5 November 2020

Are Millennial 'snowflakes' so aggravating because they're pretentious, or because they're right?

| Zoya Patel
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Climate protest 2019

Snowflakes or agents for change? Photo: Region Media.

It’ll come as no surprise to my regular readers here that I’m often called a ‘snowflake’.

In fact, some of you have probably called me a whiny millennial snowflake who’s too sensitive and pretentious on this very site. But lately I’ve been contemplating why it is that the character traits that typify being a ‘snowflake’ are considered so aggravating when they’re actually a product of social and political progress?

According to Wikipedia, “Snowflake is a 2010s derogatory slang term for a person, implying that they have an inflated sense of uniqueness, an unwarranted sense of entitlement, or are overly-emotional, easily offended, and unable to deal with opposing opinions”.

But in the more common usage, the term is rolled out whenever a young person calls out an issue of inequality, prejudice or identity, and is used to dismiss their views. In general, the constant pressure from young people to do better – to rid our vocabulary of derogatory and prejudiced language, to pay closer attention to privilege and taking up space from marginalised communities to being more conscious of the consequences of our actions – is often met with frustration and cries of ‘snowflakes’ to millennials who lack resilience and are too disconnected from the ‘real world’.

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Presumably, the ‘real world’ in this scenario is the world where power and privilege remain with rich white men without question, where gender inequality is considered the natural order of things, and where racism and homophobia are bad, but ultimately part of reality.

The resistance to the expectation from young people that we both can and should do better suggests a dissonance between the world that we think we’re creating and the one we actually are living in.

Look at it this way: when early feminists began pointing out the inequality in western democracies between men and women, they were labelled as hysterical, unnatural women and told to shut up. In ridiculing them, the patriarchal systems of power were able to discredit feminists and make it harder for their message to reach the women they were seeking to mobilise.

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Similarly, labelling every person who calls out cultural appropriation or racism, transphobia, homophobia or ableism as a too-sensitive ‘snowflake’ seeks to discredit what is actually a pretty simple message – that our actions and attitudes have consequences, and that we should all try and do better to question ourselves and be accountable.

Of course, there are elements of call-out culture and millennial social progressive politics that are more confronting and less productive than others. Cancel culture is a fundamentally unworkable approach to managing conflicts and negative behaviour from prominent individuals or brands. There has to be an end to the privilege stakes at some point, and I personally struggle with the notion of some people being ‘allowed’ to speak on issues according to their identity traits over others, feeling this toes the line of censorship a bit too closely.

Screaming snowflake

The scream heard around the world on the inauguration of Donald Trump became a global symbol of snowflakery. Photo: Screenshot.

But the core values that drive millennial snowflakes the world over are a quest for a more equal, just and fair society where individual characteristics are celebrated and acknowledged, and where diversity is a driving force in social and political change.

I’ve spoken in public previously about the ‘woke Olympics’, where everyone tries to demonstrate how much more ‘woke’ they are than others, in the decisions they make about what to eat, drink, wear, buy, watch or read, and how much they understand what they should or shouldn’t do depending on their privilege and level of diversity. I’m not a fan of this approach to political discourse, but I also have to admit that part of the reason why I don’t like it is because I’ve been called out before on my own problematic attitudes.

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Once, over a decade ago, a friend emailed me after reading an article where I used the word ‘retard’ flippantly, and pointed out that it was ableist language that really wasn’t OK for me to use. I felt defensive and annoyed and frustrated because I know I’m not an ableist person, and that I respect and care about experiences of disability. But then I thought about it, and acknowledged that whilst it’s uncomfortable to be called out, she was right and I apologised and rewrote the article.

I’ve had numerous versions of this experience over time, and each time I feel defensive at first, before realising that it’s an opportunity for growth, and that I should examine my discomfort and use it as a chance to change. Sometimes I disagree with what I’m being called out for, and then it’s about having the conversation and unpicking the issue with patience and respect.

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For many people, watching these dialogues unfold can feel frustrating and trivial. It can seem like unnecessary navel-gazing, or over-complicating things that have never been seen as problems before. Many of the fiercest critics of ‘snowflakes’ are people who grew up in a generation where these conversations were happening way outside the mainstream, and watching them unfold on the evening news and inside major broadsheets feels ridiculous and personally affronting.

But if you’re one of these people, I would recommend pondering why snowflakes incite such rage in you? What is it about seeking a better, more equal society that winds you up? Why is the sensitivity many millennials have towards other people’s unique experiences so offensive to you? Does striving to be a better person, who is more aware of diversity and inequality, a bad thing?

I’m prepared for the fact that Gen Z will be even more progressive than Gen Y has been, and that there are definitely going to be evolutions of woke culture that will make me feel disgruntled and annoyed when I’m confronted with them. But I hope I can take a step back and look at the bigger picture then, as so many people have done so now – and realise that people becoming more sensitive to injustice can only be a good thing.

I guess that makes me a snowflake.

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The first millennials are turning 40 this year. The youngest millennials are 25. If we are going with gross catch all descriptions wouldn’t you mean Zoomers?

in my experience the biggest ‘snowflakes’ generally reside on the right of politics. think of the perpetual outrage and vitriol of people like Pauline Hanson, mark Latham, Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and the like at anything they find offensive or disagree with. every time someone challenges Clive Palmer he threatens to sue them and bully them into submission.

Can you imagine any of the above writing a self reflective piece like the above, where they might think about their own views and the language they use and how it might impact on other people?

Their pointy little heads would explode. That lot doesn’t do introspection because they wouldn’t cope with what they find.

Dolphin,
do you honestly believe that the people you mention are representative of “the Right”?

Regardless, you could also easily give multiple examples of left wing media pundits whose behaviour is at least as shrill. Your examples would simply seem to be more a reflection of your own media tastes and biases rather than an objective assessment.

“Can you imagine any of the above writing a self reflective piece like the above, where they might think about their own views and the language they use and how it might impact on other people?”

Why would they? They believe that individuals are free to believe in and express their opinions. The fact that someone believes something you don’t shouldn’t affect or impact you and you shouldn’t try to control them if they don’t.

The problems only occur when you try to control other people’s freedoms to live their own lives as they see fit. And all sides of politics are guilty of failing in this area. But you can’t deny the type of people this article references are guilty of this type of behaviour and actively promote it.

Li Macnaughton2:18 pm 06 Nov 20

Which left wing pundits are you referring to?
My major issue with the right wing pundits is that they carry on about the “PC brigade” when all they are being asked for is politeness.
Keep your mind out of other people’s bedrooms, call people by the name they want to be called (I know plenty of people who don’t use their legal name for no other reason than they don’t like it), have a civil discussion based on facts, don’t assume someone is saying something they aren’t… Stop making outrageous comments about other people’s lives (like comparing homosexality to pedophilia or bestiality)
All the sorts of thing that would have been seen as polite and normal 50 years ago.

It always amuses me that people insist on manners and the ‘back in my day’ trope of being respectful, but they don’t extend that to people who ask that of them.

Capital Retro6:15 pm 05 Nov 20

They will all be ecstatic tomorrow when China confirms that they are stopping all imports of coal from Australia. What a leg up for climate change action that will be.

I hope they remember the day in the future when they are fighting for a cup of soup to exist on.

Capital Retro6:08 pm 05 Nov 20

The first thing to disappear when global warming, climate change etc. takes hold will be that the snowflakes will melt and there will be none to replace them.

Bring it on!

HiddenDragon5:52 pm 05 Nov 20

Probably no more pretentious than every previous generation which thought it was going to change the world, and every bit as likely as those earlier generations to have its idealism manipulated and exploited by self-serving groups and individuals.

petunia petal2:08 pm 05 Nov 20

Really impressed by the nuanced analyses from the social scientists below. Well done Riot Act. People who think bravery is being compelled to be cannon fodder in senseless wars, but who but also incidentally cried the most because “Dictator Dan” stopped them getting a haircut.

I can’t remember The Riotact becoming a Victorian website and discussing Dan Andrews performance.

What were you saying about “social scientists”?

Imagine if the snowflakes of 2020 were ever called upon to defend their country like those aged 18-35 had to do in 1939 against German and Japanese invasions. Would they?
Most Australians would rise to the challenge, except those who hide their cowardice and unwillingness to defend liberties and privileges they have inherited behind bleated self-serving feminist slogans.
A snowflake is something that just falls to the ground and melts.

Capital Retro8:38 am 08 Nov 20

As soon as their supplies of noodles were exhausted they would surrender. I am referring to the millennials, not the invaders.

Hi,

I’m Gen X, I guess, being born in 1969. But I have never been one for labels. Labels generalise legitimate issues, and often end up meaning something far removed from what the original intent was.

The author of this article sounds like a very reasonable, considerate, and understanding person. If this is what it means to be a “snowflake”, then sign me up.

I believe in the saying “all men are equal”. I know the wording of this upsets many people, because it is not gender inclusive, but to me, it means “everyone is equal” (even though this is not the case, in the real world).

But this is what we should be striving for. Equality for all, and a fair go for all. Regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, health, wealth, age, and so on.

But the older I get, the more I realise this is a pipe dream. There will always be those willing to break the law to get ahead, and to “rise above”.

This brings me to my other favourite saying: “evil wins when good men do nothing”. Again, this upsets many people, for the lack of gender-inclusiveness. And again, just replace “men” with “people”.

It is everyone’s responsibility to be a good person, and to call out those who are not good people. If we all did this then maybe, just maybe, we truly have a shot at equality for all.

The problem with this article is that it starts with a false premise, that younger “woke” people are simply trying to get people to be “better”.

They aren’t trying to make people better, they are trying to control others to do what they want, they are trying to reduce individual freedoms, to remove differences so that everyone thinks the same.

It’s simply an attempt to gain control and install their favoured political ideologies at all levels of societies.

When you let the person who can claim to be the most offended control the rules of discourse, you remove any chance of frank and open debates, you remove any chance of a free exchange of ideas.

The authoritarian streak of these people is anathema to an open and free society.

Capital Retro11:30 am 05 Nov 20

Best comment so far.

What utter rubbish. Who are they trying to ‘control’? Whose individual ‘freedoms’ are being reduced? Are you suggesting that not using terms people find offensive is somehow limiting your freedom? Is insisting that all people have access to the same rights you have somehow limiting your rights? Rights aren’t pie, there is enough for everyone you know. Good grief, talk about someone being offended by everything – and it isn’t the ‘woke’ young people. It is the miserable old codgers who think how things have always been done is how they should continue to be done, all because they have never had the sharp end of the stick.

Annie Mills,
Except it’s not rubbish, it’s 100% factual.

“Are you suggesting that not using terms people find offensive is somehow limiting your freedom?”

Are you seriously suggesting it isn’t?

If you allow someone to control other people’s language because they claim to be the most offended, how do you possibly think it doesn’t reduce freedoms? It’s a endless race to the bottom.

“Is insisting that all people have access to the same rights you have somehow limiting your rights?”

Except they aren’t, that’s the point. They are attempting to redefine what equal access means so that they convey additional rights and benefits to their selected groups. The scourge of identity politics should always be opposed.

Equality of outcome is not equality.

And I’m not remotely an “old codger”, just someone who can logically analyse evidence and can see the clear degradation of our society caused by people who can’t stand that others don’t think and act exactly the same way they do.

Your opinion is 100% factual? That’s funny.
How is using terms that offend someone controlling you? Are you suggesting that your ability to deride someone is more important than their existence? How does changing the name of a biscuit impact your life? If you think people having access to the same existence as you is limiting your rights then you are nothing but a self-entitled ass who thinks the world should revolve around them. Again, never had that sharp end of the stick have you. Never been singled out for the colour of your skin or your gender or because you were different. Walk a mile. But you don’t have the guts to entertain someone else’s lived experience and it shows.

Annie,
I didn’t say my opinion is 100% factual, I said the content of my comment is.

And I notice you didn’t actually answer my points, you’ve just gone off on a rant against an imaginary strawman that is not remotely based on what i’ve said.

Also interesting that you’ve gone straight to personal attacks when you know exactly zero about myself and my life. Hardly surprising for those who aren’t able to put a logical argument together though.

As the great Australian philosopher Jim Jefferies states, (paraphrased)

“Here’s the thing about millennials. You’re the worst people that have ever lived. You’re the worst. You’re just a horrible breed of people. And I don’t even blame you, it’s just the society you’re in. You have social media. Every single peanut thought that ever came into your head, “I’ll comment…” The idea that you think taking a photo of yourself, isn’t there something mentally wrong with that? And it’s not just… That’s– That’s bad. That’s bad as it is. But the fact that when you take that photo, your next thought is, “Other people might want to see this.” You’re the worst.”

Many Snowflakes are so annoying because they make claims about wanting fairness and equality but in reality are hypocritical racists who can be as bad as those they complain about.

Take a close look at the contradictory messages send such as:

Equality for all, but then want different laws and legal rights for different ethnic groups.

Not allowing parents to smack their children because corporal punishment is wrong, but then turning a blind eye to the acceptance of intentional corporal punishment by parts of Australia’s legal system.

A claimed belief in protecting the environment and endangered animals, but then accepting the hunting of endangered animals.

Being very vocal about cultural appropriation when it is performed by “white” peoples, but ignoring or even applauding it when it happens the other way around.

Being so vocal about the use of any phrase that can cause offence, but trying their best to turn the phrase “white male” into an insult by only ever associating negative things to it.

Snowflakes can justify all their contradictory opinions, but then so can all racists.

Obviously I don’t know you so I could be very wrong, but my guess is that you tick all the above points.

If you disagree, I can give real world examples and you can provide responses.

Please give me a real world example of where these snowflakes want different laws and legal rights for different ethnic groups.

Annie,
Just locally there are numerous examples of people wanting special laws to apply to Indigenous Australians to either give them additional rights or benefits based on their racial heritage.

It’s actually one of the big reasons why in the discussions around constitutional change, that many of these people don’t want the “race powers” removed, because it would stop the government making laws that benefited particular races.

It also goes to a more general theme in these discussions where if you can redefine what “equality” means, then you can justify all manner of discriminatory laws and policies to remove your version of “inequality”.

You said you would provide actual examples of special laws. What are they. Links please. And if you don’t think Indigenous people get a raw deal in this country then you are blind. Again, what laws are being implemented that target specific races? Show me.

Annie Mills,
Firstly, I’m not the original poster, so I never said I’d show you anything.

Secondly, the comment referenced said these people WANT to enact special laws, not that any had been already enacted, although there are examples of that too.

I’ve provided you an example of where people want to enact these types of laws, perhaps you should re-read the comments you’re actually responding to. If you want a link, here’s one discussing the very issue I mentioned:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-04/races-power-in-constitution-should-change-say-retired-judges/12312362

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