Debate Magazine

Millennials: Generation Snowflake

By Eowyn @DrEowyn

Millennials are those born between 1982 and 2004 (12 to 34 years of age today), whose ridiculously-fragile, thin-skinned sensibilities are coddled and catered to by colleges and universities, which have earned them the derisive moniker of "Generation Snowflake".

Millennials: Generation SnowflakeFinally, more and more people are speaking out.

One of them is a top British thinker, Claire Fox, who's the director of the Institute of Ideas thinktank. In a June 8, 2016 op/ed for , Fox writes about the contrast between the Millennials and previous generations of young people, especially:

"this generation's almost belligerent sense of entitlement. They assume their emotional suffering takes precedence. Express a view they disagree with and you must immediately recant and apologise.

But as I argue in my new book - I Find That Offensive! - Generation Snowflake believe it's their right to be protected from anything they might find unpalatable.

This mindset is particularly rife in universities. The examples are beyond parody: a National Union of Students conference banning clapping as it might trigger trauma ('please use jazz hands', delegates were told); the Edinburgh University student threatened with expulsion from a meeting after raising her hand in disagreement.

Last year, students at the University of East Anglia banned a Mexican restaurant from giving out sombreros because of racist stereotyping.

In March, Cambridge University banned an 'Around The World in 80 Days' themed party over fears wearing ethnic costumes might cause offence.

Students demand that universities are 'safe spaces', free from opinions that will make them feel uncomfortable. There has been a rise in 'No platforming' - barring someone with controversial views from speaking at an event at all.

Faced with such thin-skinned students, no wonder Oxford University has introduced 'trigger warnings' about 'potentially distressing subject matter' in law lectures on cases involving sexual violence.

Never mind that a future in criminal law will mean dealing with all the unpleasant aspects of human experience.

The list goes on. And on.

But as Fox points out, in the end, Millennials are snowflakes because of society's coddling:

It makes me sad that these teens and 20-somethings have become so fearful that they believe a dissenting opinion can pose such a serious threat. But can we really be surprised when it's us who have taught them to think this way? We tell children their wellbeing is paramount, but we are also guilty of mollycoddling them. There's a constant emphasis on their vulnerability, which is proving toxic.

Children are more restricted than ever when it comes to taking physical risks - one of the ways previous generations built resilience. Thanks to health and safety mania, leapfrog, marbles and conkers are now considered unsafe.

In March, a Leeds primary school banned games of tag as children had been getting upset and having clothes torn. There's a campaign to stop tackling in school rugby, and to assess the safety of other contact sports such as hockey.

We drill children about healthy eating, so they grow up fearing sugary drinks and told that too much salt and fat will kill them. We weigh and measure them at primary school and then wonder why they become obsessed with their bodies.

Meanwhile, the old motto 'Sticks and stones . . .' is now forgotten, as we teach children that words can indeed hurt them. Bullying has been redefined to include ordinary playground verbal tussles. I remember my niece telling me, aged 11, that she was being bullied at school. I feared she was being beaten up or viciously taunted. In fact, she was being 'excluded from her friendship group'.

I don't doubt it was upsetting for her, but falling out with your chums is part of growing up. Through it you learn to handle the difficult interactions you will inevitably face as a grown-up.

Adults are encouraged to suspend their critical judgment, to listen to children without interrupting and not to label or criticise because of the impact this may have on their long-term emotional wellbeing.

As for child protection - that's turned into an industry that encourages youngsters to see predators around every corner. Some play parks ban adults who are not accompanying a child. Parents are not allowed to take photographs of their children at swimming galas.

Teachers aren't allowed to apply sun cream in case of inappropriate touching. There's panic about what children might see on the web and endless concern over 'stranger danger'.

And now there's something new to fear. Conservative MP Maria Miller's House of Commons women and equalities committee has launched an inquiry into sexual harassment and violence in schools. A report from the committee says: 'In school corridors and playgrounds, sexually charged behaviour drives young people's physical interactions.' But a look at the 'evidence' suggests an expansive definition of what constitutes sexual harassment.

Is giving a compliment based on looks really 'unsafe' behaviour? If a boy pings a girl's bra it may be unpleasant and annoying, but is it really assault? [...]

I am particularly concerned we are teaching girls to see themselves as victims. [...] Of course, it's not just women who embody Generation Snowflake and not every young person fits the criteria.

But there is a strand of self-absorption and fragility running through this generation; all too ready to cry 'victim' at the first hint of a situation they don't like.

We need a younger generation that's prepared to grow a backbone, go out into the world, take risks and make difficult decisions. Otherwise the future doesn't bode well for any of us.

And here's a refreshing video of a Millennial on what's wrong with her generation:

See also:

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