If you were on social media during the coronavirus pandemic, chances are you saw viral videos showing rude, racist white women belittling service industry workers or sharing false coronavirus theories that included race as an element. These individuals have since been dubbed Karens – and their behavior was alarming.
Yahoo Life interviewed experts who explained what makes up a Karen.
1. You’re a Mask Wearer
Karens have become one of the more iconic 21st-century stereotypes, often seen as arrogant, entitled, and racist middle-aged white women who display no mercy for others or themselves. While their behavior does vary based on age or appearance, being rude to customer service workers or demanding that management look into an item in a store are all characteristics that could make up this persona. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, many Karens have also become notorious for refusing to wear masks while taunting service industry staffers – an act they often display while refusing to wear masks and berate service industry workers as part of an attack against them both.
No matter whether she’s a “one-way masker,” who refuses to leave home without covering up, or an “r/Karen” who posts suspicious-looking person in her neighborhood on Nextdoor or a mayor who insists on reopening casinos before adhering to social distancing guidelines, any person acting like this is dangerous and it is important that those working in service industry recognize such behavior as dangerous. Yahoo Life asked some experts for insight on why and how someone might act this way and here are their responses:
2. You Don’t Care About Leash Laws
Over the past months, you may have come across frequent mentions of “Karen” on social media. This slang term refers to an unpleasant, entitled, often racist middle-aged white woman who utilizes her privilege for selfish gain and regulates others’ behaviors using privilege. Due to this trending topic on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, “Karen” has drawn much scrutiny and attention.
Karens are individuals who demonstrate extreme anger toward others for any number of reasons: from throwing tantrums at Starbucks for not offering the correct drink to calling police on black people for using public spaces without permission to demand that tattoo artists cover up mistakes at no charge – such as “Central Park Karen” who called 911 because her dog let loose from its leash in a park to demanding tattoo artists cover up mistakes free of charge for her mistake tattooing mistake. These antics have been captured on camera and posted online during this pandemic; women like “Central Park Karen” were caught calling black birders for using public space without permission as well. Their antics have been captured on film and posted online during this pandemic such as “Central Park Karen,” who called out black birders because she let off her dog to free her pet dog from its leash in a park due to birders letting off leash!
Though memes like these make light of real-world problems and dangers, they can still cause considerable harm to those targeted. Sociologist Jennifer Weiner states that these stereotypes disproportionately target people of color. As the “Karen” meme has been linked with other destructive and privilege-based female behaviors (anti-vaxxer activism being one example), its seriousness becomes clear.
3. You’re Caucasian
“Karen” has come to symbolize middle-aged white women who use their privilege against those of color – specifically black teens in public parks – by calling the police, demanding to speak with management when service experiences go sour, or engaging in racist microaggressions.
The exact origins of the term “Karen” remain elusive, yet it has come to serve as an online shorthand for white women who believe their way is the only path forward. Unfortunately, this word has also come to be seen by millennials and Gen Zers as a negative stereotype that serves to criticize baby boomer generations for being rigid when it comes to issues like social justice and race equality.
Karens believe their perspective should be taken as gospel, whether that means grilling meat in public parks, calling the cops on black youths, or posting lengthy messages on Nextdoor about suspicious-looking neighbors. There are ways to identify Karens and avoid falling into their trap, though you might need someone’s assistance in order to do it effectively – you just have to know where you should look for help.
4. You Don’t Want to Change Your Fashion
As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads and people become more mindful of one another, specific types of white women have come under scrutiny for their inappropriate conduct. While some might welcome Karen becoming more widely recognized, some are disappointed to see its negative connotations taking root.
The Karen is often described as an entitled middle-aged, white woman who uses her privilege to get what she wants and make demands on others. Usually depicted with a blonde bob haircut and usually associated with Generation X soccer moms who frequently complain or make requests, The Karen can often be found wearing sunglasses.
Karens can take many forms; not just in terms of being suburban white girls. One could be young with normal haircuts who live in cities. Karens may even be more insidious, and can often be found among tech moguls, politicians and social media celebrities.
As a result, the Karen meme has quickly spread around the world. As the pandemic progresses, more Karens appear on social media and in real life; famous examples include Central Park Karen, Costco Karen, and Zombie Karen – nonbelievers in masks or social distance during public health emergencies who can become very rude when trying to negotiate with them.
5. You’re a Noise Complaint Machine
Though it might be easy to dismiss “I want to talk to the manager” Karen’s actions as unwarranted, experts told Yahoo Life that her reactions might actually be understandable. According to one expert, Karens often react negatively when told something is not allowed and are easily irritated; their irritation increases further if they believe someone is trying to limit their freedom or threaten it in some way.
Another theory suggests that the Karen stereotype emerged from a Dane Cook comedy special and since has evolved into a meme consisting of middle-aged white women with asymmetrical bobs who use their privilege against people of color. They might use Nextdoor to report an unruly Black family barbecue or call the police about them – such as posting about them on Nextdoor or calling police about one.
Recent months have witnessed an explosion of videos depicting Karens going wild on social media, with accounts like @karensgoingwild cataloguing many instances of their behavior. Coronavirus outbreak has only added fuel to this fire; many Karens refuse to abide by health recommendations and use coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to police people in their neighborhoods.
Karens can also refer to parents who act like pushy and entitled adults; one St. Louis personal injury attorney and his wife (dubbed Ken and Karen) pointed guns at protesters outside their mansion in response to them outside. If you recognize yourself acting like one, perhaps now is the time to understand why you’re so irritable all the time.
6. You’re a White Girl
Karens are women who use privilege to gain what they desire, even if that means calling police on black people who go about their business. It is disturbing and alarming that these women often are unaware of the extent of their privilege, which compounds its effect.
This white girl stereotype first gained popularity during the 2000s through black artists’ observation and parody, particularly those that focused on trends among young white females, such as wearing Ugg boots and yoga pants, drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes, taking selfies, etc. Not just young white girls exhibit these behaviors – middle- and upper-class women also do it and it produces similar outcomes.
Karen might think she is setting her own style, but in reality she is simply replicating an old trend from long ago. For instance, Miss Ann might have worn hoop skirts but Karen wears her own version of them instead.
Not all white girls can be considered Karens, though this demographic of the population appears to be expanding. There are ways you can resist becoming one though; by learning more about your history and culture you may reject assimilation as a solution for world problems; by accepting yourself and your roots more fully you may stop being just another generic Karen and become an original Karen instead.