3. Content Warnings

Even with warnings, stories can injure. Without them, they can become dangerous for many people to access. Content warnings are a feminist practice situated in collective care and self-care, designed to allow more people in by announcing upfront: here's what's coming; brace.

Efficient content warnings name specific triggers, but as Clare (2017) acknowledges, it's impossible to name or even recognize all the triggers in a project because I can't predict how readers will react to different stories or experiences (p. xx). Some readers may have a visceral reaction to stories about genocidal violence, while others might struggle with descriptions of medical trauma. Immersive or interactive content — like performance art, a text game about erasure in medical records, a visual novel about medical gaslighting, or mini-games simulating painervation — may harm some players, while others might engage without difficulty. Furthermore, this dissertation being a cybertext means that stories of trauma flow into stories of joy, and experiences of racism, sexism, and ableism converge like raindrops on a window into stories about successful self-advocacy. It's hard to assign individual labels to any one piece.

Still, I want to provide warnings of some kind in the spirit of disability justice, which understands that "all bodies are unique and essential; all bodies have strengths and needs that must be met; we are powerful, not despite the complexities of our bodies but because of them; all bodies are confined by ability, race, gender, sexuality, class, nation state, religion, and more, and we cannot separate them" (Sins Invalid, 2020). Like Clare (2017), I've compiled a shortlist of common triggers that pervade this project to help mitigate potential harms:

  • ableism,
  • death and dying,
  • descriptions and images of blood, bruising, excrement, and minor injury,
  • descriptions of suicidal ideation,
  • genocide,
  • intergenerational trauma,
  • medical trauma,
  • medical gaslighting,
  • mental illness,
  • needles and images of acupuncture,
  • profanity,
  • racism,
  • semi-nudity,
  • sexism, and
  • surgery

Finally, I constructed this dissertation so it can't be consumed all at once and can be a complete experience even if you can't consume everything. Be safe. Follow the mantra of this FMS/ME writer, and do no more than you can do.

(–131. Everything You Need to Know about What I Know about Pain)