Over at Balloon Juice, there is currently a food fight over the use of “trigger warnings.”
One commenter, who, apparently did not get the memo that the claim being made is that the overuse of “trigger warnings” has devalued their meanings, and while they might be appropriate in terms of folks who have suffered sexual assault and the like, they should not exfoliate into every single topic or term which might, somewhere and somehow, set somebody off, had this to say:
“As a partner to a rape survivor I have to tell you you are way fucking out of line.”
Well, frankly, I think trigger warnings are just stupid, and not merely because they are oh so PC and are designed more to call attention to the delicate sensibilities of the warner, and have much less to do with the warnee. But because I really don’t care all that much about the warnee, either. If you read material intended for adults on the internet, or anywhere else, then, in my view, you are implicitly agreeing that you are big boy or big girl, and that, while sticks and stones may break your bones, names will never hurt you. That big boy and girl topics MIGHT be discussed, and discussed without euphemisms, regardless of your personal experiences of trauma or your inclusion in various non “privileged” groups. If you don’t want to read about war and rape and violence and domestic abuse and racism and gender discrimination and anti gay bias and so on, well then, confine yourself to Sesame Street and Winnie the Pooh. Otherwise, put on your big boy or big girl underwear, and stop contributing, in Ed Rendell’s memorable phrase, to the “wussification of America.”
But I find the comment to be objectionable on a more basic level….There can be Holocaust “survivors,” Hiroshima and Nagasaki “survivors,” Hindenburg and Titanic “survivors,” and cancer and AIDS “survivors,” but not “rape survivors.” Why not? Because in every instance of proper usage the thing being survived is a killer. Most, or at least many, as a proportion, of those who experience the thing in question actually, ‘ya know, DIE! To “survive” something implies that usually, or pretty damn often, folks don’t survive it.
Well, rape, as bad as it is, rarely kills. It almost never kills directly, and the proportion of rapes that also involve murder is quite low. Even if we include subsequent suicides, which might be said to be deaths caused indirectly by rape, the number and, more importantly, the proportion, of deaths is very, very low. So, the notion of “survivorship” is misplaced. We don’t talk about armed robbery “survivors,” nor even, usually, assault “survivors.” We use the term survivor, if at all, when it comes to crimes, to things like assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder, which involve acts (gun shot woundings, stabbings, clubbings, etc) that often do kill.
The only other accepted use of the term is ironic. As in “I survived freshman calculus” or “The Schuylkill Expressway Construction Project Survival Guide.” And I’m pretty sure that is not intended here.
No, the problem is that there is no other word that will meet PC criteria. The correct word, of course, is “victim.” People against whom crimes have been committed are victims. Robbery victims, assault victims, victim of theft, etc. But that is not allowed here. Because women (and women, that is to say feminists, are driving this bus….male rape victims have nothing to do with the nomenclature, and are invisible in any case) cannot be mere “victims,” when it comes to rape. Somehow, that term, when applied here, and only here (ie in connection with a woman who has been raped), means that the woman who suffered the crime has no “agency,” is “defined” by the crime, etc. A man can be a victim of burglary, and so can a woman, but a woman CANNOT be a victim of rape. No, she must be a “rape survivor.”
And that is bullshit. So, I would say to the commenter, if I did not want to get involved in another food fight, that not only is he wrong on trigger warnings (both in the sense of missing the point about preserving them precisely for stuff like sexual assault and also because they are not only pretentious but ridiculous in any case) but is wrong to use the fake term “rape survivor” as well. His partner, assuming he is being truthful and accurate, was raped. His partner is a victim of rape, or a rape victim, or, if you just can’t stomach that term, is a person who was raped, or a person against whom a rape was committed. But not a rape “survivor.”
We can’t write about what we want to write about, even in what is clearly an adult setting, unless we warn people that they might find it to be a “trigger;” we can’t use the correct word for rape victims because that is just too honest, and we are required to dishonestly valorize these folks instead. I think a lot of what is wrong with the PC Left is exemplified by these two cases. Phony concerns about terminology and language take precedence over real issues, and the urge to censor is never far from the surface. Discourse is to be controlled by an absurd group of self appointed, fuss budget PC language police man and (mostly) women. And woe be to anyone who flouts their rules and thereby flaunts his or her “privilege!”