If you’ve ever been on social media, you’ve likely come across many Karens. These white middle-aged women with blonde bob hair and the iconic catchphrase “let me speak to the manager” often display entitlement, ignorance and prejudice.
Karens are notorious for calling the police on black neighbors, hoarding toilet paper and refusing to get vaccinated during a pandemic. Yet despite their depravity, Karens remain popular figures in popular culture.
What is a Karen?
Karen” is a derogatory term used to denote white women with an extreme sense of entitlement. This slang phrase, which has been around for over a decade, has gained in popularity recently. Karens can be seen in movies and on social media platforms as shorthand for various problematic behaviors.
Karens tend to be middle-aged white women with short haircuts who exude entitlement and boast about their self-importance.
These women can be found in many shopping malls, usually demanding to speak to the manager about a problem with their purchase. They may also be loud or aggressive when dealing with shop assistants who may get quite defensive when confronted by them.
Karens may be perceived as racist when they call the police on people of color for minor offenses or fictitious ones. This acts of weaponizing their privilege against people of color can lead to violent confrontations.
Karens can often be seen as activists fighting against systemic racism and classism. The Wall of Moms movement in Portland, Oregon serves as an example of this; these moms are mostly middle class white women who use their privilege to combat systemic injustice and promote social justice.
Some Karens can be violent and use their privilege for personal gain. This may include threatening to hurt or kill others. Amy Cooper, for instance, became infamous when she called the police on black birder Christian Cooper in Central Park.
However, most of the Karens we see online aren’t engaging in violent acts against people of color; rather they are using their relative privilege to get what they desire.
Karens have seen a meteoric rise in popularity thanks to the current digital era. A study revealed that there are over 1.7 billion active users on social media platforms, with the average person posting more than 11,000 tweets daily.
Thus, people have more chances to share their stories on social media. These accounts can teach others how to utilize their power responsibly and safeguard them against becoming victims of online abuse.
Origins of the Karen Meme
Dr Lauren Rosewarne from the University of Melbourne believes that “Karen meme” refers to a group of middle-aged white women who act with privilege, according to her expertise. These individuals include people who demand to speak directly to managers in service industries, are anti-vaccination and regularly commit racist microaggressions, she noted.
Karens have become particularly linked to an increasing number of women who refuse to wear face masks or get vaccinated. Many of these individuals are filmed in public places, often leading them to become the subject of viral social media posts.
Some critics of the Karen meme say it is an example of misogynistic internet usage. Philadelphia community organiser Gwen Snyder has tweeted that it has been co-opted by “white boys who stole it and turned it into code for ‘bitch’.”
Apryl Williams, a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, told Insider that Karens are an insulting term used to denote middle-aged white women who tend to act inappropriately within their homes and businesses. She further noted how this term has even influenced legislation such as California’s CAREN Act.
This legislation would make it a hate crime to call the police on Black people for racial reasons. It seeks to address the trend of white women making unnecessary arrests of Black people in public spaces.
Karen memes come in many variations, but all share certain traits like a short blonde bob haircut and an entitled, antagonistic personality. They may be stereotyped as soccer moms or divorced mothers of poorly behaved children due to these characteristics.
One of the more well-known versions of the Karen meme originated on Reddit, where user FuckYouKaren created a subreddit dedicated to mocking her ex-wife. Since 2017, this subreddit has grown to have over 600,000 members according to Know Your Meme.
Another popular version of the Karen meme is inspired by Dane Cook’s comedy routine “The Friend Nobody Likes.” This humorous parody follows a white woman who unjustly calls the police on an African American person for no apparent reason. Not only has this become an internet trend, but it has inspired recent legislation in America that would make it illegal to unjustly call police on Black people in public spaces, according to Williams.
The Karen Meme in the Movies
The Karen Meme, a parody character that has become synonymous with white women who use their privilege to demand that society conform to their will, will get its first feature film adaptation. According to TMZ, Orange Is The New Black star Taryn Manning will star as Karen in this satirical movie.
In recent months, the Karen meme has taken on a new meaning as it became a focal point in conversations surrounding Black Lives Matter. Originally seen as an offhand caricature of privileged white women who often stand alone, it has now been adopted to symbolize what many are saying about 2020’s intense, racially charged debate over human rights.
The internet has long been home to humorous reenactments of the Karen archetype. One famous example involves a woman demanding that a manager remove two loud, unruly black patrons from her local restaurant.
Drawing inspiration from this idea, writer-director Coke Daniels reimagined the story as a horror thriller. Starring Orange Is The New Black star Taryn Maning, the film has already drawn criticism for its lack of nuance when depicting racism and white privilege.
Karen develops an intense hatred for her new African American neighbours, whom she considers inferior and a threat to her status. She becomes violent towards them and frequently rants in the background of conversations about a gang of black men trying to murder her.
She has an unhealthy obsession with status markers. She loves her clothes, shoes, and jewelry; furthermore, she values her social standing because it keeps her visible near the top of the food chain. Unfortunately, her narcissism and inability to put herself first make it easy for her to take out her frustration on those around her.
Daniels plays up Karen’s privilege as a white woman in an attempt to mimic other exploitation films of the past. Unfortunately, she comes off as more offensive than an actual Karen would be. It’s an unfortunate way for Burke to end what would otherwise have been an impressive debut; her commitment and skill at handling material suggest much greater potential success.
The Karen Meme on Social Media
The Karen meme has been around for some time, but its popularity has grown in recent years. This popular image depicts middle-aged white women with spiky blonde hair and their condescending attitude when engaging service industry workers in conversation.
This meme has become especially popular on Reddit, where a subreddit called r/F—YouKaren was created. According to Know Your Meme, this subreddit boasts over 600,000 members dedicated solely to spreading hatred towards Karen. Some users have even turned the meme into an niche merchandise market by selling everything from coffee mugs and pillows to hats.
In addition to spreading jokes on social media, the Karen meme could potentially expose employers to lawsuits based on discrimination and harassment laws. This risk is especially high when coworkers share the “Karen” meme during working hours.
Employees using Karen monikers in the workplace may claim they were subjected to an environment which was hostile or even unlawful due to their race, color, age and sex. Therefore, employers must take steps to educate their workers about proper workplace conduct as well as applicable state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination or harassment based on protected characteristics.
Therefore, it is essential that you implement social media policies to minimize the likelihood of any claims based on Karen monikers. These should include training so employees are aware of their rights and obligations as well as refraining from sharing any personal information that could create an uncomfortable work atmosphere.
According to Apryl Williams of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, Karen names were sometimes used to target white women who engaged in racist or self-righteous behavior. Examples include a Central Park “Karen” who called police on Christian Cooper while birdwatching and another Karen who coughed at customers at a bagel shop.
Karen monikers have been criticized for shaming middle class, white women. Nonetheless, they can serve as a useful point of reference for activists looking to bring attention to specific aspects of racism or classism in their communities. For instance, when mostly middle class white women participated in the Wall of Moms bloc at a protest in Portland last month, activists saw them using their privilege to stand up for those who are marginalized or otherwise underrepresented.