I’d never heard the word “snowflake” leveled at someone as a derogatory slur until the last couple of years. At first, I laughed thinking that those who slung it at others were just being childish. But then I looked at what’s really behind it and realized that it spoke to something that’s becoming endemic — and even celebrated — in our society: bullying.
Bullying occurs at all levels of society and in all arenas. What’s ironic about the “snowflake” insult is that the real snowflake is the person slinging it, not the person being labeled as such.
I’ve noticed that people who call others names have a few things in common: 1) they’re very easily wounded emotionally, 2) they’re quick to become defensive, 3) on an anger scale of 1 – 10, they hit level 10 very quickly, 4) they tend to entrench, 5) they’re dismissive of other people’s feelings, 6) they’re very insecure and avoid looking at themselves at all costs, and 7) they will rapidly resort to violence whether that’s emotional, verbal or physical as a means of controlling, resolving or getting the best of a situation.
In terms of the “snowflake” phenomenon, 2 – 7 above are a result of #1. And that’s the snowflake, a person whose self-esteem and ego are unable to withstand the slings and arrows of life no matter how big or small. The slightest pin prick to their ego flips their defense switch and they retaliate in some fashion.
Contrary to outdated stereotypes, bullies can be incredibly intelligent and high-functioning, skilled leaders. Psychologists have determined that bullies suffer from “conduct disorder” but there’s no definitive explanation as to why a bully becomes a bully. The formation of a bully can be due to family, peers, school, religion, community, society, gender, disability, trauma, education, ancestry, age and any number of other variables. One such variable that heavily influences a bully in the making is what’s referred to as the “man box.”
The man box is a mindset, one in which men are taught from childhood that they have the right to do whatever they please, say whatever they want and behave in whatever way they want — simply because they are male. Like an archetype, males are supposed to be strong, courageous, lotharios, drinkers, brawlers, takers, ball busters and rulers. They’re channeled toward being fit to fight and rewarded for their loutish behavior. Men who don’t fit that description are looked down upon with disdain and called all manner of names, including “snowflake.”
The man box culture lets boys use whatever language they want that will impress their peers and gain points in the “I’m a Man and Don’t You Forget It Club.” It eggs them on to do more to top their last outrageous act, as well as to beat out the competition. They prey on those considered weak, different and “other” to cement their power. Aggressiveness is applauded and encouraged in order to advance one’s standing with peers or their betters no matter if they’re at work or at play.
This mindset was once called “machismo” wherein such men wore their brutish behavior on their sleeves, and we were supposed to give them the leeway to treat us in whatever way they pleased by virtue of their being the male of the species. We enabled that behavior with “boys will be boys,” “it’s a man’s world” and “he’s a man’s man.” The models young boys have grown up with via movies, television, video games, social media and books have led boys and men to become increasingly coarse, antagonistic and divisive, and less considerate, empathetic and inclusive.
Three prime examples in which we see men migrate to the man box mindset are: sports, fraternities and Wall Street.
These three arenas alone provide unending examples of man box behavior, the anything goes antics, language and situations we see on television, in movies, on YouTube and other social media on a regular basis. They’re analogous to the “bull pen,” the no-holds-barred sphere in which men act out not unlike the gladiator spectacles of ancient Rome. Misogyny, homophobia, racism, destructive aggression, hedonism, exploitive capitalism, criminalism and an extractive culture run rampant. And it’s given the “Two Thumbs Up” if one wins.
What’s unfortunate is that many women have begun gravitating to this mindset over the last couple of decades, taking on the unattractive attributes exhibited by men in the man box. These are the models to which young people are aspiring — and constantly upping the ante.
What this has also instigated is “tribalism,” the desire to only be with one’s own kind, to distinguish between us and them, to label, partition, cut out, scapegoat, stigmatize and even attempt to destroy. Case in point: a few far-right Christian ministers currently advocating the killing of all LGBTQ people.
Faced with this onslaught, people on all sides are entrenching even more deeply into their misguided and misinformed world view. Tribalism is a natural outgrowth of fear and ignorance because it offers a safe haven around which to rally and find support — and one’s critical thinking skills are left at the doorstep to ensure acceptance into the tribe. Group think swallows people up whole, doesn’t allow dissention and there is usually one supreme leader who is followed unquestioningly.
Tribalism easily entangles itself with the larger sphere of patriotism, both of which readily lend themselves to xenophobia and paranoia, something we’re seeing more of as various groups polarize. Defensiveness, anger and hate have become the go-to emotions upon which many rely to survive day to day.
And that’s the crux of what we’re experiencing today: the fear of not surviving in our ever-changing and evolving world. Thus, people fight tooth and nail to avoid change — and call each other snowflakes — simply as a matter of self-preservation and to maintain the life they know. The safe haven of the tribe doesn’t challenge anyone to be more than they are.
Yet, that’s what life is really about: becoming more than you are, to not settle for mediocrity, complacency, comfortableness, conformity and mere subsistence. It’s about being a seeker, being curious, stretching yourself to discover just how high you can soar, how brightly you can shine — not for other people, but for yourself.
In that process, a man can then reveal his true self, the one minus insecurities, fears, and ego. His focus will then change to how he can better himself as a means to love, serve, and give back to humanity — unconditionally.
That process reveals to a man what he is truly made of giving him the choice to aspire to his highest expression instead of just giving in to base behaviors focused on titillation, stimulation, distraction, ego gratification, posturing, approval mongering, one-upmanship and survival of the fittest.
Every man has greatness in him. He doesn’t have to be a hero, a saint or master of the universe. But to be able to see everyone and all of life with his heart and soul is the sign of a man who truly knows himself and is comfortable in his own being. It is also there that he discovers how wondrously beautiful and captivating snowflakes really are.
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