Karens have become an internet meme since Covid pandemic began, when people posted viral videos with women being called Karens in public spaces.
She may be a soccer mom or divorcee, with anti-vaxxer tendencies, who has the classic American “can I speak to the manager” haircut. Ultimately, she takes authority too far.
1. You’re a white woman
Karen is the nickname given to a particular type of white woman and it has since been widely used online to describe women who are annoying or think they’re above rules. These women take their privilege too far and believe laws, guidelines or general decency do not apply to them – such as posting suspicious-looking people onto Nextdoor about them; demanding to speak with managers at coffee shops and restaurants; calling police over minor or even nonexistent violations against black people etc.
Recent months have seen an upsurge in popularity for the Karen meme due to coronavirus outbreak, with many people who identify as Karens being known as Coronavirus Karens. Videos showing Karens not following public health recommendations or wearing face coverings when shopping have gone viral; often belittling service workers while insisting upon wearing face coverings themselves.
Karens tend to be middle-aged women with an early 2000s soccer mom haircut (think Posh Spice from Spice Girls), often highlighted, short or bobbed with some fringe around her eyes and possibly highlighted around the sides. Furthermore, they could be suburban mothers who believe pandemic precautions or the government response are overblown.
Though some might find the stereotype of Karen funny, others find it offensive and sexist. There are concerns that it is being used against women of color without regard for respectability and accuracy; but the good news is if you aren’t actually named Karen then your chances of being called one by your friends or online peers is likely quite low.
2. You’re a middle-aged white woman
Karen is a term popularized in meme culture to refer to middle-aged white women who use their privilege to demand whatever they desire, often using racism or intolerance against minorities as justification for doing so. These women may be racist and/or closed-minded and determined to get their way even when it’s wrong – they don’t hesitate to call the police on black people for walking on sidewalks or harass their neighbors who wear COVID-19 masks in their home, posting about suspicious-looking neighbors or calling the cops on those who refuse to wear one during shelter in place situations.
There has been an increasing proliferation of internet memes depicting real-life people who fall under this category and they include Kyle, Becky, Stacy and Karen – to name but four examples. While some argue these terms are sexist and should not be used to mock these women directly, others point out there are no equivalent male names for such behaviors.
Karen is typically an older white female Generation X or Gen Y who embodies what’s become known as soccer-mom style haircut, often associated with Generation Y white women from Generations X or Y. The meme gained widespread recognition during the coronavirus pandemic when used to depict those opposed to social distancing measures who view this outbreak as an excuse to police nonwhite neighborhoods more heavily than was necessary.
“Karens” have come to be associated with women who use COVID-19 coverage to demand food from restaurants or grocery stores even though they do not need it, such as returning multiple times and blaming their server; or those who oppose vaccination.
3. You’re a middle-aged white woman with a past generation haircut
“Karen” has quickly become a viral meme online, depicting white women perceived to be overly entitled and demanding – such as calling the police on Black birders in Central Park or insisting upon speaking to a manager when Anne Taylor refuses to accept returned items more than three months old.
Most Karens in question tend to be middle-aged women and often wear what’s known as a soccer mom bob haircut – typically short in back and longer front with layers reminiscent of early 2000s Posh Spice styles – making their identity easy to spot. This hairdo can also serve as an early indicator as to who they are dealing with.
The Karen meme has gained widespread attention during the coronavirus pandemic, with women being labeled “Karens” for refusing to wear face masks or follow public health recommendations. One viral clip features one such Karen for refusing to enter a supermarket during lockdown due to a medical condition prohibiting her from wearing one – prompting some public health advisories against entering such stores during lockdown periods.
Some might call the use of Karen as “sexist,” while others consider it an effective form of satire that pokes fun at real-life behaviors. Satire is especially vital because so often we encounter individuals — like “Karens” we see daily — who ignore or misinterpret public health advice while abusing privilege to bully others, an extremely dangerous and harmful way of acting.
4. You’re a middle-aged white woman with a past generation style
Since 2016, you’re unlikely to visit the internet without seeing someone called “Karen” behaving badly. These women, almost always white and perceived as entitled due to their relative privilege against people of color (ie calling police on Black men birdwatching in Central Park or refusing to wear masks at Trader Joe’s), are widely depicted as arrogant and self-important – often using memes as a platform against each other through negative labelling of Karens on social media platforms. Many Karens hate having their names be associated with such behavior and want people stop using Karen memes as an avenue against other women’s bad behaviour!
Karens tend to come from Generation X or older and sport what’s known as a “can I speak to the manager” haircut – that old-school American soccer mom look. Additionally, these Karens believe their opinion on everything is the only correct one and that laws, traffic rules and basic decency don’t apply to them; these Karens serve as female versions of Trump supporters that have been popping up everywhere.
As a result of these negative stereotypes, people are shying away from using Karen altogether, with its ranking dropping out of the top 1,000 most popular baby names by 2021. That is unfortunate as Karen is such an elegant name which should not be associated with bad behavior. I hope that soon this trend will change and people become more circumspect with how they use Karen meme – too close for my liking to become a racist insult!
5. You’re a middle-aged white woman with white privilege
As is often the case, when applied to white women, “Karen” has long been an offensive term. Many use it pejoratively; conjuring images of an annoying, close-minded, middle-aged suburban white woman who holds radical beliefs while using her privilege to get what she wants. Others argue that Karen is not new phenomenon but rather an older stereotype representing women who tend towards being misogynistic, close-minded, aggressive; some even argue it has been co-opted by men as code for white bitch.
No matter how you interpret “Karens,” there is no doubt that the trend is real. Viral videos of Beckys and Karens causing chaos online or calling the police for supposed violations to no-pet policies have surfaced online and in stores alike, and Karens can often be seen making unreasonable demands or creating scenes at stores or on Nextdoor. There is no shortage of examples showing Karens at work.
Although it can be easy to dismiss certain white women as Karen-type stereotypes, it is important to keep in mind that they didn’t appear out of thin air; rather they are the latest manifestations of an age-old pattern of behavior. White privilege exists, and these women simply use tools available to them to protect their interests. If you identify as Karen yourself or know someone who does – recognize your privilege; recognize its effects and take measures against it accordingly – whether by acknowledging it and taking steps against it yourself; this doesn’t involve being bad – rather it means understanding your power while respecting all backgrounds equally!