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“Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel, by Henry Vidal in Tuileries Garden in Paris, France.” Wikimedia Commons

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.

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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.”

And another:

“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.”

And another:

“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.