Many Karens take it personally when the meme criticizing them appears; even when they know it is not directly targeting them, its impact can still have lasting repercussions.
Over the years, Karen has become synonymous with an entitled and rude type of white woman – from viral videos of Beckys to service industry employees cringing when Karens demand to speak directly with managers at establishments like Starbucks or McDonalds, the name has been stained.
Why We’re Offended
Karens have become the go-to catchall term for entitled and rude women in viral videos, like when one woman called police on a bird-watcher in Central Park or when another girl clashed with a Costco cashier over her bag, the name Karen has been connected with numerous infuriating acts by people using this alias. A stereotypical Karen is typically middle aged, white female with an asymmetrical bob hairdo who insists upon speaking to a manager regularly while occasionally throwing temper tantrums against staffers or staffers themselves.
Stories often go viral when women engage in offensive or inappropriate behavior and then face widespread social media condemnation for it. When other women try to challenge this narrative, they are frequently labeled “not Karens” – this form of shaming impacts real people — including real Karens!
This trend hasn’t gone unnoticed and so a group has come together to fight it back. Through “Karens Are Sick of Being Maligned,” activists, lawyers, academics and activists signed the petition demanding an end to negative connotations regarding their name.
The goal of the campaign is to shift perceptions about Karens so they are seen as positive forces rather than negatively. This initiative notes how labeling someone ‘Karen’ can have serious ramifications for confidence and mental wellbeing – even if intended as a joke (according to one lawyer).
The “Karens Are Sick” campaign has already collected over 7,000 signatures and is on track to meet its goal of 15,000 within weeks. We hope that more people will sign it in hopes that it can spur a change in how people view names with “K” in them, such as Karens are sick; that will allow us to focus on real problems at hand rather than stereotypes like being called Karen.
It’s Not Racist
Karen has become a widely used meme to describe middle-class white women who exhibit behaviors that stem from their privilege. These women often weaponise this privilege against people of colour; one famous case being Amy Cooper calling the police on Black birders who asked her to leash her dog in Central Park; this incident made Amy famous as being known as a Central Park Karen.
This term has also been applied to individuals who fought against social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic and to protesters calling for racial justice, while Baby Boomers who hold outdated views about gender, sexuality, and youth culture have been called out as oppressors.
There have been numerous critiques of the Karen meme, particularly its application to stereotypical female portrayals. Critics have claimed it reinforces sexist stereotypes by using its name to denote an unpleasant woman; others argue it is ageist by labelling older women “Karens”. But this term not only discriminates sexually or ageism – it is misogynistic and racist as well.
A’Darius Bell and Adam Mansbach present an amusing sketch in which comedians A’Darius Bell and Adam Mansbach use celebrities like Craig Robinson, Sarah Silverman, and Lewis Black to mock those who call 911 on Black people for minor infractions or imagined offenses. Instead they route these calls through to “white emergency” line 912 where an operator informs them how racist and ignorant their callers are by airdropping books about racism such as The New Jim Crow on them!
Karen memes can be an effective and amusing way to highlight how the Karen stereotype can be offensive and harmful, yet let us not confuse this humor with anti-racism struggle, which requires more than a couple joke videos. In order to truly confront racism that lies at its foundations we need to understand its roots both in white privilege and racial hatred.
It’s Not Sexism
Shaming Karens is not accidental; it is the result of both white privilege and racism. Additionally, this behavior is both sexist and racist – women have long been targeted with derogatory labels because of their gender; for instance “Karens” often fall under this classification. No wonder so many are offended by such treatment!
Karens have come under attack not just from being perceived as racists and sexists but also classists. Their scorn reveals classism in that it shows contempt for middle-aged women who refuse to step back from their busy lives and recognize they’re not contributing enough towards combatting pandemic crisis. Their ridicule shows they’re seen as less conscious than younger and wealthier sisters.
Attitudes like these can be especially hazardous during times of public health emergencies, eroding trust in both officials and businesses to manage a crisis and contributing to increased levels of fear and paranoia in some communities due to this pandemic.
As we combat this epidemic, it is vital that we rebuild public trust in government, business and community leaders. One way of doing this is addressing all legitimate concerns of all involved; while also not maligning those most struggling – like Karens asking to speak with management because their rights have been violated.
As part of this, it’s important to acknowledge that using the term ‘Karen’ as a form of shameful exclusionary rhetoric, and we should unambiguously condemn such behaviour as racist and sexist. Additionally, we must clarify that we’re speaking here only about white women – not Black women, who may face different struggles and experiences than their White counterparts.
If someone was using such labels against any other group of people, there would likely be outrage and widespread criticism of it. As it’s being applied against an entire population, however, these insults seem to go without further review or criticism – it’s time to stop this!
It’s Not Entitled
Karens have become synonymous with entitled and rude women. From New York’s lady who coughed on people requesting she wear a mask, to Californian’s throwing tantrum over Target not allowing her to shop without one, to those taking to social media to vent about coronavirus pandemic restrictions; there has been no shortage of bad-Karens around the country. While it can be offensive being called Karen in relation to pandemic restrictions; real Karens may feel offended. But there have been those pushing back against such labeling; some real Karens who have actively opposed such condescending labels by pushing back against condescending labeling;
Though many have likened Karens to other characters like Tracy and Sharon on Birds of a Feather used to disparage working-class women, advocates are rejecting this idea. A recent opinion piece in The Atlantic points out the danger of using Karen memes to disparage people more likely to be considered less valuable or worthy of less respect.
Karen is a middle-aged white woman with a variation of a blunt blonde bob who often asks to speak with the manager. Known for her distinctive, squeaky voice known as her “Kiki,” which she claims results from inhaling helium (it actually occurs as the result of squeezing lips together), Karen is known for being overbearing with an aggressive personality and tendency towards gossip.
She’s had run-ins with both law and romance, including several failed relationships and quitting Grace Adler Designs twice: once when she discovered Grace was taping her and once after discovering she was cheating with government agent Malcolm.
Though it may seem far-fetched, real Karens are outraged at being mischaracterized as entitled and rude. To counter their bad behavior and ensure their names don’t become offensive slurs against them. Though not personally affected by it, their names still feel the pain and shame associated with being maligned this way.