Triggers – sometimes also called “microagression,” the idea is someone can be harmed emotionally if they hear or read something that causes them to remember, perhaps quite vividly and even to the point of re-experiencing, a traumatic event. (Note: if you look up ‘trigger,’ as I did you’ll find most of the definitions are coupled with guns, and bombs – which may be appropriate. I made up the definition here.)
Political correctness – the first definition that shows up on Google at the moment is: “the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.” They also add the noun, “political correctitude,” which I wish I had made up.
Personal responsibility – I hate the first definition I found which is, in part: “…the willingness to both accept the importance of standards that society establishes for individual behavior…” This strikes me as more accurate: ” … a person’s “response-ability,” that is, the ability of a person to maturely respond to the various challenges and circumstances of life.”
Implications for writers and maybe the rest of the world
The first thing to notice is how squishy each of these definitions actually are. There’s no way to completely avoid triggers because for all I know someone might be triggered by a phrase like “left handed monkey wrench” or “isn’t it a lovely day.”
Political correctness is a bit clearer, although subject to all sorts of interpretation and misinterpretation. Raising consciousness about writing that disparages or marginalizes anyone is mostly a good thing I think. I work at it even though I do wonder if we’re loosing our ability to laugh at ourselves.
As far as personal responsibility goes, as a writer I have absolutely no way of knowing how my reader may feel about this or anything else.
Three sieves or filters
The Daily Kos has a nifty article called Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Those are, of course, a pretty decent guideline for how to write about almost anything. And it’s the third question, “Is it necessary?” that allows me to speak out against wrongs and protest against injustice.
The Declaration of Independence, just for example, was not exactly kind to the then King of England, but it was necessary to speak up to effect the needed change.
While I’m unlikely to draft such an important document and perhaps you won’t either, we can’t let fear of triggers or political correctness stop us from writing what’s necessary. We can keep it true, and express our differences with compassion, but speak up we must. We simply need to be reasonably sure what we’re writing is true, reasonably kind or compassionate and necessary. The ‘think’ acronym shown in the image is also a good way to judge our writing.
You might also enjoy reading 9 Tips for Starting a Profitable Sustainable Freelance Writing Business.
Write well and often,
Just for signing up you can get my ebook, 3 Keys to Making Your Writing Pay when you subscribe to the newsletter – both at no cost to you.