The Other McCain points out that the eruption of the “trigger warning” from the far reaches of the fringe of the internet into college campuses (!) is merely a reformulation of an older stereotype: that women cannot be expected to handle the full range of the unpleasantness of life, and therefore must be coddled. This is actually not really surprising when you think about the fact that college campuses have been skewing majority female for several decades now – they’re becoming the modern version of finishing schools for privileged women.
Now, there’s a sense in which some things do need to be labeled – we have the movie rating system for a reason, after all. It’s helpful to know beforehand that something’s going to include vomit-inducing levels of graphic violence in full 3D effects. And coming from someone who reads a lot of fanfiction – the fanfiction culture is one of those fringe internet areas where the “trigger warning” (usually some form of tag, and not generally labeled “trigger” but still there) is ubiquitous. This is extremely helpful, though, as it allows one to avoid certain works which can only be explained as the authoress working through some very dark, very personal sexual demons. I hope that writing anonymous fanfic rape porn and posting it on the internet is helpful for those damaged souls, and I appreciate the warnings since they make it easy to know up-front what kind of thing you’re looking at before you click any links and ruin your childhood nostalgia for 80’s cartoons forever.
Consider on the other hand, however, the nature of reality itself and the historical lives of women in particular. Women as fainting flowers? Uh, not so much. That seems to be an artifact of the upper classes of extremely wealthy societies; poor and low-class women in all societies deal with the ugly side of life on a regular basis. They don’t have the “privilege” of being protected from the realities of rape, starvation, privation, hard labor, and having to live in a place where people aren’t refined and polite with all the upper-class airs and sensibilities. And somehow they’ve historically managed to survive and not suffer epidemic levels of psychosis!
So when you take a look at some of the things these delicate college flowers want warnings for – not just graphic depictions of violence, but non-socially-acceptable attitudes…. well, congrats, girls! You’ve made it to finishing school! Make sure they start teaching classes on how to properly fall on your fainting couches while you’re at it.
Meanwhile, I’m going to continue feeling gypped that my higher education didn’t include any classes on janitorial services, catering, and basic electrical work, plumbing, and carpentry. And I really could have used some classes on social graces, too, now that I think of it. Having to teach myself that sort of thing is a pain, since I don’t “get it” very easily. (And I doubt I’m ever going to be able to pass for a normal person. But that’s okay; I think math teachers all get a pass for being eccentric, because I’ve never actually met a normal one!)