Karen (slang)

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"Karen" is a slang term for a person perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary. It is commonly associated with an American middle-aged white woman who displays aggressive behavior when prevented from getting her way; such women are often depicted as demanding to "speak to the manager", and of having a particular bob cut hairstyle.[1][2]

Origin[edit]

One origin of the use of the term "Karen" as an Internet meme dates to an anonymous Reddit user, Fuck_You_Karen, who posted rants denigrating his ex-wife Karen, whom he alleged had "taken" both his children and, later, his house during divorce proceedings. The posts led to the creation of a subreddit in 2017, r/FuckYouKaren, to both compile a narrative and share memes about the posts. Since Fuck_You_Karen deleted their account, the subreddit refocused to memes about the stereotype in general rather than one specific woman.[3][2]

The name Karen had negative connotations predating the Internet meme, the notable uses being Lorraine Bracco's depiction of Karen Friedman Hill in the 1990 film Goodfellas, and Amanda Seyfried's ditzy schoolgirl character in the 2004 film Mean Girls. Other noted uses of "Karen" as a joke punchline include Dane Cook's 2005 sketch "The Friend Nobody Likes" from his album Retaliation,[2] and a 2016 Internet meme regarding an officially unnamed woman in an advert for the Nintendo Switch console who exhibits antisocial behavior.[3]

There has been some debate as to whether "Karen" is a racist term, likening the "K-word to the N-word." [4][5] While this term is used exclusively in a pejorative manner towards a person of a specific race and gender, some have argued that "Karen" lacks the historical context to be considered as a racial slur, trivializing "actual" discrimination.[6]

Use[edit]

The "Karen" archetype carries several stereotypes that are common to the "airhead subculture", the most notable is the stereotype that a "Karen" will demand to "speak with the manager" of a hypothetical service provider.[3][7] Other stereotypes include anti-vaccination beliefs, racism against black people, use of Facebook and a particular bob haircut with blonde highlights (pictures of Kate Gosselin during the airing of Kate Plus 8 were used in earlier memes about a "can-I-speak-to-your-manager haircut").[8][7]

Examples[edit]

The mid-2019 formation of Tropical Storm Karen in the Atlantic hurricane basin led to memes likening the storm to the stereotype; several users made jokes about the storm wanting to "speak with the manager", with images photoshopped to include the "Karen haircut" on either the hurricane or its forecast path.[9] At the same time, the term gained prominence in Hispanic and African-American communities as a way to describe suburban white women who would supposedly call the police on people of color for minor trespasses,[10] similar to the prior use of "Becky" in the same communities to describe the same archetype.[11]

In April 2020, a Twitter account named "Friends of Journalism" asserted the term to be "an equivalent of the n-word for white women" and polled Twitter users on whether they would like to see it banned – 96% of respondents answered in the negative. At the same time, journalist and radical feminist Julie Bindel asked on her Twitter feed, "Does anyone else think the Karen-slur is woman-hating and based on class prejudice?"[12] The Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman, replied to Bindel saying that it was "sexist, ageist, and classist, in that order". Freeman's own comments received criticism from people of color—who believed Bindel and Freeman were denigrating their use of the term to discuss racism—and several misogynistic trolling comments.[13] Other critics of Bindel's statements asserted that "claiming Karen is a slur is a very Karen thing to do" and likened it to Bindel's opposition to the term TERF.[14][12]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the term was used to describe such women who would passive-aggressively enforce quarantine,[15] as well as those abusing Asian-American health workers due to the virus's origins in China.[16] The meme also manifested in different ways during different stages in the pandemic: prior to the announcement of local epidemics, "Karen" was used to also describe those hoarding essential supplies such as toilet paper; as quarantine restrictions continued throughout April and May 2020, the term saw use to describe those same people who protested the continuance of the restrictions because they prevented them visiting hair salons.[11] Another belief of a "Karen" includes the myth that 5G caused the virus, which led to some people burning 5G towers down in the UK. Notable posts on Reddit mocking or criticising the stereotype included a meme in which a "Karen" pitted "stuff I read on Facebook" with a doctor's scientific expertise, a protester in Nashville with a placard reading "Sacrifice the Weak, Reopen TN", and, in one case, mocking a woman called Karen who doubted the pandemic's danger and later died.[11]

On May 25, 2020, the term was used in the context of a video depicting a confrontation between a white woman, Amy Cooper, and a black man, Christian Cooper (no relation), in Central Park. Christian said he approached Amy and asked her to leash her dog, as she was in the Ramble, a part of the park restricted for birdwatching. Amy was recorded calling the police and telling them that an "African-American man" is "threatening [her] life." At the end of the recording, Amy leashes her dog, at which point Christian said the interaction ended. Police arrived shortly after the two had left but took no action. Amy's note of Christian's race and her exaggerated claims were widely criticized and interpreted as reflecting negative racial attitudes towards African Americans. It also led some commentators to controversially dub her "Central Park Karen", which was followed by scrutiny of that term.[17][18] The next day, Amy Cooper was fired by her employer.[19] This has been cited as being the prelude to the George Floyd protests that have erupted throughout America and the rest of the world.[20] This has also led to her dog being surrendered back to the dog shelter she adopted it from.[21]

What they do[edit]

They are the kind of person to give rasins to kids on Halloween.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Asmelash, Leah (May 30, 2020). "How Karen became a meme, and what real-life Karens think about it". CNN. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Greenspan, Rachael (May 27, 2020). "How the name Karen became a stand-in for problematic white women and a hugely popular meme". Business Insider. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Romano, Aja (February 5, 2020). "Karen: The anti-vaxxer soccer mom with speak-to-the-manager hair, explained". Vox. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  4. ^ "A White Woman Found A Way To Declare 'Karen' A Racial Slur And Twitter Is Having A Field Day". Blavity News. May 27, 2020. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  5. ^ "Is calling someone 'Karen' a slur? An investigation". The Philadelphia Inquirer. May 27, 2020. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  6. ^ "After racial violence in the U.S., writer Karen Attiah re-examines the 'Karen' meme". CBC. May 27, 2020. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "10+ Memes of Karen, the Infamous "Speak to the Manager" Haircut". Know Your Meme. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  8. ^ Dozier, Rob (August 21, 2018). "Why Memes Making Fun of White People Demanding to 'Speak to the Manager!' Are So Popular Right Now". Slate. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  9. ^ Mansoor, Sanya (September 22, 2019). "Tropical Storm Karen Has the Internet Saying the Storm 'Wants to Speak to a Manager'". Time. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  10. ^ Attiah, Karen (April 28, 2020). "The 'Karen' memes and jokes aren't sexist or racist. Let a Karen explain". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c Tiffany, Kaitlyn (May 6, 2020). "How 'Karen' Became a Coronavirus Villain". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Parsons, Vic (April 6, 2020). "In these trying times, lesbian radical feminist Julie Bindel is debating whether 'Karen' is a slur. Yes, really". PinkNews. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  13. ^ Freeman, Hadley (April 13, 2020). "The 'Karen' meme is everywhere – and it has become mired in sexism". The Guardian. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  14. ^ Lewis, Rachel Charlene (April 10, 2020). "'Karen' Isn't a Slur – It's A Critique of Entitled White Womanhood". Bitch Media. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  15. ^ Weiner, Jennifer (April 14, 2020). "Opinion | The Seductive Appeal of Pandemic Shaming". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  16. ^ Elliott, Josh K. (April 20, 2020). "'Go to China!': 'Nurses' hailed for blocking anti-quarantine 'Karen' at coronavirus protest". Global News. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  17. ^ Perper, Rosie (May 25, 2020). "A woman in a video appears to call the police claiming there's an 'African American man threatening my life' – he apparently had asked her to put her dog on a leash". Insider. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  18. ^ Nir, Sarah Maslin (May 26, 2020). "White Woman Is Fired After Calling Police on Black Man in Central Park". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  19. ^ Burke, Kerry (May 26, 2020). "Finance firm fires Central Park 'Karen' for calling cops on black man: 'We do not tolerate racism'". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  20. ^ https://www.forbes.com/sites/terinaallen/2020/05/29/3-things-amy-cooper-did-in-central-park-that-destroyed-her-life/#66481786198f
  21. ^ https://edition.cnn.com/2020/05/26/us/central-park-video-dog-video-african-american-trnd/index.html

External links[edit]