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How Karen became a meme, and what real-life Karens think about it

Black slaves were posited as sexual threats to the white women, the wives of slave owners; in reality, slave masters were the ones raping their slaves. This ideology, however, perpetuated the idea that white women, who represented the good and the moral in American society, needed to be protected by white men at all costs, thus justifying racial violence towards Black men or anyone that posed a threat to their power. This narrative that was the overarching theme of Birth of a Nation, the 1915 film that was the first movie to be shown at the White House, and is often cited as the inspiration for the rebirth of the KKK. The name “Karen” peaked as a popular baby name in the US around 1965 — so even though the typical meme “Karen” is from Gen X, the actual majority of women named Karen in the US are boomers. So if there’s any correlation between the name and reality, we can, at most, speculate that the women who’ve wound up giving all Karens a bad name are a group of white senior citizens behaving badly. If your name is Karen, Becky, or Chad, you may have noticed a growing trend of people using your name as an insult.

(such as the viral “Kidz Bop Karen” woman video videotaped in a road confrontation). The wearing of face coverings in this pandemic has been extremely politically charged in the US, with some insisting mandatory usage is an affront to personal liberty. Want daily wellness, lifestyle and parenting news delivered to your inbox? But when it comes down to it, just why burnt plywood floors is “Sharon” funnier than “Lisa”? The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises – in your inbox every Thursday. The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.

The entitled I want to talk to the manager angry, middle-aged woman inspired the slang term a Karen. The rise of a Karen in social media was exacerbated in 2020 with Covid-induced anti-vaxxers and people who refused to follow the required protocols. The Guardian even referred to 2020 as the year of the Karen because so many adults were behaving in an uncivil manner. Karen is a pejorative slang term for an obnoxious, angry, entitled, and often racist middle-aged white woman who uses her privilege to get her way or police other people’s behaviors.

A Karen is an internet slang term used to describe an agressive, entitled, racist, middle-aged person, usually a woman. Advocate Alicia Sanchez Gill was among those to push back . She says now that it is possible that men have wielded the meme against women online – but it is still more typically used “by black women and working-class women to talk about the way wealthy, and often white women enact classism and racism”. The term has been called sexist, ageist, classist, and anti-woman by some. Hadley Freeman, columnist and features writer for The Guardian, argues that use of the meme has become less about describing behavior than controlling it and “telling women to shut up”. The term is generally used to refer to women, but The Atlantic noted that “a man can easily be called a Karen”, with staff writer David A. Graham calling then-president Donald Trump the “Karen in chief”.

As of 2020, the term increasingly appeared in media and social media as a general criticism of middle class white women, including during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. The Cooper incident and Floyd’s death came in the wake of a couple months’ worth of Karen memes and videos that were already trending thanks to the new restrictions instituted because of the coronavirus pandemic. The clips documented the many encounters people had with white women who openly flouted COVID-19 health and safety measures like wearing a mask or social distancing. In 2018, after a white woman called the police on a group of Black folksbarbecuing in a public park, the term “BBQ Becky” was coined. In 2020, whenAmy Coopercalled the police on a black man in Central Park who asked her to put her dog on a leash, the phrase “Karen” abounded on social media. Using names for stereotypes and insults is a practice that has existed for centuries.

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