The Trapdoor of Trigger Words

So what’s the solution? It can sometimes feel as though modern language codes pit expressive richness and variety against empathy and compassion. The binary’s imperfect, but pick your team. On one side of the ledger sits the world, which becomes a more vivid and beautiful place when we have vaster vocabularies to draw on, more plots and situations to behold; on the other side are human beings, who have an obligation not to hurt each other when they can avoid it. ...

If the university as an institution chooses to grant a speaking platform to some luminary students disagree with—as Yale, Oberlin, and Wesleyan have done, notoriously, in recent years—then surely those students can protest in order to ‘openly and vigorously contest’ both the ideas and the university’s tacit endorsement of them.

The notion that trigger warnings violate ‘freedom of expression’ has a similar smokescreen quality. An earmark—even one that may end up steering particular students away from a text—is not an act of censorship. If trigger warnings perpetrate harm, they don’t do so by uprooting our democratic ideals. They do so by constricting our imaginations and, perhaps, by preventing us from facing our fears.
— Katy Waldman