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The “Karen” Crisis

Photo by Alex Motoc on Unsplash
Photo by Alex Motoc on Unsplash

“Karen” is a hot moniker right now. And despite how many cis white women named Karen have been interpreting this trend, the term is not actually attacking anyone for being a cis white woman named Karen. When someone calls a person “Karen,” they’re calling out racist behavior. You don’t need to be a cis white woman to be a “Karen.” Donald Trump, for instance, exudes Karen energy. In fact, here’s a “Karen” checklist.

To be a today “Karen” is to:

  • Claim colorblindness – “But I don’t see color!” 
  • Say “All Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter” 
  • Cry “white girl tears,” supporting white feminism instead of intersectional feminism 
  • Watch movies like The Help in order to educate oneself on racism  

So, why does the name “Karen” currently encapsulate these regressive behaviors? From 1951-1968, the name “Karen” was in the top 10 baby names throughout the United States. The average woman named “Karen” today is most likely between the ages 52-70, marking a specific community of middle aged white women. Middle aged white women are notorious for using their privilege at the expense of others, while, likely, claiming that white privilege does not exist in the first place. 

There is currently some debate, mostly among the Karen demographic, that “Ivanka is [should be] the New Karen.” Don’t get me wrong: Ivanka Trump is a problem. However, this desire for a change of term is also problematic. And debatably, it’s only more problematic. 

Rather than address racist behaviors and look inward, middle aged white women would just rather push the term onto another woman’s name. That’s not even white feminism. Honestly, it’s internalized misogyny: “Let’s hate this woman instead!” Reminiscent of high school mean girl politics that never solve anything. 

Many real life Karens  — particularly women of color — neither find the term offensive nor feel personally attacked. Could it be because they don’t see themselves reflected in the term? How do you feel about “Karens” — or do you think “Ivanka” is a better fit? 

  • How do you feel about the “Karen” meme?

    • So accurate!
    • “Ivanka” is the new “Karen” though!
    • Whatever.

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Written by Nina Slowinski

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