What Exactly Is A “Karen?” (If Your Name Is Karen, Apologies)
(Feature photo credit: www.thebitchywaiter.com)
If you're active at all on social media, there's a high probability you've heard people talking about "Karens." Yeah, they're not talking about Karen Carpenter or your nice neighbor-friend, who happens to be named "Karen." Honestly, I don't love these generalized dismissals of groups of people--especially using a name that many wonderful humans happen to carry as their earthly handle.
If you've been wondering what exactly people mean when they refer to "Karens," NPR recently gave some insight into what it is they're talking about:
The name "Karen," to me, reminds me of someone who is capable, reasonable, dependable. I've met many wonderful "Karens" in my life, so when this new trend took hold I was taken aback. You may have seen women branded "Karen" on social media and on videos "behaving badly," and doing things like throwing tantrums in a grocery store about not wanting to wear a mask or yelling at her neighbors while standing on her neighbor's property.
Bottom line? It is a term used to indicate a woman "almost always white, who are entitled, often racist, and determined to get what they want."
Doesn't sound like someone you'd want to hang around? Me neither. As aforementioned, I wish we didn't have to single out a single name.
But "Karen" isn't the only name that has been used this way. Throughout the years, others have been employed to make reference to a certain type of woman. (Notice how these are all women? That's another issue altogether for another post.) Here's some examples from times past NPR shares with us:
Back in the era between the years 1815 thru 1861, "Miss Ann" was slang for a "white woman who is aware of her whiteness and the status it conveys and is complicit with the system that preserves that status." Ugh.
More recently, in the 1990's, "Becky" was used as slang to describe a woman who is "happily ignorant and unaware of her whiteness but is complicit with the system that upholds her status. She is often overly dramatic when confronted about her whiteness. She may or may not be a "Valley girl."
Which brings us back to "Karen" here in 2020. NPR's describes her as someone "convinced her way is the right way, whether it's about charcoal grilling in the park, policing nonwhite people's behavior or demanding to speak to a manager or higher authority who can get her what she wants."
Funny. These are all women's names. Personally, as much I as am opposed to these behaviors, vehemently so, using a specific name has caused heartache for many wonderful people named Karen. So much, some of them have considered changing their names.
Sadly, this trend will likely hold fast for awhile. In the meantime, be extra kind to the actual Karen's in your life. <3 And as one voice in the collective, please accept my apology for this trend that may be causing you much frustration.