Typical Karen: Poll compared meme to the N-word and more than 200,000 people vehemently disagree
The debate on what constitutes racism has reached frighteningly asinine proportions on Twitter. On Sunday, a Twitter account posed the question: “The term ‘Karen’ is being used as a sexist and racist slur. Considering this is an equivalent of the n-word for white women, should it be banned on Twitter?”
Before we go any further, let’s explore the roots of “Karen”. Know Your Meme, the Wikipedia of memes, defines Karen as “an irritating, entitled woman, sometimes as an ex-wife who took custody of ‘the kids’.” Basically, it’s a name given to any woman who comes from privilege, displays undue entitlement, and annoys people with her antics. It’s in the same genre of memetic names like “Chad” that describes attractive, popular men who are sexually successful with women.
A Vox explainer from earlier this year notes that the stereotype associated with the name Karen “is limited mainly to white women in their mid-30s or 40s. The archetypal ‘Karen’ is blonde, has multiple young kids, and is usually an anti-vaxxer”.
There’s also a haircut associated with the “Karen” look that’s now been named the “Can I Speak to Your Manager?” look on the internet. As Vice describes it, “At first glance, one might mistake it for an extreme A-line bob -- but upon a closer look, it's more like the rebellious sister to Victoria Beckham's sophisticated style.”
The question worth asking: Is the “Karen” meme sexist? One can argue that it is. There’s a subreddit called “r/F**kYouKaren” that is dedicated to documenting incidents of entitlement of upper-middle-class white American women. Yes, other nationalities make it to the subreddit from time to time. Even the occasional man. But that doesn’t change the fact that the internet has a particular kind of animosity for “Karen-s”.
But many argue that the meme is not an attack on women, it’s an attack on white privilege and rude behavior, and there are more than enough examples of PoC women using the meme on Twitter and Facebook and Reddit to back that claim up.
One mustn’t also forget that there is a male equivalent of the “Karen Meme”. It’s “Kyle”, a rage-filled and aggressive man who is a fan of Monster Energy Drinks and Axe body spray.
The name-based meme, the Vox explainer noted, also is irritating to those named Karen because they are often subjected to the memes with or without provocation. It is safe to say that the meme may have some sexist connotations attached to it. But it is nowhere as offensive as the N-word.
The history of the word can be traced back to the slavery of African men and women. Even after the abolition of slavery, African-Americans were subjected to this pejorative term, along with other forms of racism. And racism hasn’t ended. Especially for African-Americans. From profiling by cops to portrayals in popular culture to mandatory minimum sentencing and the “war on drugs”, African-Americans experience racism pretty much all the time. And that racism stems from their assertion of equal rights. Which is entirely the opposite of the white privilege that Karen-s supposedly espouse.
With 219,616 votes on the aforementioned poll at the time of writing this, 96.2 percent of people voted no. This goes to show that a huge chunk of people does not at all believe that “Karen” is the N-word for white women. In fact, many found this poll hilarious. TV writer Matthew A. Cherry emulated his inner Delroy Lindo and wrote: “If it’s comparable. Write the whole word out and not just ‘N Word’ just like you did Karen. Just write it. I’ll write it with you.”
Rap artist Talib Kweli said on Twitter, “Equivalent of the n word? So, you typed Karen like it was ok, you knew not to type ‘n*****’ but somehow these words are equivalent? Now THAT is some shit Karen would do.”
Democratic Party politician Cory Bush also weighed in: “Karen? Equivalent of the ‘N’ word? My ancestors and I disagree. Uh uh, don’t go down this road.”
Author Stephanie Yeboah sums it up best, “I cannae believe people* are actually debating if 'Karen' is 1) a racist slur akin to 2) the N word. Are you lot well????? White women are not now, nor have they ever been, racially oppressed. Ever. Ever. How dare you equate it to the N word? The gall.”