Back in 2016, when the idea of “Karen” first became popular, we all thought it was funny, right? For those who may not know, a “Karen” is middle-aged white woman who complains to the manager when she is unhappy, only wears her hair in a bob with chunked highlights and drives a Suburban. I admit that I joined in with those who laughed at the stereotypical “Karens” at the beginning. But now we find ourselves in this difficult year where hating others different from us is social currency, I wonder how healthy this really is….
Do you remember in Junior High and High School how a girl could be silenced? It was pretty simple: you mock her. You make her feel silly and small and emotional. You gaslight her and tell her that her experience and feelings are unwarranted. You exclude her from the cool kids club. You make her feel that her voice is an annoyance that no one wants to hear. You tell her that she is taking up too much space. Demanding too much and being too much. You tell her that she can’t have a differing opinion than the one you hold. You mistreat her until she feels that she needs to ask an authority figure for help and then when she does, you belittle her for it. You bully her until she doubts her every move. You tell her to shut up.
The technique is highly effective–it’s why 15 year olds do it. Hell, it’s why 35 years olds still do it!
Historically speaking, women have been made to feel like second class citizens by attacking their purity (“you’re a whore”), attacking their rights (“your vote doesn’t matter–go get your husband”), attacking their efforts (“you work, so you must not want to raise your children”) and attacking their right to speak (“don’t be a b–ch”). These are manipulations created to make sure she knows her place. Reminders that she is better seen than heard. When a woman is assertive in the workplace, more often than not, she is called a name and seen as a threat. If a man asserts himself in the workplace, he is a hard worker and a go-getter. If a woman speaks up, she is obnoxious. If a man speaks up, he is showing leadership.
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t women out there who complain when it’s unnecessary. In fact, the term “Karen” was originally used only to call out rich, entitled woman who were being racist or classist. To be clear, any hate should be held accountable, no matter what gender is perpetuating it. But can we agree that the definition of “Karen” is now so broad, it includes any woman who complains eeeevverr???? There have certainly been situations this past year of women, who unfortunately fit the Karen stereotype, creating some serious drama for undeserving individuals. You do need to calmly and firmly set boundaries with those sorts of people so that they cannot be destructive.
But as I see neighbors fighting neighbors this year, I wonder how many of the accused “Karens” that we crucify online really deserve that title? Or has this slur become a way to silence the voice of women. And are we playing right into the hands of those who would wish to discredit our sisters? I fear we make their job easier. And aren’t there men out there that complain in hateful ways, but are not labeled or ostracised or stereotyped? You betcha!
The emphasis has always been on the woman who dares to open her mouth.
Friends, this gender hypocrisy will continue to go on as long as we allow it. The social pressure to dismiss a woman who is upset will persist and WE will continue to yield to that pressure unless we make a specific decision not to. I would argue that we give sexism our stamp of approval when we stand by (AND LAUGH) as people call our sisters in arms “Karens.”
The other reason this lazy name calling continues is because it’s just so easy. In 2020 if a woman disagrees with you politically and they do so passionately, you can just call her a “Karen” and boom–you’ve won the argument. The other chic is obviously an uninformed, selfish moron and your opinion is the only right one. In 2020 if a woman is concerned about COVID in a way different from how you are concerned about it, she’s clearly a “Karen” who just likes to complain and has no idea what she is talking about. Not like how you do, obvs!
Our willingness to discredit each other so quickly doesn’t speak to our strength, it speaks to our insecurities. When we do this to fellow women, it speaks to how lost we are as a gender. How fractured our collective identity is. If we know who we are, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, geographic location, religion, etc., then we know what regal gender we descend from. The idea of someone calling a sister a slur should turn our stomach, even if we don’t idealogically agree with her. It’s beneath us and it’s beneath her.
Our kind does not deal in muck.
So as 2020 thankfully comes to a close, let’s take a pledge to finally put Karen to bed. Lord knows, she is probably exhausted from fighting everyones battles for them and could use a nap! As this election season comes closer and the nation becomes more emotionally charged, let’s take the higher road. Join me in deciding that “Karen” is no longer funny. Not because we’re “snowflakes” who can’t take a joke or witches who are trying to ruin everyone’s fun. It’s because we know our value and we won’t settle for insinuations that we are anything less than the title we’ve earned:
Looking for an interesting article on how women’s voices are often silenced? Read more here: https://www.wpr.org/how-womens-voices-get-silenced-and-how-you-can-learn-speak
Visit us here for tips on how to speak strong identity into your daughters and sons
Why do we struggle to be taken seriously as women? What sociological force is at work here? We explore this issue here.