Snowflake

I have a theory that eventually Twitter is going to be 1/3 content and 2/3 just people calling one another “snowflake”. It’s a term that’s supposed to connote hyper-sensitivity / emotional fragility, but is always more instructive about the person who uses the term than it is about its target, as it informs the public of what that person deems worthy / unworthy of concern.

I think the perfect example of this is when MLB forced Cleveland to stop using its offensive logo during games, and the comments were divided into 2 groups: (1) people criticizing the MLB for caving to the demands of snowflakes who were unduly upset by a mascot and (2) people criticizing the snowflakes who were so upset over losing their mascot. The thought occurred to me while reading this exchange that, in a sense, they were both right: we were all being snowflakes. I’ve long found the Cleveland logo acutely upsetting because it dehumanizes Indigenous people, and those with the opposing stance were acutely upset that people wanted to take away a mascot they like.

But it also occurred to me that I didn’t mind being a snowflake, as long as I was being a snowflake for the right reasons. To the extent that it was being used to define me as being acutely sensitive to the feelings of those around me, I’d actually consider it a compliment. I mean, I think everyone would prefer to be friends with the person who asks if you have any allergies before hosting you for dinner over the person who always eats pizza that he didn’t chip in for and then mocks you for being a cry baby when you tell him it’s a dick move.

The whole idea of “snowflakes” comes down to the notion that some people, millennials in particular, are too “soft”; that because most of us haven’t had to go to war, we’ve had nothing better to concern ourselves with than “political correctness”. But here’s my thing: it’s not like our parents faced the draft. And while most millennials are perfectly happy to roll with the punches with everything from a rapidly evolving understanding of gender and sexuality to making physical and cultural changes to the workplace in order to better accommodate people who aren’t able-bodied white men, a lot of GenXers are hitting the roof over simple things like the prospect of sharing a bathroom with someone who was assigned a gender at birth different from that which they were assigned. Neither they nor I have ever been in battle, but I was unfazed when I had to use a coed drop toilet washroom in East Africa, meanwhile others seem to take near-pride in saying that they couldn’t have borne such “adversity”.

The fact that by and large neither millennials nor GenXers have had to go to war means that we’ve been able to focus on comfort. And it seems like the real divide is between those whose focus has been solely on their own comfort and those who are focused on extending comforts to people who have been historically ignored, oppressed, and marginalized – people who are snowflakes when things they like are taken away from them (like a mascot), and people who are snowflakes when they see injustice (like watching a culture be appropriated for literal sport).

So, sure: I’m a snowflake. I care about other people’s feelings… a lot. I’m very upset to think that people are suffering unnecessarily, especially when their discomfort can be alleviated by simple adjustments to behaviour. But that doesn’t mean I’m soft. I’m ready to have uncomfortable conversations, I’m ready to hear upsetting truths, I’m ready to make compromises, and I’m ready to fight for my snowflake values.

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