“Special snowflake.” A term loved by Trump supporters, Brexiteers, Tories, fans of Milo Yiannopoulos, racists, sexists, Piers Morgan, narcissists with oversized but fragile egos…. the list goes on really. You may have even been called one. I have. The first time it happened, I spent all day crying into my venti Starbucks mocha, wondering why life is soooo unfair (kidding).
It was a phrase actually first coined in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club – “You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.” Oh, how funny it would be if the homophobes who love throwing the term around knew it was coined by an openly gay author. Since then, it has come to represent the generation that became adults in the 2010’s, apparently defining people who get too easily offended – often applied to the political left. Probably the favoured insult of 2016, and thrown around liberally (punny) in the wake of Brexit and the US Presidential election, it suggests that young people think that they’re special, or that the world revolves around them.
It’s funny how everyone seemingly wants young people to get involved in politics, yet snap childishly when they raise issues concerning them, isn’t it? We’re criticised for not being politically engaged, then belittled by fusty right-wingers when we try. Michael Gove furiously branded people who protested against Brexit “deliberately obtuse snowflakes” (yes, this is really language used by an MP – what a great influence he is on the disenfranchised youth) and his patronising polemic is widespread in political circles in the UK and US.
More than anything really, “snowflake” is an incredibly lazy, easy insult for the alt-right to use. Someone online could literally write anything about injustice and some fired-up hyperpatriot will pipe up with “Aw, snowflake, you triggered?” Another favoured insult is a ‘SJW’ (social justice warrior). Do you really think someone campaigning for social justice will be upset when called a social justice warrior? Come on.
Oh, and remember when Piers Morgan dismissed people at the Women’s March as men-hating snowflakes? Well, Piers, you hacked a dead girl’s phone. Not much to say here.
A large part of the issue is the skewed notion of political correctness. Apparently, calling people out for racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and general xenophobia is ‘PC gone mad’ or ‘ooh, here comes the PC brigade.’ I mean, seeing as homophobic hate crimes increased by a quarter in 2014-2015, as well as an alarming increase in xenophobic hate crimes in the wake of Brexit, surely I have some leg to stand on here when I call out your shitty views? But oh, no. “It’s political correctness gone mad!” exclaims Dave from Wigan (plastic union jack flag taped in the window of his suburban house, England football top, holidays in Benidorm, pint in hand), upset that he can’t use the phrase “the gays” anymore.
Remember when students protested cultural appropriation at Yale and a lecturer said students should “relax a bit rather than labelling fancy dress Halloween costumes as culturally insensitive”? Imagine criticising young people for wanting the protect the culture of marginalised groups. Actually wasting your breath on articulating that thought when you could be, like, educating people. It blows my mind.
“Another libtard snowflake, sigh, if only they respected their VETERANS and JESUS as much as they love fighting against injustice” sighs anonymous white man after white man, hiding behind his Twitter profile and searching tweets containing the word ‘racist’ so that he can spend his sad little afternoon fighting people online. God, can’t he just be a white supremacist in peace like the good old days?
You may think that we’re fragile, but don’t underestimate the ‘weakness’ of snowflakes. In large numbers, we can cause an avalanche.