It’s time to stop calling people Karen

 

Stop for a minute to consider the use of the name Karen.

Do you actually know who it's describing? I'd say that you don't.

In a world where things gain popularity on the internet - driven by viral social media videos - a term can take off simply because everyone else is using it.

Now we hear, "she's such a Karen" bandied about for everyone.

In case you've been living under a rock, Karen is being used to describe the anti-maskers who filmed themselves trying to defy lockdown orders by going into Bunnings stores without masks.

They've also been berating post office staff and police in recent days, but there are plenty of other so-called Karen incidents we've witnessed this year.

Apparently the name is also been used for men, with our readers saying in the comments in a story about a Karen kicked off a flight in the US last week that men can be called Karen too.

I've never seen a male Karen targeted. As other readers pointed out in that story they're usually called Nigel (apparently a private school twit) or Wayne (a bogan).

But others suggested Ken or Chad is the male equivalent of Karen - even Charles and Henry.

My point is, I don't think anyone really knows for sure and that's probably why it's a topic that can spark much debate.

 

 

Kerry Nash, who was outed as ‘Bunnings Karen’. Picture: Supplied
Kerry Nash, who was outed as ‘Bunnings Karen’. Picture: Supplied

"Get over the name, it is here to stay as the definition of those who believe rules and laws to benefit society do not apply to them," said one reader last week.

In the cases of the latest "Bunnings Karens" it's certainly been applied in that sense.

However, there's also racist Karen, anti-vaxxer Karen, soccer mum Karen, the "can I speak to the manager" Karen and another one to emerge during the coronavirus pandemic - the toilet paper hoarding Karen.

Some even say the term Karen is racist because it's targeting a middle-aged white woman and imagine the outcry if we gave a basic black woman a popular African American name.

Others argue black women can be Karens, and even Asian people too. Unlike the racist Karens, the name itself doesn't discriminate.

If a name can have so many meanings, and be used to describe so many people, is there really much point using it?

It's basically just describing a badly behaving person you don't like.

THE HISTORY OF KAREN

While we're hearing it a lot more lately, it's been around for ages.

Not just as a popular baby name from the 1960s - which does in fact make a lot of Karens middle-aged - but the joke itself.

In 2005, comedian Dane Cook performed a comedy piece where Karen is "that friend nobody likes" (note my point just a moment ago) and she's described as "always a douche".

Others have linked it to the movie Mean Girls.

Karen Smith, played by Amanda Seyfried asks Cady Heron, played by Lindsay Lohan, "So if you're from Africa, why are you white?" to which Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert) admonishes "Oh my god Karen, you can't just ask people why they're white".

 

Bunnings Karen was filmed confronting police about refusing to wear a mask.
Bunnings Karen was filmed confronting police about refusing to wear a mask.

 

Amy Cooper, the so-called Central Park Karen who falsely claimed to police that a black New York birdwatcher was threatening her in May. Picture: Supplied
Amy Cooper, the so-called Central Park Karen who falsely claimed to police that a black New York birdwatcher was threatening her in May. Picture: Supplied

But then there's the Reddit origins from 2017 when a user created the viral screen name "f***_you_Karen" about his ex-wife who got custody of their children and took the house in their divorce.

People went on to share stories and memes about run-ins with entitled middle-aged white women.

Karen was thrust into the spotlight again earlier this year when Amy Cooper, a woman in Central Park, called the police on a black bird watcher because he asked her to put her dog on a leash.

As Robin Queen, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan, pointed out in The Conversation, that incident provided the "intersection of entitled behaviour, racism and demographics".

In that article she ends by asking, "is Karen fundamentally about white women using their racial privilege as a weapon? Is it about being an obnoxious rule follower? Or is it about being a no-fun, hysterical mum? Karen can be and is all of those. That doesn't weaken the critique; it simply gives it more facets and nuance."

But I think we should just all go back to calling a Karen what they really are - a d***head.

 

Originally published as It's time to stop calling people Karen