Part of living visibly is about being empowered to speak up. To use our voice, share our thoughts and express our opinions. To stand up for ourselves, others and the things we believe in. While healthy discussion and fiery debate are great things, unfortunately there are some “keyboard warriors” and general bullies out there who seem keen to stomp all over anyone they disagree with or consider to be stupid and below them. Trending for a while now are some particularly popular and patronising insults, for all the wrong reasons. Sheeple, woke, Karen and snowflake are a few examples. Aside from often being inappropriately and indiscriminately flung about, the cowards behind the bitter malice seem to have no regard for the damage they may be causing.
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The Damage Of Such Insults Like Sheeple, Woke, Karen & Snowflake
Insults and nastiness have the power to patronise, belittle, hurt and silence the recipient, and this potential harm should not be underestimated. Insults can cause momentary and long-lasting damage, and it’s far beyond merely “hurting someone’s feelings”. If you’re told you’re “too delicate” or “too sensitive”, join the club. It took years before I realised that being more sensitive is not, in fact, a bad thing. We’re not robots, we have emotions and we care, so what? I’d rather be as I am than be cold or be a bully, and I’m sure the same applies to others who’ve been told similar.
If we’re bashed down for being a “woke snowflake sheeple”, our already exhausted selves will falter and start to feel increasingly small, making us less inclined to share or to fight in future. Whether it’s believed the insult is justified or not, it can hurt and it can make the recipient second guess themselves. There will be some who get insulted that can more easily brush it off and not be affected by it. But I worry for those who are affected, who do take it personally or find it damaging in some way, especially when such insults are clearly not deserved or applicable for their intended meaning. Sometimes these insults are thrown as comments not to an individual but to a group of people who, in the commenter’s mind, is beneath them; in doing so, people have been judged, labelled and stereotyped in a way that allows them to be ridiculed, even if the judgement is often based on faulty information.
There’s another problem that comes from this building bitterness and condescension, aside from how it’ll continue to grow because this miserableness loves more power. It’s causing more divides, right when society needs to be working together and bridging these gaps. It is increasingly becoming a “me versus you”, and an “us versus them” mentality.
For instance, someone who thinks they know it all and is so smart because they didn’t fall for the Covid19 scam, who simply refuses to listen to the experiences of those who’ve had Covid and any other data that flies in the face of their confident opinion. They will refuse more and more outside data, stepping on anyone that disagrees. In their mind, if someone fell for the scam or got a vaccination, then they must be a stupid pathetic sheep. I can easily see the inanity of this opinion, but it’s just that: an opinion, which everyone is entitled to. The danger is that such opinions can have lead to behaviours and they can have consequences. So not only will behaviours change, but so too will the vitriol just keep on coming. As will the divide between people of that opinion versus those with a differing opinion.
To keep the confidence and the power, this person will keep belittling others and insist they’re correct at all costs, as long as they bring someone else down at the same time. That’s just one example, of course, and it’s not to offend those who don’t believe in Covid or vaccinations. It was merely chosen because some of the comments thrown about to those who do have been particularly vile since the pandemic started.
Today’s Popular Insults
Woke, Snowflake, Bedwetter, Privileged, Karen, Sheeple. Words that are being increasingly brandished and wielded by news outlets, in reader comments and among the mass public with increasing fury and lack of specificity.
Since using a mainstream, tabloid news app on my iPad for the sheer convenience and readability with ‘brain fog’, I have found an underbelly that I wish I hadn’t. Comment sections are filled with contempt, ignorance and nastiness.
Perhaps there is a loose appropriateness for some of these terms in certain situations. I personally think some (like “woke” perhaps) are better applied to describe a situation or “thing” than to insult an individual or collectively stigmatise a group of people. The thing is, they’re are being indiscriminately thrown about with no sense or purpose, and the insults do not usually reflect on the recipient. They reflect on the insulter. The person throwing about nastiness and derogatory insults without any real opinion or usefulness, merely show their own ignorance and pathetic nature.
Calling someone a “bedwetter” and “snowflake” for their concerns during the pandemic. Calling someone “woke” because they don’t like the “n” word being used. Calling a stranger privileged as an insult simply based on the colour of their skin with no understanding of their life or opinions. Calling someone a Karen because they’ve dared to complain or stand up for something.
As a small personal example, I was called a ‘woke snowflake’ by a member of my family because I despise racism. Go figure. I’ve been called Karen on social media, as well as a boring bitch with no life. I take umbrage to the Karen but the latter is true. Why did I get called that? No idea. If you’re perceived as being boring, or as complaining even if it’s suitably justified, they’ll label you. If you speak at all and they don’t like it, they’ll brand you. It’s as stupid as that.
The goalposts have shifted in line with the definitions. The general consensus online for the definition of woke is “to be awake to sensitive social issues, such as racism“. However, the media stories suggest “woke” is about “taking it too far” and being too politically correct to the point of madness, and yet simply being against racism is apparently enough to get such a label, too. It also makes out like everyone who wants equality or change for the better is woke and that they’re in support of these “crazy” ideas or are partaking in the stunts we see in the news. It doesn’t add up. Urban Dictionary defines woke as a “Umbrella term for individuals who are engrossed by social justice and thinks of themselves as saviors with a moral high ground, but remain willfully ignorant to the irrationality of their claims and the problems they create.” It’s a word that has lost all definition and is just being brandished as a weapon, much like the other terms looked at in this article are.
These more recent types of insults, when used so easily and inappropriately, give the insulter a chance to get on their high horse and look down on the minion that they’re insulting. They get to feel mighty and deflect from the simple fact that they didn’t like what they heard, that they don’t have an actual argument to make, and that deep down they may realise they’ve thrown a brick right into their own glass house. If a situation is not to your liking, what better way than to just insult and barge your way through, forming a group with like-minded individuals using the same flavour-of-the-year terms to throw at the easy targets to make themselves feel better.
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Where Is The Vitriol Coming From?
Many news stories are provoking responses that encourage the use of terms like “woke” and “snowflake”. Biased reporting and sensationalism are cornerstones for selling more papers.
When we hear another Christmas song has been banned because one word might be taken out of context and cause offence, or that a kid’s TV show is getting a gender neutral rewrite, the public gets irritated by the way in which nothing is safe any more. We see more stories of seemingly ludicrous changes, things that perhaps only one person has complained about, and we start to feel like political correctness has been taken too far. It seems that it’s happening to everything we hold dear and that we also can’t say anything for fear of being offensive. The stories are weaponised to make us angry and to believe it’s probably a bigger issue than it really is, a bit like how certain tabloids helped to instigate panic buying and petrol hoarding in the last couple of years. The public get irritated and annoyed, and odd news stories start to add up. It creates this culture of hating all things “woke”, even though the things we’re seeing are usually the more bizarre stories, not the examples of “wokism” that matters, where “woke” in theory means something and makes a real difference.
It’s us against them. It’s “common sense” versus “stupidity”. For instance, the mentality against “woke” becomes part of a group think issue. It likewise applies to other such insults, like calling people “sheeple” for having Covid vaccinations or wearing a mask. The insults are easier to fly when backed by others in your group and the terms proliferate.
Group think is very powerful online, where anonymity while hiding behind a screen give people a sense of faux courage to berate others. Knowing they’re not alone and that they’ll likely get a thumbs up or a like from the similarly-opinionated happening upon their comment, they show off. If more people are thinking like this, it’s easier to believe in it and easier to hide in the midst of it all while joining in. But it is not courage, it’s weakness, especially when you need the comfort of distance and supporters to be nasty.
Insults can sometimes come from a place of being ready for a fight. They want to provoke because they want to insult more and more. They want to get the bile up and out of their system, spewing it onto what ever targets are available. They’ll feel victorious if and when they come out on top of the argument, which they possibly will as they heavy-handedly bash their way through with insults and no substance. The increasing miserableness, political frustrations and financial woes will only fan the flames of this angst as it spreads.
A Need For Making Oneself Feel Superior
Insults like these are great as a mud-slinging exercise where the insulter can sit atop their high horse and feel superior, relishing in how embarrassed, little, ashamed and hurt the person on the receiving end may be. It’s about dragging someone else down to make yourself feel better.
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Problems With Such All-The-Rage Insults
These terms do nothing good. They cause further divides in an already friction-filled and irascible society.
Are they ever justified? Maybe, sure, as a way of describing something without doing it as an insult to them. For instance, a casual conversation talking about the “woke” new thing happening in the news that you disagree with. To call someone out as being a “Karen” simply because they’re a white woman and one who’s perhaps not bubbly happy at that very moment in time? No, I don’t agree with it. Why? Because these terms are only used to look down on someone else, to label them in a way that isn’t even accurate and fill it with disdain.
Insults like Karen, Bedwetter or Snowflake are tools to elevate the insulter above the insultee, based on their own opinion and belief. Just because you disagree with someone else – in a situation where said person is not harming anyone else or even affecting you – does not give you the right to try to shame them to make yourself feel superior.
There’s no thought as to the bigger picture, the story behind that person or anything beyond throwing the insult because it’s deemed fair game. Instead of people having conversation and using their words as grown-ass individuals to share and challenge and debate, certain individuals simply pick an insult they know will likely hit that person where it hurts, even if it’s totally meaningless and inappropriate. Not everyone is made of steel or can ignore insults, including insults that are complete nonsense.
The problem is that such terms have been banded around with complete disregard for applicability or consequence. People get hurt, debate and conversation is eroding, tolerance for others is depleted and ignorance increases, while the divides in society continue to widen.
If you live with chronic illness, you’re an easy target, predominantly online. It’s easy for insults to come from a place of ignorance then, when someone doesn’t have the willingness or depth of character to be empathetic and consider what it’s like to live with illness, pain or other disability. They might think you’re a “snowflake” and should ‘man up’ when talking about pain, for instance. They don’t have a clue. Do not give such comments the time of day. Do not let them stop you from talking, sharing, raising awareness and doing what you do.
Is It Ever Justified?
One matter here could be whether you’re using the insult in private or using it in public. If you’re talking to a friend, you may be perpetuating stereotypes with certain insults but it’s not causing harm to someone else directly. Another matter is the aforementioned one about whether you’re using it to describe a general situation or phenomenon versus using it as an insult to someone(s).
Perhaps a distinction should also be made between those doing potential harm and those doing something for potential good when you’re throwing an insult their way.
The person who takes time to clean and recycle their plastics to do their bit for the environment. The person taking tests and isolated if infected is trying to keep those around them safe. The person who doesn’t appreciate racist insults or thinks there shouldn’t be a gender pay gap is wanting a fair, equal society. The person standing up for themselves is trying not to be walked all over. Etc.
These people aren’t hurting anyone else. What they do isn’t going to negatively affect anyone else. It’s nobody’s business what they’re doing.
This can be contrasted with those negatively affecting others or their surroundings. They don’t have to be polar opposites either as this list could also include those supposedly wanting to do good but are doing harm instead, like environmental “protestors” causing physical damage or creating traffic jams, preventing ambulances getting to hospital and leading to far greater emissions.
Polar opposites could include the person throwing their chippy wrapper on the pavement or chucking a coke can out the car window. The person who couldn’t care less and coughs openly when they’re infected with Covid. The person who cowardly Tweets racist remarks or discusses how women are inferior.
These people could be seen to be doing some potential harm, damage or generally contributing to a negative outcome of some kind.
Is spiteful slandering or hateful insulting necessary or acceptable for those not harming anyone else? I don’t think so. Especially when you see that a lot of the insults come from a place of pure ignorance.
The end result is the target of the insults is hurt, because not everyone can easily brush such comments off. The insulter wants to make themselves feel better and feel superior. They want to shoot you down and silence you. Don’t let them.
Most of us have likely insulted or criticised someone before, especially if you’re a blogger, you’ve been active in the comments section of online news articles or you’re a user of social media. This post isn’t to tell anyone off, whether you’ve used the particular insults here or not. It’s merely to state the concern with certain popular terms of late and how they’re fuelling divides and causing harm in ways that are under-appreciated and underestimated.
If you receive such insults, it’s important to understand it’s not a reflection on you but on the person shouting you down. Don’t let them silence you and don’t give them any of your tears.
Do you feel these popular insults are particularly problematic? Have you been subject to such insults?