By Kaila Eckstein
If you’ve been called a snowflake lately, it is my unfortunate duty to inform you that was likely not a metaphorical way of calling you unique or beautiful. No, snowflake is now an insult meaning that you are overly sensitive, prone to taking offense, and whiney. Snowflake began as a part of the ever-present criticism of millennials. A critique on the “participation trophy generation” now dubbed Generation Snowflake, a supposedly entitled generation of overly sensitive, delicate, snowflakes. Like many things in today’s world, the term snowflake soon became excessively politicized and divisive. The term became commonly applied to the left, a new storm of “liberal snowflakes” joined the generation of young adults. As a liberal millennial, I tend to take the overuse of this new term quite personally, as it seems to be a new identity that has been bestowed upon me.
The history of the term itself shows an interesting evolution. Snowflake was used in Missouri during the early 1860’s to describe someone who opposed abolition or hoped that the institution of slavery would survive the Civil War. The word resurfaced in popularity after its uses in a famous quote from Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 book Fight Club: “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone, and we are all part of the same compost pile.” This rather pessimist quote comes closer to the modern day meaning, though has not quite reached the fully degrading definition used today.
The reality behind those often referred to as snowflakes reveals a much more nuanced phenomenon. It is often those standing up for their rights, or the rights of others, that are accused of being an extremely delicate snowflake. Those that advocate for the respect of an individual’s pronouns, equality of gender, or the acknowledgment of police brutality are often those accused of being problematically offended. This is not only ironic because this kind of activism takes great strength, but because the word used to insult them was once allocated to people working against the issues they are fighting for.
The use of snowflake as an insult used to make me furious, and at times it still does. However, I soon realized that by the current definition I am in fact a snowflake. I am offended by transphobia, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, and so many more systems of oppressions. I am offended by the stark and egregious inequality that manifests in our society. I will continue to be offended and I will continue to work against it.
Respect our existence or expect frostbite (a snowflake’s resistance).