I've seen the snowflake accusations in action. A couple of years ago, a campus was littered overnight with chalk that urged immigrants go home, that vaunted Trump's then-rhetorical wall, and that otherwise signalled that some students weren't welcome. Students protested and administrators agreed to remove the messages based on three arguments: that some of them were posted in areas where chalking in general is not allowed, that all chalking is subject to review according to policy guidelines, and that the messages were inappropriate. Well, this third reason got sufficiently in the national news that angry white men were actively commenting in the comments of the school newspaper's article, avowing that they'll recommend their companies never hire graduates from the college, complaining that students had gone soft since their day, and crowing that mere "political speech" (a phrase attempting to sanitize the hate) should be entirely protected. "Snowflakes" and "safe spaces" were part of their attack.When the flood of #MeToo stories, inspired by the work of anti-violence organizer Tarana Burke, hit social media, many professed surprise to see how common such violence was, including those who had spent their valuable column inches decrying students’ desire for places of safety or for the much-mocked “trigger warnings.” Some of them may have been truly unaware of the pervasiveness of sexual violence and harassment—or that it was happening in their places of employment. But it’s worth remembering that the repeated mocking of students as spoiled “snowflakes” underscored the idea that they could not seriously need safety from anything. These articles marshaled fatuous “free speech” claims to defend an oppressive status quo and even defend the rights of white nationalists and misogynists—those with a track record of using their platforms to harass, out, and endanger students.
The connection Jaffe makes seems right to me. #MeToo and more recent accusations may have been a surprise, or they may have emerged from a silence enforced by people attacking the search for safety or less toxicity in our spaces.