In her jeremiad against trigger warnings, which has received accolades from academics as famous as Jack Halberstam, Jenny Jarvie claims that to employ the language of triggering in college classrooms, we are “structuring public life around the most fragile personal sensitivities.” Jarvie foresees that such a gesture would “only restrict all our horizons,” but, I can’t help but think that the opposite effect would come about: to consider the needs of those most vulnerable first and foremost would foster all lives, not just those Jarvie sees as strong or fit. I think we must protect those who are fragile. To protect the weakest or frailest among us would mean that we would all be safe. Trigger warnings don’t shut down discourse. Rather, they open it up: a trigger warning is a recognition that survivors exist and an invitation for them to participate in conversations on their own terms. It is a gesture that acknowledges (“I see you”) and promises at least an attempt to be an ally (“I will try not to harm you”). To work on ending harm to others - what could be a better use of public life than that?
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