Some students at Columbia University think many parts of Greek Mythology - such as Ovid's version of “The Rape of Persephone” - need a “trigger warning.” And there's precedence for them getting their way.
A “trigger”- a term used in academic circles for 20 years, which in recent times has found a broader popularity throughout the internet- refers to material - whether in a story, a film, a photograph - that could potentially induce bouts of PTSD in survivors of anything from assault to a lower income upbringing.
As the term has gained ground, critics of the term and its perceived overuse have grown, too - from all sides of the socio-political spectrum. Sex blogger Susannah Breslin wrote in a 2010 post:
“[Feminists are using trigger warnings] like a Southern cook applies Pam cooking spray to an overused nonstick frying pan. They're like a flashing neon sign, attracting *more* attention to a particularly explicit post, even as it purports to deflect the attention of those to whom it might actually be relevant.”
So, when a student op-ed piece ran on April 30th, calling on the school to implement “trigger warnings” for materials that could prove traumatic for survivors, the backlash was swift and brutal. From the op-ed:
“These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.”
One of the hundreds of commenters had this to say:
"Grow up, open up, care less about your identity and more about your passions. Such an insufferable breed of self-centered Care Bears.”
“As an Hispanic former student, I really don't trust people who merely invoke minority struggles as a cudgel in order to dictate what can and can't be taught in a classroom and how it can or can't be taught.”
“The entire point of this wave, propagated by young sheep, is to SHUT DOWN dialogue, so that no one dares question the indoctrination.”
The students who wrote the op-ed may get their wish however. Consider this: in the past two years, UC Santa Barbara instated a “trigger warning policy” for classrooms, and Oberlin College produced a guide book for professors detailing trigger warnings for academic materials (which it later amended, after many complaints).
It's a long, winding road for a term that originally only applied to veterans suffering from PTSD.