The term “snowflake” has become a notable expression in contemporary political discourse, particularly within the United States.
As a political term, it is often used pejoratively to describe individuals who are perceived to be overly sensitive, intolerant of differing opinions, and prone to taking offense easily.
Its origins may be linked to the notion that like snowflakes, people are unique and fragile.
It’s very close in use and meaning to the term “mollycoddle.”
Origin of “Snowflake”
The term “snowflake” was first used by abolitionists in Missouri in the 1860s to refer to those who opposed the abolition of slavery.
As The Independent notes:
The term referred to the color of snow, referring to valuing white people over black people. This usage was not believed to have extended beyond the state of Missouri in the 1800s.
During the 1970s, “snowflake” was used as a derogatory term for white or black people who were perceived as acting white.
The modern use of “snowflake” as a political term began to gain traction in the 2010s.
The term evolved to target those seen as needing special treatment or protection, particularly in the context of societal changes that emphasize inclusivity and emotional well-being.
The term “snowflake” is frequently employed in partisan contexts and is often directed towards those on the left side of the political spectrum, especially among younger generations.
It has been embraced by some conservative commentators and social media users to mock what they see as a culture of entitlement, victimhood, and emotional fragility, particularly among liberals and progressives.
“Snowflake” fully made its way to the mainstream during the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump and, in the process, evolved into a more vicious insult.
Cultural implications of “Snowflake”
The popularity of the term “snowflake” reveals much about the current state of political discourse and cultural divides.
It reflects a growing disdain for perceived weakness or hypersensitivity and taps into broader debates about free speech, personal responsibility, and the role of government and institutions in protecting individual well-being.
While some see it as a fitting critique of a culture gone awry, others view it as a symbol of the breakdown in empathy and understanding that characterizes much of current political discourse.
Use of “Snowflake” in a sentence
- In the lead-up to the election, the incumbent senator dismissed his opponents as “snowflakes,” characterizing them as overly sensitive to criticism and unable to handle the pressures of political life.
- Some university administrators are concerned about being labeled as catering to “snowflakes” if they implement policies to create safe spaces, despite arguments that such measures foster a more inclusive and respectful learning environment.
- The talk show host’s use of “snowflake” to describe those advocating for stricter environmental regulations sparked a heated debate online, with supporters applauding the sentiment and critics arguing that the term shut down genuine conversation about pressing issues.
Taegan Goddard is the creator of the Political Dictionary.
Goddard spent more than a decade on Wall Street as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he also served as a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You Won – Now What?: How Americans Can Make Democracy Work from City Hall to the White House, a political management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from both parties.
His essays on politics and public policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University.
He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.