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