anything he’s expressing a live and let live world view that is positive. He’s saying how you define what gender someone is subjective to what you’re going by. He is failing to raise the point of separation of sex and gender but he’s not doing it out of malice or spite, he’s making a response to the societal movement in conservative communities about people’s genders being defined by their chromosomes, and saying that in either case he will use their preferred pronouns regardless of opinions because its what we want.
    That’s actually pretty fucking good.

    It’s problematic because it’s someone besides you telling you what should be important to you about your identity.

    If being a woman is “semantic” to you, your feathers won’t be bristled by the comment. I would imagine that not many trans women, who have their gender routinely put under scrutiny, would consider it a “semantic” issue at all.

    In fact it’s kind of funny having a cis person say that gender is semantic. It sounds perfectly legit coming from a non-binary or otherwise genderqueer person. But if gender were truly semantic to Dawkins, maybe he’d show up to one of his lectures in a dress.

    Sadly, he does not.

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