Natalia Cecire’s “On the ‘neoliberal rhetoric of harm’ “

Following the discussion on Halberstam’s piece, here is Natalia Cecire’s rightful critique giving voice to students and their own connection with shared trauma vs. experience.


I was disappointed to read Jack Halberstam’s recent essay on trigger warnings and the “neoliberal rhetoric of harm.” I agree with Robin James’s assessment— that there’s a real problem that JH is putting her^ his finger on, namely the potential for the language of trigger warnings (or, as second-wave feminists would have seen it, the language of “offense,” as opposed to “oppression”) to psychologize and individualize harm and render it unavailable to structural analysis. Moreover, such psychologization risks flattening all harm into the subjective experience of harm, making it difficult to distinguish between more and less crucial targets of critique. So far so good, and not so different from what many feminists already believe.

Where it goes off the rails is the suggestion that people engaged in social justice work need to, so to speak, “man up”:

‘In a post-affirmative action society, where even recent histories of political violence like slavery and lynching are cast as a distant and irrelevant past, all claims to hardship have been cast as equal; and some students, accustomed to trotting out stories of painful events in their childhoods (dead pets/parrots, a bad injury in sports) in college applications and other such venues, have come to think of themselves as communities of naked, shivering, quaking little selves – too vulnerable to take a joke, too damaged to make one.’

In short, an ostensibly feminist blog post about how feminists are humorless and need to lighten up is a little hard to take. No, having a pet parrot join the choir invisible is not as bad as lynching, but is that really what people are saying when they say they are sad about their parrot? Can we not have compassion for small griefs?”

Continue Reading on Cecire’s blog, “Works Cited.”


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