The ‘Karen’ meme began as a way to call out a certain kind of person but now is being used to describe any woman of a certain age
The other day, my eight-year-old daughter asked me, “What’s a Karen?” There are many questions my daughter has asked me that I’ve had to quietly look up, so it doesn’t look like mummy paid no attention whatsoever at school. Like “Why can we sometimes see both the sun and the moon on our walk to school?” or “Why fish can’t blink?”
“Why don’t I have a daddy?” was one no search engine could quite pull off. Happily I was prepared, and so far have been able to answer and discuss without ever wailing, “Because mummy mistook good looks for good values and integrity!”
The “Karen” question took me aback. How do you explain the Karen meme to an eight year old? “Well darling, that name is being used as a pejorative for a white woman complaining about something petty or unreasonable and trying to use her white privilege to get her own way. What’s that darling? White privilege? Oh it’s an academic term, which made its way into common parlance. It’s meaning is very often misunderstood and unhelpful in ordinary chit chat, so the ‘Karen’ meme is used to much more quickly and efficiently denigrate a white woman of a certain age (mummy’s age) because that was the generation where the name Karen was very popular. In short, it’s a sexist, ageist term and if you don’t use it in that way it’ll be much nicer for Auntie Karen when she visits next week.”
Any white woman who needs to complain, see the manager, needs to stick up for herself, runs the risk of being called a “Karen”. Now that it’s in the playground, we know it won’t enjoy a revival any generation soon.
I wanted to know in what context kids were calling each other a “Karen”. My daughter said, “when someone is really bossy, other kids call them a ‘Karen’.” By “someone”, I found out she meant a girl.
The “Karen” meme began as a way to call out a certain kind of person but now is being used to describe any woman of a certain age. Just as “mansplaining” gave us a license to berate and mock any man.
Like Sharon and Tracey in the 80s, a perfectly nice name has been spoiled.