I admit that when I initially saw trigger warnings at the beginning of articles, I was a bit baffled. That sense of bafflement was well-captured in this New York Times article from May, about requests to apply them to literary works in college courses. I’ve come to think that the appropriateness of trigger warnings depends entirely on the context in which they are used. If you want to know more about them, the Geek Feminism Wiki has a good writeup of how trigger warnings are used and the reasons for using them.
A couple of days ago, my colleague Lara Swanson posted about unsolicited feedback she received from dudes after her Velocity keynote, and I realized that there’s definitely one context in which trigger warnings are underused. Clearly the men who gave the feedback would have benefitted from a trigger warning that might have prevented them from unexpectedly having a negative emotional experience while watching a conference talk.
With that in mind, here are some new trigger warnings speakers may want to use to protect men from having a damaging emotional response, and worse, taking it out on others.
- TRIGGER WARNING: Woman to speak authoritatively about topics not considered “girl stuff.”
- TRIGGER WARNING: Content may force representatives of privileged groups to confront the existence of that privilege.
- TRIGGER WARNING: Speaker apt to apply metaphors men are unfamiliar with.
- TRIGGER WARNING: Speaker to extoll diversity for its own sake.
- TRIGGER WARNING: Speaker using whatever tone they like when giving this talk.
With these precautions, hopefully we can make conference talks a safe place for men.