Douchebag Decree: Oh, Susannah Breslin...

Susannah Breslin reared her post-feminist head again when she published a post explaining her "discovery" of trigger warnings on feminist blogs, subsequently dismissing them as "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 F*CK OUT." If you'd like more of her insensitive BS, it's a quick, thoughtless read.

Not surprisingly, reactions came quickly, from


We will go on with our man-hating selves, and you, S, can go on harping on the feminists who type two words in a tiny effort to make life a little bit easier on sexual assault survivors (you know, those people who are "easily upset" and might "freak the fuck out"). Definitely keep using your platform to focus on the really good and important stuff, like telling rape survivors to quit being such whiney titty-babies. I think Gandhi said that once.


We provide trigger warnings because we know that 1 out of every 6 women and 1 out of every 10 men is a survivor of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault, many of them having survived multiple sexual assaults, and just because the larger culture doesn't acknowledge the existence of this vast population of people doesn't mean we don't have to.

One hopes you will take this information on board and reconsider whether it's not that the ladies of Feministing and their readership are, in fact, too sensitive, but perhaps it's that you were simply not sensitive enough. Because, I gotta be honest, I'm pretty sure I could make a decent case that ridiculing a feminist site for being thoughtful to survivors is evidence of not being sensitive enough with two hands tied behind my back.

and Feministing:

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.

Breslin then responded to the just backlash with a second post explaining "Why trigger warnings don't work" (having obviously become an expert on them since half an hour of research several days prior), concluding that "trigger warnings crystallize everything that is wrong with the current state of the feminist movement."

As many of you probably know, this is only the latest attempt of Breslin to latch on to something on the internet and declare it the embodiment of a suffering feminist movement, never missing an opportunity to relate how shocked she is people still call themselves feminists. There was "Has Feminism Gone Too Far?" questioning Jezebel's critique of a GAP ad (Sady Doyle answered hat one). Or the infamous "Yes Virginia, Feminism really is dead," trounced by Kelsey here, and my personal favorite Breslinism, a description of Feminism regarding the critique of a Ms. magazine cover: "Feminism lies like a beached octopus, tentacles thrashing in all directions, looking for anything upon which it may find purchase, desperately seeking to be relevant again." ("I mean really")

a humongous octopus lies on the beach. some humans stand and marvel in its presence.
This is what feminism looks like!

I have to agree with Vanessa at Feministing, Breslin's recent and lazy critique of trigger warnings is just her playing dumb, the admittedly ill-researched but provoking posts smack of the Sexist Media Stunt. But beyond the inflammatory and oddly-concluded content of the articles, Breslin's posts fail and flop for another reason. The second post on trigger warnings hardly makes a lick of sense (to wit: "Ergo, the trigger warning is its own trigger."), especially by placing a cover of the Feminine Mystique to go with it, and Breslin's lack of coherency is because she's finally run right into the feminism she has consistently dismissed as nonexistent (who's sending you the hate mail for Pete's sake?).

Never choosing to look at the reasoning behind critiquing pop culture, her arguments thus far have centered around "Haven't you seen Tool Academy? It hurts men! And therefore feminism is irrelevant!" (actually a Breslin argument!) But when bringing in sexual assault issues, she has no solid ground to stand on. Trigger warnings are the cyber version of a safe space, and center around a central tenant of feminism--choice. They're not used to further sensationalize a graphic description (as if feminist blogs write about rape because we think it improves our ratings in the male 18-34 category), but a two-word announcement for people to choose to read on or pass over depending on their preference, a choice that isn't always granted when mainstream coverage of news features unbridled graphic (if not pornographic) descriptions of sexual assault, or mis-genders someone who's trans, or details abuse of people with disabilities. Trigger warnings are not there to gloss over something traumatic or make it go away, they (again! two words! in a blog post!) take into account different people's experience when covering certain issues.

On her own blog, Breslin's responded to the just backlash with the following:

I've been proclaimed a certifiable asshole, willfully ignorant, an invalidator, cruel, mocking, Glenn Beck-esque, an "Internet tough guy," "Teabaggerian," basely ignorant and lacking in empathy, simple, "a fucking tool," "an unsophisticated thinker," worse than moronic, "dangerous," a crappy journalist, a poor googler, lacking in analytical skills, someone who can use my "melon as a hat rack," a troll, "disgusting," a "supercilious asshole," "warped," incapable of empathy, intellectually dishonest, a "Sister F***er," "purposely obtuse and beyond help," and "the kind of person who'd take [my] Vietnam-veteran granddad to see The Deer Hunter without warning him that it's not actually about hunting deer."

The zombie-feminists have spoken Susie, and you can add one more to the list: douchebag.

by Kjerstin Johnson
View profile »

Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

Still Reading? Sign up for our Weekly Reader!

8 Comments Have Been Posted

The term douche bag is

The term douche bag is actually quite derogatory and indirectly oppresses women. I thought a "feminist" magazine would know that.

Trigger Warnings = Essential

Breslin's ignorance is astounding. Trigger warnings are not only crucial to the maintenance of well-being for sexual assault survivors and members of groups often targeted by predators, they're also essential to anyone with PTSD of any kind, be it from sexual abuse or any other trauma; sufferers of OCD, among other mental illnesses, who at times can't read anything remotely graphic without lapsing into paralyzing anxiety attacks (I fall into this category); and those, for whatever reason, are just plain ol' squeamish. The argument that people who need trigger warnings are just overreacting is a slap in the face to anyone I just described.

I’m not against a

I’m not against a substantive discussion of the use and potential overuse of trigger warnings, but that's not really what Breslin is prompting. After all, a real discussion of the effectiveness of trigger warnings would likely require more than 30 minutes of google research and should probably include feedback from sexual assault survivors and blog readers themselves. The other thing that signals this as a sexist media stunt and seals Breslin's douchiness, is that in the face of mounting feedback that she hasn't made a clever or thought-provoking observation, she hasn't retracted, amended or clarified her statements about Trigger Warnings.
You said something dumb, nobody agreed and you got flamed, Breslin. Stop trying to make a career out of it. Sheesh.

She actually has made a career out of it

<p>Interestingly, Breslin has actually based much of her writing career on just this kind of specious writing. Back around the time Bitch launched in 1996, she and a fellow hater had a site called the Postfeminist Playground, whose raison d'etre was, &quot;Feminism's over, stop whining about victimhood, why can't all women be as cool as WE are?&quot; Since then, much of her writing has been based on the presumption that feminism has achieved its goals, in that she and her similarly privileged pals have jobs and agency and can, you know, be awesome, not-victimy women that men find super-attractive, so why can't other women just SEE THAT and stop complaining about their stupid problems? It's the worst kind of &quot;I have an unbrella, therefore it's not raining&quot; cluelessness, but in Breslin's case it's also deeply mean-spirited. </p><p>And the fact that she has had such a long career in feminist-bashing is why that whole trigger-warning piece is possibly the most intellectually dishonest piece she's written. Someone who's been dissing feminism for more than 14 years has never heard of trigger warnings and has to go on Yahoo Answers to find out what they're all about? Total shenanigans. Even if she really believes the crap she spouts and has no compunction about telling rape and sexual abuse survivors that they're babies, she should at least be embarrassed that her disingenuity is so freakin' obvious.</p><p>You have to wonder why women like Breslin (and her pal Lydia Netzer, who appears to be the only person popping up to defend her on the various sites where this controversy has been discussed) are so very invested in proving that feminism is pointless and annoying. If it's so irrelevant, why waste their energy? </p>

Gotta love her dogged

Gotta love her dogged self-delusionment. Here's her personal blog post of today:

"After a while, the whole thing got kind of depressing, not because of comments like, "She's not warm enough or deep enough to be a cunt," but because a) critiquing feminism is like shooting fish in a barrel, b) any purported counterargument amounted to "you're stupid," and c) it is too often the case on the internet that there is a profound lack of formidable opponents."

Yeah, I agree that intelligent, rational commentators are not her equals in the "formidable opponent" category.

'bout time!

She ranks right there with Camille Paglia ... someone else I am anticipating saying something worthy of your Douchebag Decree declaration on the horizon.

Feminism and Research

All I want to know is how can feminism be dead? The movement is alive and kicking. In fact, it's certainly kicking hard enough for someone like Breslin to notice that someting's in the air. I agree with the other bloggers on here that she really just needs to learn how to research and examine both sides of the story before tyring to form an argument. That act-like-you-know-something-because-you're-a-big-shot doesn't fly around here.

Add new comment