Tackling Triggers in the Blogosphere

This is a cross-post I did at WeAretheRealDeal. View it here or after the jump. Comments were accidentally closed last night — see all comments at WATRD.

43965_f520The toughest part about blogging here on a body image advocacy blog is actually what makes this blog so unique and exciting: we have a broad, diverse audience.

Which means a lot of opinions, and opportunity for a lot of exciting dialogue.

Our audience ranges from women with eating disorders, women who are in recovery, women who are dieting, women who are athletes/fitness buffs, women who subscribe to the Healthy At Any Size movement, women who struggle with body image, overweight women who believe in the Fat Acceptance movement, and women who fit none–or many–of these descriptions.

Noting that we can’t please everyone, we’ve tried really hard here to be open-minded and proactive, following certain posts and the commentary that ensued. Listening to your feedback, we’ve tried to be more inclusive, and add a broader range of voices to the blog.

But one area that we keep coming back to is the notion of triggers: what is a trigger to one woman isn’t necessarily a trigger to someone else. And how sensitive should we, as bloggers, be about triggers, recognizing how diverse our audience is?

For example, we’ve posted a couple emaciated models here in certain relevant posts. Some women might be instantly repulsed and feel sorry for the model, but aren’t triggered by it to engage in any destructive behaviors.

But equally important, someone else might see that and suddenly they start over-exercising or purging to attain some impossible “ideal.”

MamaV, for example, believes life is a trigger and has made it clear that on her blog, MamaVision, she doesn’t shy away from pro-ana images or videos.

After all, as she notes, these things exist and while they might be “triggering” to someone with an eating disorder–or someone predisposed to one –stuffing these images under the proverbial carpet and pretending they don’t exist solves nothing. Because triggers are everywhere.

On the other hand, I experienced this week another aspect of triggering: unintentional comparisons.

In “Dressing for Me” I talked openly about my “happy size,” my current size, and the size up from that I bought when my current size wasn’t available in the pants I wanted.

I talked about, in the end, accepting the pants and loving how they fit my body, long and flowy … but that comparison of my three “selves” was upsetting/triggering to some — making them feel inadequate or as though I’d look down on them for their size (not true, of course).

I gave a lot of thoughts to the comments, and decided that although posting sizes is triggering to many on this board, I wasn’t going to delete them from the post because then I wouldn’t be authentically me; the sizes were relevant to the experience.

On the flip side, I decided that going forward, I’d be more sensitive to sharing numbers — using them sparingly, if at all.

But even if none of us ever describe ourselves using numbers or sizes … the truth is, triggers are everywhere (turn on the TV, visit a Web site, walk into a mall, sit at a bar, attend book club, go to the beach, look at a billboard), and it’s not easy to ignore them.

And triggers are not easy to qualify, since one person’s trigger could be another person’s inspiration, depending on their frame of reference.

An anonymous poster over at my blog, Tales of a (Recovering) Disordered Eater, had this to say in the comments following my post “Being Mindful of Size Sensitivities”:

“GIANT DE-LURK. I know you wanted input from your long-time readers on this but I wanted to give the perspective of someone who has lurked but never commented. I have been a big lurker over at WATRD since pretty much the beginning. I read your post and was going to de-lurk there.

But when I read the comments that had already been posted I decided not to. What I hoped was going to be a discussion about our different self-judgements centered around sizes/shopping and learning to overcome them had turned into yet another episode of The Trigger Police.

Look, we all have triggers. If we’re reading WATRD most of them probably have something to do with weight/body image issues. I’m trying to recognize and work toward removing my triggers. There seem to be a lot of commenters who are doing nothing but reading postings looking for things that pull their triggers. And then they hi-hjack the discussion turn it into a whole my trigger-trumps-yours thing.

I’m trying to NOT live my life based on triggers. I’m looking for people who are trying to find common ground in an amazingly diverse world. I don’t need yet another place where it’s all about someone telling me that if I do not think/feel/act exactly as they do I am ‘less than.’ I’m trying to get away from protecting my triggers.

Because the more I respond to them, the more I talk to others about them, accuse them of pulling my triggers, the more powerful my triggers become.

Although I enjoy the posts at WATRD I may have to stop reading the comments because the trigger-trump environment is really unhealthy for me.”

What do you think about Anonymous’s comments? What do you think about “triggers?” And do you find our posts triggering, the comments that ensue, both, or neither? Are there blogs you’ve stopped reading because you found them to “triggering”?

These questions aren’t being asked to necessarily change our comments policy, but rather because we are curious to know what you think about triggers.

We’re open to evolutions here, and your feedback is important to us. We recognize we can’t be everything to everyone, but we can be something to someone.

And we’d like that someone to be you …

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