Bailey Shoemaker Richards, a student in UF’s master’s of rhetoric and writing program, is writing a book on cyber-sexism and online abuse. As a result, her classroom presentations have involved some uncomfortable content and graphic visuals. Enter the “trigger warning,” a new literary caveat that gives an audience fair notice of what they’re about to experience, whether in print or online.
Shoemaker Richards has used trigger warnings at the beginning of her presentations to serve as a reminder that those who may be uncomfortable discussing online abuse are free to leave the room. She sees no problem with honestly summarizing her content so her audience is not taken by surprise.
The concept of trigger warnings and the controversy surrounding their use in the academic world, was the topic of a blog post written by Jay Caspian Kang for “The New Yorker’s” online Page Turner Section on May 22. Kang devoted several lines in his post to Shoemaker Richards and how her use of trigger warnings “largely mirrors the way that they have been implemented in classrooms across the country.” (The two connected initially through Twitter when Kang was researching his article.)
“I don’t think a trigger warning will prevent conversations that may be upsetting,” Shoemaker Richards stated in the article. “But they might force people in the class to think through their reactions a little more.”
Working full-time while attending classes, Shoemaker Richards earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Ohio University and felt she was a great fit for UF’s master’s of rhetoric and writing program. She plans to graduate in 2016.