Like so many girl names, Karen used to be respected and popular, but has recently come to be associated with white women who monitor and harass Black people.
Due to intense ridicule, some Karens are considering changing their names. Three appeared on This Morning to share their experiences.
What is the Karen Meme?
The Karen meme is a stereotype depicting middle-aged white women with asymmetrical bob haircuts acting entitled and rude in an unfunny manner. This form of online criticism has recently gained immense popularity; being used against people both public and private – including white people perceived to be racists.
Critics have claimed that the Karen meme is sexist and ageist, especially given that most Karens are female. Others have found the image offensive as well as dehumanizing and have called for a boycott against any businesses associated with it. Others, however, defend its use as harmless entertainment and should not be taken too seriously.
Due to the Karen meme, many parents have stopped choosing it when giving names to their newborns and it has become less popular overall. This may be because many existing Karens dislike how their name has become associated with stereotypes; many of them are considering changing it or have already done so.
Karen memes can be both sexist and ageist; they’re also racist – often targeting people of color. Due to its immense popularity, this stereotype even inspired its own subreddit: r/F—YouKaren which was created two years ago by user “karmacop97” as a joke.
Since its creation, the subreddit has amassed over 600,000 members and been used to target women perceived as being offensive or who display stereotypical characteristics of Karens. Furthermore, this subreddit targets women who report minor or even fictional incidents to police without investigation being performed first.
As well as calling police on people of color, the Karen meme has also been used to call out women who use their privilege to bully others online and in real life – for instance those who refuse to wear face coverings in shops or disagree with social distancing measures during coronavirus pandemics.
Why is the Karen Meme so bad?
Many who bear the name Karen, especially older women who may have held it for some time, feel threatened by this meme. At its core, it represents how white privilege allows individuals to weaponize their names to assert power over those with less. Recently in COVID-19 it has taken on new significance when linked to those who breach social distancing rules by refusing to wear masks during public exams – something many other names can also be associated with.
Karen memes may be popular due to their association with conservatism and belief that how things were should remain unchanged. A recent story by NPR’s Code Switch blog details this trend in American society: certain portions hold onto an outdated way of doing things set during an age of prosperity and relative privilege for White people; these individuals often look up to Karens as role models who refuse to learn from others and use pandemic as an excuse to be rude and unreasonable toward those around them.
Another problem with the Karen meme is its potential to lead to discrimination of both race and gender. A Philadelphia community organizer tweeted in 2020 that this meme “turns women who use their name for self-gain into targets of sexist jokes and misogynistic slurs”. Though Karen may have been more popular at its peak popularity of 1965, its numbers have dropped out of the top 1,000 baby names in America since.
But just because a Karen complains about the line at Trader Joe’s or gets rudely questioned by security at the mall doesn’t automatically qualify her as racist or sexist; history shows otherwise. Black culture has long used code words as a way of labeling white people who behave unreasonably and using names and code words such as Karen to refer to these individuals; therefore it’s essential that we don’t use this meme as an accusatory term to suggest any person acting unethically is necessarily racist or sexist.
What can I do about the Karen Meme?
On social media, they’ve become well-known as rude middle-aged Karens demanding to speak to the manager over seemingly insignificant matters such as an iced skinny vanilla latte with too many ice cubes. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, Karens’ behavior has escalated dramatically since it first made headlines; with many high-profile cases making national news (e.g. Trader Joe’s Karen who had to be removed by law enforcement). Unfortunately, these are just examples of their misbehavior; real meltdowns often go much deeper. During the pandemic, an increasingly annoying breed of middle-aged Karens came to be known as “super-Karens,” employing police services to protect themselves or defend against protestors or simply refusing to abide by public health guidelines such as wearing masks in restaurants and stores. Such individuals frequently engage in road rage and other potentially violent actions.
Internet memes have provided a means of capitalizing on this phenomenon by turning these out-of-control women into iconic and notorious figures such as Central Park Karen or Cosco Karen, known for their outrageous displays of privilege and entitlement. Some may even perceive them as racist, with many drawing parallels between Central Park Karen’s behavior and Emmett Till’s murder.
As memes gain momentum, more and more people have taken to social media to voice their disapproval of Karens in their lives. Some have gone so far as claiming that Karen is just as offensive as N-word or that memes about Karens constitute racism against women named Karen – these claims are simply untrue and it’s essential that people understand the difference between humor and oppression.
No matter if it’s intended as a joke or not, the Karen meme represents an issue in society. It shows how white upper-class women have lost touch with reality of systemic racism and privilege that many people of color face daily; even though it may seem harmless at first glance. While its intention may have been meant as humor or even ridicule, its consequences are real for those subjected to its actions in work or personal settings.
How can I stop the Karen Meme?
Recently, “Karen” has become a meme to refer to white women perceived as acting rudely or in an entitled manner. Most often this involves minor incidents like calling the police on bird watchers or trying to reserve parking spots; however some Karens have also been targeted over more serious matters, like one woman calling police because their neighbor wrote “Black Lives Matter” in chalk on her property – these incidents have raised concerns that this meme may be both sexist and racist.
While the Karen meme primarily targets middle-aged white women, it has also become a way of mocking those of all ages and races who appear rude or entitled. A typical stereotype for Karen includes an older white woman driving a minivan while having multiple cats in her household and wearing an “Speak to the Manager” haircut – it has become so popular that there has even been a subreddit dedicated to discussing various ways she can be made fun of!
Many have also criticized the Karen meme for its misogynist connotations; as it targets women perceived to be older and sexist. Others have pointed out its racist connotation by targeting women of color who may appear rude or entitled.
Though it has its critics, the Karen meme remains a popular form of humor on social media and has even inspired real-life actions by those tired of being stereotyped as Karens – such as Shamann Walton from San Francisco who recently introduced legislation called CAREN Act that makes calling 911 falsely for non-emergency incidents illegal.
As the Karen meme continues to gain in popularity, it is crucial for people to recognize its danger. Ultimately, it should be condemned as sexist, racist and ageist; rather than using “Karen” to disparage women directly or to call out those acting unnecessarily – using it instead to highlight behaviors which have privileges granted which other groups do not.