Susannah Breslin: Certifiable Asshole

Susannah Breslin, the writer who called feminism “cultural roadkill” has now taken it upon herself to mock the shit out of a very serious term: trigger warnings. You know, because it’s so uncool and passe to care about rape victims.
Her post on True/Slant today begins by calling us folks at Feministing self-victimizing, angry man-haters (*yawn*), setting the tone for this oh-so-expert account of contemporary feminism. What follows is joking banter about Feministing and other blogs’ use of trigger warnings with seemingly no knowledge of what they’re actually for:

I’ve noticed as of late a new addition to their bloggy style, which is the inclusion of the phrase, often IN ALL CAPS or TOTALLY BOLDED, which announces incoming SCARY content with a “TRIGGER WARNING.” WTF is a “trigger warning”? Yeah, I had to look that one up myself. Thankfully: Google.
According to Yahoo! Answers (which, BTW, is a great place to turn if you’re worried that having sex while pregnant could result in a pregnant fetus), a trigger warning is: “A warning placed in the title of an e-mail or post to let possible readers know that the content might trigger (or upset) them.” This seems different than the more widely used “spoiler alert,” which is used if you’ve seen a movie that other fanbois haven’t, and you want to reveal the ending, but you don’t want all your fanbois to freak the fuck out.
After some in-depth research (like, half an hour, maybe?), I was able to conclude that, for whatever reason, the feminists are all over their TRIGGER WARNINGS, applying them like a Southern cook applies Pam cooking spray to an overused nonstick frying pan. It’s almost impressive, really. I guess the idea is that blog posts are TOTALLY SCARY, and if you are EASILY UPSET, if you see a TRIGGER WARNING coming, you can look away REALLY FAST, or click elsewhere, so you won’t, you know, FREAK THE FUCK OUT.

But what’s funny about her “research” is that she happened to not find the second and third google results I came up with when searching, “trigger warning,” which are pretty clear explanations about how the language is used for survivors of trauma. I guess she missed these?
Actually, I don’t think she missed them at all. My guess is that Breslin knows exactly what trigger warnings are, but was intellectually dishonest about it so she could have the opportunity to make fun of feminists as irrational knee-jerks rather than come clean about trigger warnings’ real purpose: to help lessen the pain that sexual assault and trauma victims have gone through.
This is shitty journalism at its best. And I don’t know about you, but I’ll take being sensitive to survivors over too-cool-for-school feminist bashing any day.
A huge, heartfelt thanks to Shakes for coming to our (and survivors’) defense. Jill also has more.

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29 Comments

  1. imtheidealist
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Every idiot with a computer can post a blog.
    Didn’t realize it was suddenly “cool” or smart to make fun of the fact that some things might upset rape victims.
    People like this make me so angry either she really believes this bull or she posts it to get a reaction, either way complete waste of space……i believe the term is “organ donor” (aka all she is good for).

  2. redmuser
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    WTF?!?! That woman is a c*nt! I will say, for the record, that, being a woman with PTSD due to rape, I LOVE the fact that you guys post trigger warnings. I couldn’t read your site if you didn’t. Thank you for considering me, and many other people like me. And to hell with her.

  3. erinlaurel8
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I think you are 100% correct. The idea that someone could spend half an hour researching trigger warnings and not come away with a fairly in-depth understanding of their purpose is laughable. First, given the context in which they usually appear, I think it’s pretty obvious and TWO MINUTES on Google can confirm.
    Ugh. It’s so disheartening to see such virulent insensitivity and anti-feminism…

  4. Comrade Kevin
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m wondering what’s inspired this attack now. I’m certainly one of her targets along with others on this site, but what possibly could be her motivation?
    What is shocking is not the attacks but the complete lack of understanding any of the context.

  5. katemoore
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Of all the places I expected to see a sexist slur, a feminist blog sure wasn’t one of them.

  6. Heather Aurelia
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Douchebags like her make me more of a feminist. I just consider somebody like her more of a reason to get off my ass and do something….maybe tomorrow…lol, jk.

  7. Nora Rocket
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    You know what? May she be so privileged to live the kind of life that allows her to continue to be callous about the prospect of being triggered by coverage of sexual assault or gender- or gender-expression-based violence.
    It would be nice if no one had experiences that left triggers in them, but that’s the world we work for, not the one we live in.
    (Well, I guess some of us work for it…)

  8. Momus
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    She’s not warm enough or deep enough to be a cunt. :-p

  9. diazanon
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    I would rather live in a world with too many uses of “trigger warning” than not. Thanks to Feministing for being usually right on with applying that phrase.

  10. diazanon
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    also: I believe “cunt” to be a great word and one that shouldn’t be used as a pejorative. at least in my opinion.

  11. frolicnaked
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    My guess is that Breslin knows exactly what trigger warnings are, but was intellectually dishonest about it so she could have the opportunity to make fun of feminists…
    I have often heard the saying, “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
    I am now puzzling over whether Susannah Breslin can be adequately explained by stupidity. I think, though, you are probably correct.

  12. Bruce Godfrey
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    I think that the real meta here is not whether trigger warnings are meritorious, but rather whether Breslin knows no other way to eke out her 15 minutes of pseudo-fame. Do I know or care who or what she is? I still don’t; I could find out but I actually don’t care – sort of the way that she purported not to care about what trigger warnings actually are.
    I found her writing style mediocre and without wit, and her content derivative of every wingnut antifeminist I have ever read. Poor Susannah; she’s paid to write but be damned if she can do it with much flair. So to get traffic, she takes a lame, bad-faith cheap slap at feminist blogs; perhaps tomorrow she will mock Perez Hilton instead.

  13. MisukoB
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    She is ignorant and just makes me sad, and as Vanessa showed she probably ignored the reason behind using a trigger warning to. It feels typical when it comes to anti-feminists and the constant asshattery and bigotry from them.
    And looking above, using the C-word is just.. Using sexism to combat bigotry and ignorance is not gonna work. I understand the anger but it is also sad to see that on a feminist blog from a feminist.

  14. figleaf
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 4:29 am | Permalink

    Oh well, I guess that’s what she has to do to boost her hit count. I think Glenn Beck does the same thing.
    Since she does have a (minor) point that warnings that use asterisks and all-caps are a bit retro, and another (minor) point that other content (that Wikileaks.org video, for instance) could use similar warnings, I made a little graphic badge in Photoshop and posted it on my safe-for-work blog. There’s with sample HTML code for people who’d rather say it in pictures. Creative commons and freely distributable, of course.
    figleaf

  15. Brianna G
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Dude. No. Do NOT use that word, unless you genuinely believe that she has no value except as a sexual tool for others.
    That is the definition of that term. “A woman who has no value to anyone except to provide sexual services.” A woman who is reduced to her only remaining use, her sexual organs. At least in the context of calling a person that. If you want to refer to your genitals as that, that’s different.
    Consider the weight of your words. If you call any woman that, even meaning well, I would absolutely support her right to slug you. The connotation is very clear: You are telling her that she is stupid, worthless, unpleasant BUT her sexual organs can still be used, so she still has some value even though no one wants her except to have sex with her and leave her. You are saying she is nothing but her sexual organs– specifically, nothing but that organ which can receive a male penis. You cannot reclaim that word as a term for a human. You SHOULD NOT reclaim that word except as a term for genitalia.
    I would call a woman a bitch, I would even call her a slut before I would degrade her to the level that is calling her a c*nt. At least by calling her a slut I acknowledge that she can make sexual choices.

  16. Brianna G
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Before you use such a charged word, consider that that EXACT WORD is VERY popular with those who want to degrade women, through rape or other means.
    That word can be more triggering than any story out there. I don’t know what kind of person responds angrily to a person (yes, she IS a person, whatever you want to believe) by saying she has no value except as a passive sexual object because she doesn’t acknowledge the pain rape victims go through.

  17. Her Idealisticness
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I don’t know about you guys but the only reason I am a feminist is because I am an ANGRY MAN HATER.
    /bored sarcasm.
    She needs to come up with something original and of substance tbh.

  18. MisukoB
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Yeah, and considering how many press like I guess most readers here see no problem with sexist slurs against women. Like I said earlier, in my post that has not been approved yet, I understand the anger because I felt it to. But the anger just made me say “asshat!”.

  19. adag87
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Just an FYI, she has a new post up that tries to make herself look like the smarter person. i.e., her original post has “trigger warning” in the title but you all read and now I’ve got you because SEE?! Trigger warnings don’t work!
    Booo. Sometimes I think it’s pointless to get through to someone whose very argument seems to draw upon circular reasoning, again and again.

  20. TabloidScully
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Um, to everyone who hates the word “Cunt,” has nobody read Inga Muscio’s tome on the subject? Just curious.

  21. syndella
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe that a supposedly feminist website will let a gendered slur against a woman stand.

  22. Unequivocal
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    You cannot reclaim that word as a term for a human. You SHOULD NOT reclaim that word except as a term for genitalia.
    Yep. Which is why diazanon specifically and clearly stated that she doesn’t think the word should ever be used as a pejorative.

  23. EGhead
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    It saddens me that only someone like Susannah Breslin will get called on this, whereas Amanda Marcotte…
    “Now you know how trigger warnings often make me feel—disappointed. I don’t like feeling like prominent feminists think an incident in my past makes me too broken to deal, and I want this to be a place where survivors who don’t appreciate the trigger treatment can go.”
    (http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/diversity_of_tone_safe_spaces_and_trigger_warnings/)
    Apparently trigger-warnings are an insult if they don’t apply to you, because the assumption is then that you’re”too broken to deal”. Yup, that’s me– too broken.

  24. AmandaB
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    That is very true. If there was a need for no triggers the world WOULD be a better place, but it isn’t. Being sensitive to those who have experienced such pain is called being compassionate and understanding.

  25. Swift
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    Yes – I understand reclamation of the word, redefining it in terms of female sexuality being a good, positive thing. But that’s not what happened here – the word was clearly intended as an insult, a weapon, a way of describing a woman in negative terms. That is the exact opposite of reclamation.

  26. T-Monster
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    I know I’m ridic late on this.
    Using cunt is never ok, and should be dissected, probably in a whole post, but I get the original poster’s anger. As a survivor of rape I’m knee-jerk angry. It’s hard sometimes to respond without using language that further degrades women, but no matter how old the wound is, it still feels pretty damn fresh to me.
    I WANT to have an intellectual response to my anger. I understand that and feel that “cunt” is not the way to express how I feel about a woman hating on other women, but sometimes, patriarchal influences just push their way through my language. And it’s a struggle to articulate myself appropriately. Hell, it’s a struggle to think in language that best represents what I’m feeling.
    I guess I’m rambling, but the original OP said exactly how I felt when reading this, much to my shame.
    What I’m saying is that it’s hard. It’s just damn hard to deal with what’s happened to me, no matter how much I evolve as a survivor… and I get not being able to articulate it the way I mean it. The meanest words, patriarchal or not, shove their way out sometimes.

  27. TabloidScully
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I don’t disagree with you’re saying at all–I think the poster who opted to use it as an insult must be unaware or unsupportive of the reclamation movement. However, I was taken aback by the number of comments that were saying not to use the word because it’s offensive and meant to degrade women solely to passive sexual objects.
    So, just to be clear, I don’t think the original use of “cunt” on this thread was the correct verbage to be empowering. But I also didn’t hear a lot of people presenting the theory that to reclaim the word is to deny reducing women to passive sexual objects.

  28. Brianna G
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen many women who call themselves feminists try to reclaim it as a word for women, much the same way the LGBTQI community reclaimed “queer.” Actually, Feministing has done it occassionally in the past too, using it in much the same way “bitch” is used as a reclaimed word, which I think is incredibly inappropriate.
    My point is that just because some women reclaim it only as a word for the sexual organs, doesn’t mean other women aren’t trying to reclaim it as a non-perjorative term for women.

  29. PeggyLuWho
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I have to say, thanks 100,000,000 times for the warnings, because panic attacks are not a productive use of my time.

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