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The Snowflake Debate

Tallulah Belassie-Page-

Millennials, a.k.a ‘Generation snowflake’, the avocado-loving Instagramers responsible for censoring free speech. These are just some of the myths perpetuated by the media about the younger generations, now homogenised by the stamp ‘Millennial’. This umbrella term has come to denote many things, but what does ‘Generation snowflake’ really mean?

In a 2018 article The Sun defined the term, as “young people who think they are special and unique, like real snowflakes”. According to them, the “term is used to describe an overly sensitive person who thinks the world revolves around them. Snowflakes gasp in horror when they hear an opinion they don’t like”.

It may be impossible to ignore the familiar hyperbolic intonations common to the publication, yet the colloquial tone masks a far darker message. Not a far cry from the ‘political correctness gone mad’ line often cited by the right, this view of the younger generation’s drive towards grass-roots activism only serves to dismantle the work many put into staying informed, or ‘woke’.

It is true that the younger generations are more open to speaking about the harm caused by certain topics of conversation, and the mental damage it may cause those affected. It is also true that misogyny and racism often masquerades as ‘free speech’ rhetoric, which it is imperative for us to unmask. Our editors weigh in on the ‘snowflake’ debate after a recent debate at the ACCA, which tackled the issue head on.

Mollie Lindsay-Bush-

There is an overwhelming feeling that pervades young people: we need to have a huge impact on how the world works. It’s ingrained in our society, through the extensive use of social media, that we need to be #livingourbestlife. This intense desire to make a change, with the tool of social media, gives young people, and others, the platform to do just this.

The idea that we are all living our best lives, which is portrayed through photos on the Internet, is deeply flawed. This phenomenon perpetuates unrealistic ideas of how a millennial should be living. Whether that’s entering the property market, getting a promotion at work, or being increasingly popular on Instagram. These notions create feelings of anxiety and depression for many young people, which is could be why the words ‘sensitivity’ and ‘offended’ are being coined to describe our generation. Yet what is the impact on us millennials?

The term itself entered the populace during the tumultuous events of 2016, including the EU Referendum results in which a divide became apparent between younger and older generations. It then proceeded to be added to the OED in January 2018.

Derogatory, informal: An overly sensitive or easily offended person, or one who believes they are entitled to special treatment on account of their supposedly unique characteristics.

  • ‘these little snowflakes will soon discover that life doesn’t come with trigger warnings’
  • ‘these parents think their kid is such a special snowflake that they should be allowed to circumvent the rules’

 

Do we complain, or get easily offended, and yet sit there and do nothing about it? Or are we too overly offended and make a change on something that doesn’t need to be changed, i.e. Kleenex scrapping of man-size tissues, or an article last month by the BBC titled, ‘Should women be spelt womxn?’

The most common searches of Generation Snowflake have come from universities, where the Independent last month addressed the issue surrounding fancy dress. The University of Kent’s student union wanted to ban offensive fancy dress such as Tories, chavs and cowboys. The article stated that this provoked ‘an angry response from students’. So where is the ‘snowflakiness’ here? The student union wanting to ban these outfits, or other students being furious at this ban?

The confusion surrounding the term ‘Generation Snowflake’ begs the question of whether it is even a real thing. It seems to have been built up in the media, constructed to criticize the power of young people’s’ voices in today’s society, alongside the power of the Internet and social media. Many people, millennials included, have probably never even heard of the term. This seemed to be the general feeling at the ACCA’s first ‘The Exchange’ event that took place on Thursday 15th October.

The Exchange encompasses live events and digital content to spark ideas and perspectives, ranging in and out of the university, about current social and political topics. It is a place to think critically and challenge viewpoints. And what better way to start the series of events with a millennial standoff.

Yet, as previously stated, the overall feeling from the event stemmed from whether this should have even been a term in the first place. Most of the panelists seemed confused by the term itself, questioning the generation generalization, but also the progressing society in where you have the freedom to be offended and make a change.

Solomon Curtis stated on Thursday evening that the term and topic is an elite discussion in an elite bubble with little relevance to what is happening in our society. The debate isn’t whether we are snowflakes, its why was this term even formed into existence.

Reflecting on a previous article featuring an interview with Gina Martin, she held a firm belief that injustice against women was being played out in society. Was she sensitive about the subject of upskirting? Yes. Did she do something about it to make a change? Yes.

From the activism of this woman alone, I think this is a pretty good indication of our generation continuing to fight the equality and justice in Britain and across the world that is now ‘snowflakey’.

The panelists themselves, hosted by Dr Sharif Mowlabocus, a Senior Lecturer in Media and Digital Media at the University of Sussex included a brilliantly diverse range of young people seeking to make differences in the world:

Solomon Curtis, an engaging speaker with skills in political communication and social enterprise, who was also a Labour Candidate for MP, Brighton Pavilion last year;

Alon Harshak, a freelance educator and researcher supporting young people, refugees and asylum seekers;

Grace Campbell, a writer, comedian and activist, who co-founded The Pink Protest and wrote and starred in Riot Girls on Channel 4;

Edward Wilson, a current student at Sussex who participated in the free speech society Liberate the Debate as well as holding the position of vice-president of the conservative society.

With three out of four panelists being a former or current university of Sussex student, these people are showing their innovation into the world, and precisely how this term generation snowflake is potentially irrelevant.

These vibrant panelists are young people seeking to change the way the world works by their views and their ways of thinking. They all participate in societal and political issues to become stronger members in society. Solomon and Alon have been involved in working with young people for many years, and Grace has used her comedic abilities to make light of injustices in society in her Channel 4 programme Riot Girls.

The term ‘Generation Snowflake’ with its assumptions of complaining, offending and laziness is not what is reflecting in the millennials we see on the news, and particularly within our communities. Campaigns and organisations around the UK dealing with gun and knife crime, refugees, domestic abuse, and environmental matters, all have significantly high numbers in the amount of young people working and volunteering. The term is yet to provide any relevancy in our day-to-day lives.

Rachel Badham-

‘Generation Snowflake: Fact or Fiction?’, which took place at the ACCA, explored a question that has been debated greatly in recent years: is the younger generation overly sensitive? It is widely regarded, particularly within the media, that millennials are easily offended for trivial reasons, hence the term ‘snowflake’; the younger generation supposedly believe that they are more and unique than others. However the debate highlighted that the issue is not quite as two dimensional as this.

The debate opened with several video clips of Sussex students voicing their opinions on the topic. Statements ranged from, ‘generation snowflake is true in some respects as we have more access to information telling us what is politically correct’, and, ‘I think we are easily offended but we’re also more accepting’, to ‘it’s a way of putting down informed people; you shouldn’t chastise people for having an interest in the wider world around them’.

It was generally regarded amongst the panel, with the occasional exception of Wilson, who stated that sometimes we have to just ‘crack on with things’, that ‘generation snowflake’ is a fictional construct. Curtis argued that the term has been ‘created by the media’, and Harshak added to this by suggesting that it is in fact ‘society that has the problem’ and not young people. Campbell then stated that ‘I really don’t think that generation snowflake is a real thing’.

The four panellists discussed the problematic nature of the term ‘generation’. Wilson highlighted that it is not only our generation that can be sensitive, and Campbell continued to state that the term ‘snowflake’ is one that is ‘used to minimize young people and shut them up’, and even went as far to say that those who apply the term to young people are in fact those who are afraid of the power the younger generation possesses.

Another key discussion that took place within the debate was that of freedom of speech and echo chambers. Wilson believed that if we deny somebody’s right to an opinion on the basis that we disagree, or are offended by it, this defeats the point of free speech. Therefore the argument was made that even though we may disagree with someone, they should still be allowed a platform to voice their opinions.

It was highlighted by all panelists that when we only interact with those who harbour similar opinions to our own, an echo chamber is formed, which may defeat the point of democratic discussion, by not allowing for engagement with alternative views. Campbell, in agreement with the other panelists, stated that denying certain people platforms ‘closes conversation and causes divisions’.

This raises the issue that whilst interaction with a variety of opinions is a good thing, some opinions may spread views that encourage inequality, intolerance and even violence. Wilson was adamant that banning speakers from Universities, which has been seen at intuitions such as Bristol University, in order to avoid causing any students offence is solely negative in that it reduces free speech, and argued that this behaviour could be labeled as somewhat ‘snowflakey’.

Yet Harshak argued that despite the importance of free speech, ‘we still need to be careful as not to spread intolerance’, as language can easily be translated into acts of violence. Campbell also pointed out that ‘we should be allowed to be offended’ at comments and actions that spread intolerance, and to label someone a ‘snowflake’ for being offended is to deny that person their right to stand up to inequality and intolerance.

Controversy surrounding potentially offensive comedy and the ‘overly sensitive’ reactions of millennials was further explored, questioning whether or not we have the right to be offended at jokes. People are often labeled as ‘snowflakes’ if they take offense to something that was intended as a joke. Yet even small acts such as jokes may become part of a bigger, more harmful culture, such as rape culture.

Finally, the debate turned to the important topic of mental health within the younger generation, as sometimes it is said that the high prevalence of depression, anxiety and other issues in young people is a result of there being a lack of resilience amongst them. Mental health issues affect approximately one quarter of all young people, and all panelists held the belief that struggling with mental health was not a sign of weakness and it’s wrong to criticise the younger generation for this.

Campbell and Wilson both suggested that previous generations had also suffered from mental health ‘epidemics’, but a public discourse had not yet been formed around the topic. They then stated that it was actually a positive thing that the younger generation has a more open discourse surrounding mental health, and is not ‘snowflake behaviour’.

Ultimately, the debate did not come to a solid conclusion as to whether ‘generation snowflake’ is a factual or fictional concept, however the overall consensus seemed to be that we cannot generalise such a large group of people in this fashion. Whilst engaging with those who have different viewpoints to ourselves is a positive thing, we do have the right to be offended by discourses that spread intolerance and violence.

Following the debate, a selection of students were asked how they feel about ‘generation snowflake’ after listening to a variety of opinions surrounding the topic. One student said that ‘I found the debate to be eye opening and engaging. It highlighted ideas of hypersensitivity in the youth, the impact of the media and the conflict between freedom of speech and ‘no platforming’, both online and in university contexts’.

Another student said that ‘the debate, whilst interesting, didn’t change any of my pre-existing opinions on the issue. The term ‘generation snowflake’ has no relevance outside the media, and to me is often just used by the right wing as a snide insult to undermine oppositional views which may pose a threat to them’.

One of our features editors, Mollie Lindsay-Bush, stated that ‘social media, online newsfeeds and the Internet in general has a huge effect on everyone, not just on the younger generation. Everyone is capable of finding something offensive. We are living in an increasingly diverse society where crucial issues such as institutional racism and period poverty are being tackled, but these changes do not happen overnight. People need to continue to act in order to avert these crises. If the media is more concerned about highlighting menial topics such as the debate over man size tissues, they are creating a bigger fiasco than the ‘snowflake generation’ itself’.

What has been highlighted here is that the media often focuses on trivial topics when applying the ‘snowflake’ label to younger generations, and ignore the fact that young people are actually doing a great deal to fight for equality and tolerance. When it comes to institutional racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice, we have every right to take offence. What is considered as ‘snowflake’ behaviour by the media might actually be progressive and may be helping to create a fairer, more tolerant society.

Billie-Jean Johnson

When people talk about ‘political correctness gone mad’ I have to laugh. Being politically correct is just being a decent human being. When I hear old daily fail readers complaining about this generation, I think it’s just their way of feeling better about themselves.

Language is the most powerful tool we have. We can use our voices to make change, to speak out for ourselves and others, and that’s important. The idea of labelling our generation in this way is a way to discredit our attempts to make the world a better place through the little things we can do. If you can start a movement for change from your bedroom, then why wouldn’t you want to? If you can stop using a certain word and it will improve someone’s life, then why wouldn’t you try?

There is a concept which still permeates our culture that says we must suffer to succeed. Our generation is calling that out for the ludicrous lie it is. We are stepping up to say that we don’t want to let each other suffer. We aren’t just waiting around for gradual change – we’re going out and making it happen.

Why is snowflake the descriptor? That’s the derogatory term used to explain away our attention to uniqueness. They call us snowflakes because we want to be treated as individuals and to treat every individual with respect. So sure, we’re a snowflake generation. We can celebrate each other’s uniqueness without resorting to identity politics. We fight against prejudices and are working tirelessly to get rid of discrimination. We are willing to change our language and actions in small ways to make a big change.

That’s not something negative in my opinion – it’s something to be proud of. You want to call me a snowflake? Go ahead. I’d rather be a snowflake than be so caught up in wanting to defend my own hatred that I choose to write off another generation.

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Sussex Cheerleaders Save the World

kenyon55 - December 12, 2018

Sussex Cheer Squad stands in solidarity with rape victim whose own underwear was used against her in court, holding a protest and charity event at Pryzm for…

Artist Focus: Jack Snelling
Artist Focus
63 views
Artist Focus
63 views

Artist Focus: Jack Snelling

Louisa Scarlett Hunt - December 12, 2018

Jack Snelling is a Brighton based Cartoonist. We met at the Brighton Illustration Fair in early November this year. Jack tells Artist Focus about his most recent…

Artist Focus: Faye Song
Artist Focus
84 views
Artist Focus
84 views

Artist Focus: Faye Song

Louisa Scarlett Hunt - December 12, 2018

Faye Song is a young and upcoming photographer. Faye recently won the Brighton Photo Fringe OPEN18 that took place from 29 September to 28 October earlier this year.…

Red card for Sussex as netball player injured
News
352 views
News
352 views

Red card for Sussex as netball player injured

Danielle Ball - December 11, 2018

A member of the University of Sussex Netball Club dislocated their hip due to a leak in the Sports Centre roof at the University of Sussex. This…

FDHs: Hong Kong’s most vulnerable demographic?
Culture
478 views
Culture
478 views

FDHs: Hong Kong’s most vulnerable demographic?

Charlotte Brill - December 9, 2018

An account of the lives of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong Every Sunday, Hong Kong’s central district is transformed by the Foreign Domestic Helpers (FDHs), most…

Milkman – the novel of the year?
Arts
228 views
Arts
228 views

Milkman – the novel of the year?

Kate Dennett - December 6, 2018

Since winning the 50th Man Booker Prize for fiction, the demand for Anna Burns’ novel Milkman has been consistently on the incline. Having been described as rule-breaking,…

Christmas Tree Ceremony to take place in Library Square
Campus News
184 views
Campus News
184 views

Christmas Tree Ceremony to take place in Library Square

Jessica Hubbard - December 6, 2018

Those who come within proximity of Library Square will have noticed that Sussex University’s Christmas Tree has been erected. Workers laboured throughout the day on November 17…

A First Timer’s Account of a Football Match
Sports
167 views
Sports
167 views

A First Timer’s Account of a Football Match

Kate Dennett - December 5, 2018

With my dad and older brother both being very interested in sports, I grew up surrounded by them playing football on our lane and watching sports on…

Turkish family broken apart – Wild Pear Tree review
Arts
175 views
Arts
175 views

Turkish family broken apart – Wild Pear Tree review

Olek Młyński - December 5, 2018

Comparing any film maker to Andrei Tarkovsky always seems like  very risky business. The Russian director is considered to be the greatest poet that cinema ever saw,…

Flyin’ High in Familiar Territory – Creed II review 
Arts
155 views
Arts
155 views

Flyin’ High in Familiar Territory – Creed II review 

Ali Wakelin - December 4, 2018

The follow-up to Ryan Coogler’s surprisingly masterful Creed also holds the title in being the eighth instalment of the Rocky franchise, following Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis as…

Telemarketers, where do they come from anyway? – Sorry to Bother You review
Arts
221 views
Arts
221 views

Telemarketers, where do they come from anyway? – Sorry to Bother You review

Michael Humphreys - December 3, 2018

We have all been there, doing our daily routines, relaxing until suddenly, we get a ring from an unknown number. We answer and on the other end…

Chris Riddell Illustrates for Students at University of Sussex Library
Arts
215 views
Arts
215 views

Chris Riddell Illustrates for Students at University of Sussex Library

Alice Gledhill - December 3, 2018

Brighton illustrator Chris Riddell visited the University of Sussex on Thursday 29 November with a busy day of drawing in the library. With an ardent passion for…

Features
279 views

Menstruation in the third world

klaratgbengtsson - December 2, 2018

Even though menstruation is a natural cycle affecting millions and millions of people every month there is still so much silence surrounding the topic. The Badger has…

News
288 views

Toxic: Oxford Word of the Year

Chris Ahjem - December 1, 2018

  Toxic has been announced as Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2018. The word was selected from a shortlist that also included: gaslighting, incel and gammon.…

News
165 views

Late Again B&H Protests

kenyon55 - November 30, 2018

The Sussex student campaign Late Again B&H continues to protest the unreliability of Brighton & Hove buses services to and from University. Between the universities of Brighton…

Auschwitz graffiti discovered on Sussex campus
Campus News
329 views
Campus News
329 views

Auschwitz graffiti discovered on Sussex campus

kenyon55 - November 29, 2018

A phrase used on the entrance sign at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp has been discovered on a chalkboard on East Slope’s building site. The words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’,…

Sunflower Bean at The Old Market
Music
237 views
Music
237 views

Sunflower Bean at The Old Market

Yazz James - November 29, 2018

On the 21st November, I was lucky enough to see Sunflower Bean as they returned to Brighton for another headline gig, this time at The Old Market.…

News
240 views

Phishing Email Circulating Sussex

kenyon55 - November 29, 2018

Students from universities across the UK have been and continue to be affected by an increase in fake tax rebate emails. Over the past two weeks, thousands…

Artist Focus: Hannah Currey
Artist Focus
304 views
Artist Focus
304 views

Artist Focus: Hannah Currey

Louisa Scarlett Hunt - November 28, 2018

Hannah Currey is a final year American Studies student who grew up in Camden, North London but has fallen in love with Brighton since moving here in…