Wednesday, April 14, 2010


So I think it's appropriate to evoke a trigger warning here.

Now, I know some of you probably aren't aware of the use of trigger warnings, so I'll quote Jill on the subject, because it's really appropriate where I'm going with this:

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.

Ok, so that's out in the open and it should be abundantly clear why trigger warnings exist in the feminist blogosphere. However, what brought on this explanation was apparently an anti-feminist blogger, not worth naming, who claimed trigger warnings are dumb. So, of course, people were, naturally, up at arms.

But I think that the topic of trigger warnings and this whole unreasonable debate whether they should exist as a simple common courtesy or not is totally relevant to what has been going on in my feminist theory related life lately.

You see, I have never been raped. I've never been sexually assaulted or felt myself to be in a sexually threatening position. I have been sexually harassed, and as dehumanizing as that was, I would never compare it to rape. So the realm of rape is not something that I can completely relate to...and it's a side of feminism that I've definitely needed educating on and have only recently began to care about deeply.

Sure, I knew the statistics. And I did *care* about rape in a conceptual way. I knew rape was a tool of oppression. I understood the feminist discussion of our rape culture. I've felt rape as something that looms over me as a terrifying possibility in this world. I could mentally comprehend the evils of victim blaming. I understood that it was a sexist myth to think that men "couldn't" be raped. However, when I saw a blog or a post with the ever present *trigger warning* I approached the contents tentatively. I wasn't too interested. It seemed to be everywhere and I wasn't sure I "got it." I know what it's like to be paid less for doing the same (if not better) work. I know what it's like to be cat called. I know what it's like to be called a bitch for speaking my mind. I know what it's like to be told to get in the kitchen and make a sandwich. I know what it's like to read magazines and feel disgustingly fat and ugly. I know what it's like to have my math abilities belittled. All of these things I felt I could relate to, but rape felt so conceptual. And I'll admit, at best: I skimmed the articles with trigger warnings.

However, I've recently started to read them. Really, really read them. And think about them. And feel them. It's amazing to me how rape is dealt with in our society. The amount of questioning, shaming, and blaming that occurs is ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. For example, if someone is the victim of a robbery or has to file an insurance claim for weather damage to their house, does anyone say, " sucks that you were robbed/had your house destroyed, but you know, some people have lied about being robbed/having their houses destroyed before, so I'm not sure I can believe you."

NO. Never. But any time a rape comes up all of a sudden, everyone is a skeptic. Have a few people lied about rapes before for whatever reason? Yes. But have people also lied about EVERYTHING else? HELL YES. And yet, no questions surround the other scenarios. Similarly, if someone is robbed, do we blame them for not having stronger glass on their windows or better locks? Do we blame tornado victims for living in the locations they do? Not at all. And yet, if a woman has been raped, the first thing we do is talk about her clothes, how much she chose to drink, if she uses drugs, or had tattoos, or if she's had sex before and with whom.

And I knew about the questioning/shaming/blaming. I'm not new to it. It's just SEEING it all in print lately in the comments of the rape blogs I'm actually really reading now has got me so passionate about it. There are SO MANY rape apologists. Probably more than rape victim advocates, really.

All this has me thinking frequently about issues of consent. It's such an important topic to consider...and teach our children. Honest, open communication, leaving out gray areas, and only having sex when consent is explicit and direct is simply a part of a positive experience. It doesn't kill the just makes sense.

But anyway, the point is that I am embracing the critique of our rape culture and taking a stand against sexual assault in our society. Just like how I don't personally experience racism or homophobia, I still speak out passionately against them, I'm no longer going to gloss over this issue. I'm going to talk about it openly...because when you leave something in the shadows, you give it more power and support the shame surrounding it.

By the by, I was inspired today by this Feministing community blog, and thus, here I am:
[W]e need people who aren't necessarily survivors to start speaking out about sexual assault. This demonstrates that rape isn't just a personal issue, but stems from some deep societal problem at which we need to start chipping away. It's not about men, it's not about women, it's about people, and increased support would illustrate that perfectly...


  1. Unfortunately insurance companies do in fact take the sceptical view of burglary and people are in fact chastised for not taking care with regard to security, both home and personal, in robbery scenarios.

    This is because we always look for reasons and it's simpler (although perhaps also simple-minded at times) to initially look at the issues of someone present rather than an invisible perpretrator.

    In America there is a cult of personal responsibility, so that poverty, a bad job, your education, etc is considered your own fault; outside circumstances are not considered unless people want to blame the political party they happen to detest.

    It's the cult of personal liability for everything that sits at the root of this, whether it relate to rape or poor schooling - that's the atomised society for you.

  2. This is not the same. Insurance companies are supposed to investigate and follow protocol to make sure there's no foul play, just like police will do in a sexual assault case.

    The entire *community* however, doesn't tend to turn on the person with the weather damage and bring up everything about their past like is so often done to rape survivors.


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