Tuesday 30 January 2024

The Many Changing Meanings of "Snowflake"

In the early 1860s, the term "Snowflake" was used in Missouri to refer to a person who was opposed to the abolition of slavery. The so-called Snowflakes hoped that the civil war would not put an end to slavery and were contrasted with two other groups, the Claybanks (who wanted a gradual transition out of slavery) and the Charcoals (who demanded immediate emancipation for Black people). 

In the 1970s, snowflake became "a disparaging term for a white man or for a black man who was seen as acting white".

Chuck Palahniuk used the expression in his book "Fight Club" published in 1996 in a different context. A member of an anti-consumerist project tells another member: "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone, and we are all part of the same compost pile." In its 1999 movie adaptation, the line goes like this:

Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not the beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. We are all part of the same compost heap.

Palahniuk was probably not the first person to use this metaphor, of each of us being a unique snowflake, uniquely beautiful and each worth treasuring (via). Now snowflake is a slang term for a young person (the generation that became adults in or after the 2010s) with "an inflated sense of uniqueness", a rather extreme sense of entitlement and who is easily offended and shows little resilience. Snowflake became "the defining insult" in 2016 (via and via).

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photograph by Garry Winogrand via

Monday 29 January 2024

Monday 15 January 2024

The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism

Abstract: Through an in-depth analysis of bestselling “how-to-succeed” books along with popular television shows and well-trafficked “mommy” blogs, The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism demonstrates how the notion of a happy work-family balance has not only been incorporated into the popular imagination as a progressive feminist ideal but also lies at the heart of a new variant of feminism. Embraced by high-powered women, from Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg to Ivanka Trump, this variant of feminism abandons key terms, such as equal rights and liberation, advocating, instead, for a life of balance and happiness. 

What we are ultimately witnessing, Catherine Rottenberg argues, is the emergence of a neoliberal feminism that abandons the struggle to undo the unjust gendered distribution of labor and that helps to ensure that all responsibility for reproduction and care work falls squarely on the shoulders of individual women. Moreover, this increasingly dominant form of feminism simultaneously splits women into two distinct groups: worthy capital-enhancing women and the “unworthy” disposable female “other” who performs much of the domestic and care work. This split, not surprisingly, transpires along racial, class, and citizen-immigrant lines. The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism thus underscores the ways in which neoliberal feminism forsakes the vast majority of women, while it facilitates new and intensified forms of racialized and class-stratified gender exploitation. Given our frightening neoliberal reality, the monumental challenge, then, is how we can successfully reorient and reclaim feminism as a social justice movement. (Rottenberg, 2018)

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- Rottenberg, C. A. (2018). The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism; link
- photograph by Garry Winogrand (Beverly Hills, 1979) via