The name Karen has really blown up lately, hasn't it? The "entitled white woman angry that she's not getting her way" nickname has been making waves the last few months on social media. Blame quarantine boredom or that, lately, certain white women have gone nuts when asked politely by essential workers to put on masks or wait for their food like normal people. Whatever the reason, recently everyone's had a joke about a Karen they know. We all get a great laugh out of it.
Which feels righttttttt about the time when white people take a good thing and ruin it for everyone.
See, "Karen" can technically be considered AAVE (African American Vernacular English) because it was a term created by black people to describe the angry racist white woman you tried your best to avoid completely. It's quite similar to the old Miss Ann pejorative black people used to use to describe the Karens back in the day. Miss Anns were the wives and daughters of slave owners and mustache-twirling old-timey racists. The twist is that these women were just as violently racist as the white men in their lives, but usually hid their venom behind their "white female fragility." For example, Carolyn Bryant making up lies about Emmitt Till, resulting in his brutal murder; this would be the Miss Ann version of a Karen calling the cops on a black man today, and it ending in his death. Both involve a white woman deciding to endanger a black man's life just for shits and giggles.
Just going to leave this right here ...
Like a lot of words in AAVE, terms like Miss Ann and Karen isn't just an inside joke; it's a defense mechanism. A warning call. And just like a lot of words in AAVE, white people have enjoyed its popularity and begun using it (incorrectly) to appear cooler. Lately, shitty white men have started using it to describe any white woman determined to stand her ground, which makes the woman in me go "uh oh."
Because, now this turns into a conversation about sexism, which leads white women to latch onto that and start to rebel against the use of the word completely. British writer and feminist Julie Bindel caused a stir on Twitter when she asked outright:
Surprisingly, a bunch of white women agreed with her, and people have started openly denouncing the word, calling it sexist and ageist, and (shockingly, but kinda not) the female equivalent of the N-word. Black women are once again forced into a position where they have to choose between their race and their gender, and if they start to lean toward race, they're called bad feminists.
First of all, we all know it's not the equivalent of the N-word because you're all actually saying Karen. Secondly, this is cultural appropriation at its finest. POC are truly sick of watching something they created, and took comfort in their community, get adopted by white people on both sides. It gets twisted and morphed into something that ends up not belonging to them anymore, and this happened the second Karen turned into a hashtag.
Karen isn't a sexist term, though sexists are now trying to use it as a weapon against any woman they feel is too mouthy. It's also not an ageist term because a Karen's behavior has nothing to do with her age. Don't let shitty people recontextualize and claim the word the way Trump and MAGA chuds have turned "fake news" against us. Note: they're already trying to co-opt this too:
We all know what a Karen is, and we're going to keep calling them Karens until they stop Karening everything up. And no one can take that away from us, bay-bee!
Top image: WAYHOME Studio/Shutterstock, Wikipedia