There is a threat currently in American higher education facilities that is spreading to other countries. This threat is the introduction of ‘Trigger Warnings’ and ‘Safe Spaces’ in our educational facilities and this agenda is being pushed by current day intersectional feminists and others alike.
Safe space is a social space safe for [marginalized] groups to freely communicate and express ideas. While that is a simple idea the function and reality of these safe spaces has changed to an area where individuals may go who feel their opinions, ideas or feelings have been affected in a negative way and so they are not able to freely express themselves – so they would make their way to a ‘safe space’. Such topics that have appeared online in some way where people have felt the need for a safe space have been English self-proclaimed provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos with his “The Dangerous Faggot tour” around American universities. Milo has given us an insight into the behaviour of American university students and the unruly disdain that students have when allowing someone who has an opposing view as they do talks on a campus. Milo’s talk at the University of Massachusetts, accompanied by academic scholar and feminist Christina Hoff Sommers and French Canadian comedian Steven Crowder. Brought the discussion of the effects third wave/intersectional/millennial feminism has done to the people on today’s universities. Unruly students caused a disturbance in the talk and showed people who are outside of America that this was happening and just how intersectional feminists and those with similar ideals were behaving with the lack of maturity that would not be expected of university students. Here is the video in full:
Trigger warnings are an alert before a piece of work informing that it may contain distressing material leaving the person distressed or in discomfort. While it can be simply equated to the NSFW (Not Safe For Work) tags seen on popular sites like Reddit and Imgur, where the guidelines for an NSFW post reads “Content that contains nudity, pornography, or profanity, which a reasonable viewer may not want to be seen accessing in a public or formal setting such as in a workplace should be tagged as NSFW. This tag can be applied to individual pieces of content or to entire communities.” While there are specific instances for when a warning needs to be placed such as nudity that was mentioned above there are no guidelines or parameters for the implication of trigger warnings in universities other higher education facilities. Who is to say what can and can not be talked about or learnt in a university? Students, academics, administration or people who have everyday triggers. How would we go about understand all of the triggers in universities and who can impose that the standard of warnings will be met? Must an incident happen before a warning is introduced or do we save students and introduce warnings for the sake of babying students to prevent something that could or could not happen.
Melbourne’s Monash University will be the first Australian university to introduce trigger warnings throughout its subject core guides. I have been unable to find the guidelines and parameters for which trigger warnings will be introduced to get a clear understanding about the aspects of university teaching that triggers emotional discomfort with the student body. This information is vital in understanding the concerns and experiences of university students – I hope to find out soon.
I call Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces threats as they censor information and make higher education redundant. The purpose of higher education is to bring to attention different viewpoints and outlooks of different topics. The classroom brings people of all different backgrounds together to talk about a topic from different angles each individual has not experienced or thought about before – to broaden the mind and knowledge of each student. The discussions are a representation of what a university represents – challenging, logical and rational decisions in a respectable safe environment that is free from repression, job loss or imprisonment. While trigger warnings are for the students they censor the ability and create a barrier for the academics that choose those students.
When a trigger warning is present, there is no understanding to what degree the content or a student may be offended or be triggered by. If in cases where a student was not expecting a lot of offensive material in a class, there is no stopping that student for interrupting and calling out the lecturer for not being specific in the details of the warning or their material. If this incident is constant then lecturers would cut out the entire offensive material and throw-in something that could not be seen as offensive. This changing of material to something more friendly, who is too say that it will not be offensive of triggering? When there are aspects of a degree that has been left out for the purpose of preventing a supposed triggering of a student who which it may or may not happen there is something wrong.
Camille Paglia who is an academic and social critic once said “When you are not exposed to complex works of art you end up with a simplistic view of human life…” to mean there is bad stuff in the world and it happens regardless, so when you are exposed to it you understand it and grow from it. There is a full interview between Camille and Christina which discusses the impact of feminism today where the quote comes from, video below (57 mins long):
I am a student at the University of Wollongong and with my next few blog posts I will be going into more detail about Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces and other areas that relate to the discussion.