Feminist prof says trigger warnings ‘imperative’ for learning

Toni Airaksinen
New York Senior Campus Correspondent

  • An educational psychology professor at New York University recently wrote an academic journal article arguing that "trigger warnings" are "imperative" to developing critical thinking skills.
  • Nirit Gordon asserts that criticism of trigger warnings is a form of misogyny, since "emotional proclivities are equated with femininity" in society.
  • A self-described “feminist” professor at New York University is urging colleagues to use trigger warnings in the classroom, arguing that they are “imperative” to critical thinking skills.

    Trigger warnings and the unformulated experience” was published in the latest issue of the journal Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Society by Nirit Gordon, who teaches classes on educational psychology and counseling skills for both undergraduate and grad students. 

    "Resist the false dichotomy that allows only thoughts, and not emotions, in the classroom."   

    In her essay, Gordon hypothesizes that trigger warnings are widely dismissed and criticized not because they’re inherently problematic, but because society pressures people to “dissociate” from their emotional side, and that trigger warnings detract from that. 

    [RELATED: Prof: Triggers warnings a ‘serious threat’ to teaching English]

    While she acknowledges that “it could be argued that the debate here is about the psychic fragility of college students who refuse to confront issues,” Gordon argues that the underlying issue is actually “the fear of instructors to permit the personal to enter the classroom.” 

    Further, Gordon frames criticism of trigger warnings as a form of misogyny, since “emotional proclivities are equated with femininity,” and thus, the use of trigger warnings is but one way emotions can appear in the classroom. 

    “Feminist theory argues that the division between the public and the private is rooted in a patriarchal narrative” Gordon explains, later adding that it is the duty of educators to “resist the false dichotomy that allows only thoughts, and not emotions, in the classroom.” 

    The use of trigger warnings—which would help allow more emotional content in the classroom—would especially help minority students, Gordon argues.

    [RELATED: Prof: ‘Valuing emotion as knowledge’ fights ‘white identity’]

    “Returning to trigger warnings, it is important to keep in mind that many students advocating for trigger warnings are saying that they must navigate the world as a member of a marginalized group,” she writes, adding that colleges are “historically white and male.”

    Gordon concludes by arguing that “trigger warnings have become a symbol of voices wishing to be heard. These are voices from which we dissociate, but we know they exist.” 

    Campus Reform reached out to Gordon for comment, but did not receive a response. Her article was published in a special issue of Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Society dedicated to the controversy over safe spaces and trigger warnings. 

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen





    Toni Airaksinen

    Toni Airaksinen

    New York Senior Campus Correspondent
    Toni Airaksinen is a New York Campus Correspondent, where she reports on free speech issues and social justice research. She is a senior at Barnard College, majoring in Urban Studies and Environmental Science. She is also a columnist for PJ Media, and formerly held a post with USA TODAY College, The Columbia Spectator, and Quillette.
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