Karens have become a widely used internet meme that mocks white women with an abundance of first-world problems, ranging from calling the police on black birders in Central Park to shouting at retail workers about refund policies – becoming synonymous with entitled behavior and perceived entitlement.
It is clear why this slang has caught on so quickly; from Reddit to Twitter and beyond.
What is a Karen?
Karen from Mean Girls has become an Internet meme over time, often used to refer to middle-aged white women whose behavior may be seen as entitled or disrespectful. More recently, during a coronavirus pandemic outbreak, this term “Karen” has come to symbolize people who refuse to abide by public health guidelines while insisting their decisions are justified.
Although Karen the Bagel Shop Owner had long been around, its popularity saw a dramatic spike in 2020 when a viral video called “Karen the Bagel Shop Owner” went viral. It featured a woman having an outraged tantrum after being asked to wear a mask; quickly becoming a meme with many believing she acted rudely and with an air of entitlement.
Karens have since continued to appear online in various contexts. When dissatisfied with service they demand to speak to a manager; argue against vaccines in front of children; commit racist microaggressions; call the police on someone if they disagree with their political viewpoint or decide to draw on their property – they’re even known to threaten violence if someone crosses their political views; they even call 911 on people they disagree with when their property has been marked for drawing or graffitiing if someone draws something they disagree with or decides against drawing something on it all – make an impressionable persona who wants to speak up their concerns in front of others if something goes wrong; these people often demands and expect it from somewhere; otherwise you might encounter Karens online too, with whom you needn’t bother you when not satisfied by service provider; argue against vaccines before kids in front of kids when things have gone wrong or commit racist micro-aggressions when someone decideds against imprinting services when making claims of such arguments; make demands with management when unhappy; argue against vaccination in front of children when necessary and make racist micro-aggressions when necessary or decides against someone they disagree politically or decides upon having drawn something else may require calling the police on someone if someone chooses drawing their property by drawing something else altogether!
Some have alleged that Karen is an offensive misogynistic stereotype who denigrates white women while overlooking systemic racism and privilege. Most dismiss this claim, since neither her name is offensive nor because many male characters with generic white names such as Richard or Kevin act similarly to Karen in terms of stereotypicality.
Karens are generally defined as people belonging to Generation X (baby boomers and Gen Y combined), in their late 30s to 40s, with short bob haircuts who belong to this age range and exhibit certain behaviors as depicted by popular memes such as depicting white women with this hair type acting entitled or complaining about others. But over time this definition has expanded beyond demographic boundaries to encompass any individual who acts entitled or complains about others.
Who is a Karen?
The term “Karen” has come to represent a specific type of middle-aged white woman who exhibits rude and entitled behavior, such as throwing tantrums at Starbucks for minor inconvenience and threatening to call the police on those not leashing their dogs in Central Park. She can be anti-vaxxer, white supremacist or simply use their privilege for harassment or bullying people – characteristics which have made Karen one of Reddit’s most lively communities (r/Karen). These stereotypes have even given rise to subreddits dedicated solely for her portrayal!
This meme has been widely criticized as being sexist, racist and ageist; though your interpretation of the joke could vary. Many have drawn parallels between it and cultural references like Mean Girls ditzy Karen or Goodfellas meddling Karen; yet using Karen as an insult in such circumstances is new and unusual.
As the Karen meme has grown increasingly popular, real-life Karens have begun sharing their experiences. One told CNN that being called Karen can hurt deeply; it makes her feel “sick inside”. Additionally, they’ve been told they are bad influences on younger women and negative forces within society; one even received threats of lawsuit from its creator!
Karen (who asked not to be identified), expressed that it hurts when others speak ill of her, calling her stereotypes or making negative assumptions about who she is as an individual. “I don’t want to become one,” she stated emphatically, adding “I’m an amazing human being!”
Not all Karens are bad; being named Karen does not automatically signify racism or sexism. For example, during the Vietnam War a nurse named Karen saved the life of an injured veteran by overriding medical regulations to push her hand into his wound and clamp an artery – possibly saving his life according to his National Medal of Honor award from 1996.
Why are Karens being called out?
Many have taken issue with the term Karen as an insult against women. Many believe it to have originated as a coded insult from white male users to address women as derogatory names or insults against them. Karen, as depicted by stereotype, is typically depicted as a middle-aged, suburban white woman driving a minivan and divorced for years, who has children whom she shares custody with and wears the “speak to the manager” haircut which typically features blonde highlights. Karen became popularised through a subreddit called r/F—YouKaren that now boasts over 600,000. Some individuals who have been accused of reporting Black people for minor transgressions or false alarms for being “Karens”.
As the coronavirus pandemic gained momentum, its name quickly became an internet meme as women who engaged in selfish or racist behaviors were identified through viral videos as Karens – particularly those who refused to wear face masks in public spaces and opposed coronavirus lockdown were often labeled. Even Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman earned herself this name when she advocated for casinos to reopen without complying with social distancing rules of coronavirus.
Since the pandemic began, new iterations of the Karen stereotype has emerged; specifically those who advocate anti-vaccine beliefs and espouse coronavirus conspiracy theories online. This new form has proven particularly contentious because this pandemic disproportionately affected people of color; using Karen memes to mock and insult these communities would likely be seen as offensive by many people.
Political affiliation has further divided opinions about Karen memes, with some individuals believing they are sexist or ageist while others view it as an attempt at finding humor in real-world racism and oppression, similar to Chad or Kyle memes that did before it. Furthermore, there exists another equally sexist and ageist version known as Ken.
What are the consequences of being called a Karen?
“Karen” is meant to denote people acting in an entitled, condescending, or racist manner – using this meme is intended as a way of calling out bad behavior – whether positive or negative uses can be employed with regards to these individuals – according to Brock who believes this meme is currently being employed both ways.
Use of a highly prevalent female name like Karen to criticize bad behavior is indeed ironic; yet its use provides an insightful window into how white privilege operates even among those who may not express overt prejudices and racism. But using Karen also serves as an eye-opener on how white privilege operates in our culture – even among those who might otherwise remain blind to its implications.
While its precise origins remain obscure, Know Your Meme attributes the Karen meme to Dane Cook’s 2005 bit about the lamest girl being named Karen in a group of girls. Additionally, 2016’s antisocial Karen meme seems to have given this stereotype further exposure; gamers were encouraged to name themselves Karen instead of joining in conversations over playing video games together with friends. Mean Girls also features its iconic meddling Karen character as another cultural representation of this annoying and disrespectful white woman.
Some experts are increasingly alarmed that the ‘Karen’ meme has become dangerously problematic. One 2021 movie featuring Taryn Manning from Orange Is the New Black depicts Karen as engaging in “Karen meltdowns” that escalate into racist aggression against her Black neighbors.
Others argue that memes are simply harmless fun, and can even be used for good – like when Karen Sandler, an attorney and software freedom advocate, used her status as a meme during a TEDTalk to urge others to be more conscious of problems they might not notice or consider on a regular basis.
As the coronavirus pandemic progresses, the Karen meme has grown increasingly popular online; some white politicians and others have been widely condemned for using it to implement discrimination of any sort; several women from viral videos have been identified as Karens for their selfish or racist behaviors, such as “Central Park Karen,” who falsely accused a Black man birdwatching in Manhattan’s Central Park of being threatening.