Karen has become a beloved internet meme. Often seen sporting an asymmetrical hair style and demanding to speak with the manager, Karens often display racism, ignorance and an arrogance that belies their own importance.
Some Karens have been caught on camera making some truly horrible public declarations. From calling the police on Black people enjoying picnics to shouting at baristas speaking Spanish, these examples illustrate some of the worst behavior possible.
1. Entitled Karen’s Public Freakout
Karren Giammatteo, often described as ‘Karen,’ has gained notoriety in recent years at precisely the moment when twin crises of public health and racial social justice have caused unprecedented disruption and uncertainty across American life. Her attitude embodies both entitled white supremacy and class privilege into an intolerant dismissal of white female anger that deserves recognition, particularly to distinguish her from other targets of public ridicule.
Damon Young (2020) has noted that Karen fits into a long lineage of popular neologisms and tropes that emphasize performances of white innocence and white guilt through ‘white tears’ and ‘white fragility’. She replaces ‘Becky’, an earlier term for a racially unaware white woman who fails to acknowledge her privilege.
Karen follows in the tradition of white women who use anger as a way to cope and defuse social disadvantage. But as Jennifer Weiner (2020) has noted, Karen stands more ‘currently’ because she represents white femininity at its intersection with individual/communities of color during an era in which everyday situational racisms are being increasingly called into account.
Karen contributes to the public shaming of “pandemic rage”, a new phenomenon that includes consumer anger and, increasingly, anger about racial violence (Weiner 2020). It is no accident that she finds herself at the front lines of this “pandemic shaming”, with an intensity matched only by her public criticism.
White middle class privilege allows her to fulfill entitlements – like customer service – without fear of facing the consequences for her actions. Furthermore, as Nelson D. Schwartz (2020) has noted, the’velvet rope economy’ has disenfranchised many sectors of the middle class from their traditional rights of ease and access.
White women who ‘entitle’ themselves to complain about things that go wrong – like customer service issues not being addressed by the person responsible – often end up being labeled and shamed as being irrational or crazy. This stems from institutionally sanctioned cultural practices which, at their most injurious, seek to ‘nurture’ white women by centering their emotions and providing comfort.
2. Entitled Karen’s Cell Phone Freakout
Karen, the popular viral nickname, has been making headlines recently. From a TikTok video where an anti-vaxxer Karen claims she can speak directly with a manager to Walmart Karen who got upset over a missing cell phone in her car, there are numerous high-profile cases featuring this surname.
The term can elicit a range of feelings – classism, misogyny and even racial tensions – which has led to heated debate on its implications. One common complaint is that it can act as an impediment for perpetrators to come forward with the truth when their video clip of their crime may have gone viral.
One more troubling criticism is that assigning a nondescript name to a woman who has engaged in overtly racist act may only increase her likelihood of being caught by those on the receiving end, or worse yet, doxxed online.
As far as naming schemes go, it’s hard to pick a clear winner. However, one notable example is r/F-YouKaren subreddit which has amassed over 600,000 followers in one year. This site features videos of Karen who doesn’t hesitate to reveal her questionable medical practices; but what’s most inspiring about this subreddit is how users are able to connect without worrying about maintaining their privacy.
3. Entitled Karen’s Cell Phone Etiquette
Karens are often depicted as demanding women who never hesitate to demand to speak to a manager. But this stereotype of entitled Karens, like many internet neologisms, has only further compounded. Meanwhile, the term “Ken,” which can be applied to any white man showing similar entitlements, has yet to gain widespread popularity online. Unfortunately, there are plenty of male-oriented names out there that could serve as more acceptable spinoffs of this term. Maybe if more people used these names instead of calling someone “Karen,” we might reduce our problems online with stereotypical women while having some fun too!
4. Entitled Karen’s Garden Freakout
Karen from Montclair, NJ was awarded the title of most obnoxious Karen over the past several years when she rolled into her neighbor’s backyard and installed a stone patio without permission. While having the yard may have been beneficial, why did she do it? Perhaps she was feeling overwhelmed with having two kids and working full time. Whatever her motivation may have been, we should all take away one important lesson: If she’s going to have one, make use of it for something other than trashing up the community!