Let’s Talk Bookish: Content Warnings

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, created and hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts. You can check out more about this meme here!

This was a freebie week, so I went through the older Let’s Talk Bookish topics and decided to talk about content/trigger warnings in books.


WHAT ARE CONTENT WARNINGS AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT

Content warnings (or trigger warnings) are typically brief statements that give an idea of themes present in books that may be potentially harmful to the mental or emotional health of readers.

Every person’s reading experience is subjective and therefore not everyone’s reaction to certain topics and content will be the same. Content warnings exist to allow readers to make an informed decision about difficult subjects before going into the story. When readers are made aware of potentially harmful content in a book, they have the chance to put themselves in the right headspace before reading to mitigate any mental/emotional distress, or to decide not to read the book altogether.

The goal of content warnings is to provide succinct information about themes/content in books that could possibly cause mental or emotional harm to a reader.


WHY THE ARGUMENT AGAINST

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of push back when it comes to the use of content/trigger warnings (which I think is a lot better now). The arguments that I see time and time again are that life doesn’t give you warnings and content warnings are spoilers. I adamantly disagree.

First of all, it’s because life doesn’t give us content/trigger warnings that I believe having them in media, such as books, is so important. Readers may not be able to avoid distressing situations in real life, but having the option to avoid them when reading helps preserve people’s mental health. Reading is an escape for many people, including myself. There’s no reason reading cannot be a safe space for those actively trying to avoid harmful, distressing situations.

I’ve never understood the argument that content warnings are spoilers. Every content or trigger warning statement I’ve read–whether from the author or another reviewer–has always been brief mentions of themes/content to expect. And not a single time did those mentions ruin my reading experience. For instance, before reading The Poppy War, I saw the content warnings for graphic violence, rape, and drug abuse. That alone is not enough information to spoil any sort of plot or character information from the book, but rather it provides an idea of what can be expected at some point during the course of the story as a forewarning.


CONTENT WARNING RESOURCES

Book bloggers do wonderful things for the reading community, and among that is the many different lists and databases created to list content/trigger warnings in books. I’ve listed a few of the ones I am aware of below, but please comment if you know of any others so I can add them!

✨ Laura @ Green Tea and Paperbacks and Fadwa @ Word Wonders have created a content warning database

Book Trigger Warnings is a website created by Jenny and Rob

✨ Annemieke @ A Dance with Books wrote a post listing content/trigger warnings bloggers and reviewers can use in their book reviews


12 thoughts

  1. Yes totally agree! It’s so important that people have full transparency about potentially harmful content so that they aren’t triggered or upset by the contents of a book! Also like if people think they’re such a spoiler then just don’t read the content warnings?? Regardless, the choice and the information should be there so that people can make the best decision for their mental health and safety!!

    I didn’t know that Laura & Fadwa had made a database, thank you for sharing! Loved reading your thoughts on this topic ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Erin! I totally agree with you: content warnings are super easy to avoid if you find them spoilery and don’t want to read them. There’s no reason to put other readers through unnecessary mental or emotional trauma simply because someone personally doesn’t use those warnings.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. THANK YOU! The “but life doesn’t give you warnings either” makes me so mad. Of course it doesn’t, but then I can at least have it in the media I consume so I can just enjoy it. But unfortunately it’s one of the arguments I get extremely often. great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! The “life doesn’t give you warnings” makes me so mad as well. If life COULD give you warning to avoid possible emotional/mental trauma wouldn’t you choose to use them? I never understand that argument 🙄

      Like

  3. Thank you for writing this post! Both arguments against the use of content warning made me mad because it just very insensitive. As you said, many people consume media as an escape and it’s very inconsiderate that people would rather hurt others as long as they’re not “spoiled” 🙃😒

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s so inconsiderate! It’s easy for someone to avoid the content warnings if they don’t want to be spoiled. It may not be so easy for someone to recover from the anxiety/trauma they might face if they weren’t able to know about the possible triggers before reading

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  4. I completely agree! I’ve seen the statement, “If a book’s content warnings are spoilers, the book isn’t good in the first place”. And I completely agree with that, too. As you said, content warnings don’t give any details so it is nice to expect something. I think it gives the reader the proper information to know if it’s something that they will be able to read. If they’re not included, I think it could negatively affect the way the reader views the book.

    Like

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