We must immediately implement multiple trigger warnings against violence, misogyny, slavery and other Upsetting Things in the Old Testament. But wait, there’s more. Opera is filled with yet more violence, as well as betrayal, treachery, adultery, and more. Before each aria starts, we must have warning signs saying “The following aria may be upsetting to those with tender sensibilities.” Next we must seriously evaluate the teaching of history as it is often filled with Horrid Events.
Once we implement these desperately needed trigger warnings than it’s just a quick and easy step to simply banning content we disapprove of. Then we will have a minty-fresh, carefully scrubbed world where reality is not allowed to intrude.
Trigger warnings are a very dangerous form of censorship because they’re done in the name of civility. Learning is painful. It’s often ugly and traumatic. How different my life would be if I hadn’t read Crime and Punishment because it’s misogynist and violent. How terrible my teaching would be if I hadn’t spent years researching spectacle lynchings and eugenics and freak shows in order to teach courses on race and American culture.
The world is a painful and anxiety-inducing place, and human representations of the world are often painful to consume. But rather than retreating into a world where our courses are reduced to viewings of My Little Pony, let’s all put on our big-girl panties (or big-boy tighty whities, as in the case of the Wellesley statue).