Trigger Art


Feminists and transphobic conservatives have found common ground in attacking Lena Dunham after the publication of her memoir revealed that her seven-year-old self had been curious about her sister’s vagina. Dunham creates trigger art, explains Sarah Seltzer at Flavorwire, intentionally igniting sensitive subjects. The problem isn’t the art, but the reaction:

So why would we adopt a scorch-and-burn (yes, there’s a #DropDunham hashtag) approach when we could instead say, hey, this person’s art — which, as such, is not in any way the whole truth of her life in context — is really triggering? Labeling something triggering differs from labeling someone a toxic, never-touch-again abuser and joining (whether gleefully or with sorrowfully clasped hands) a misogynist, rape culture-denying smear campaign started by a transphobic bigot.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →