By Ali Short, Media Management, ’24
Well, it’s 2020 and the name “Karen” has taken on a whole new meaning this year. Sorry to any of the Karens out there but you probably have heard of the quite popular meme that has taken social media by storm. A “Karen” can be described as a problematic, hysterical, middle-aged white woman, who acts with extreme entitlement and demands of people beyond what is appropriate or necessary. Even if that means at the expense of someone else. The main aspect of a “Karen” is when a woman has a complete lack of awareness of her privilege.
Although it is still unclear how or when the term “Karen” originated, social media has deemed many women “Karens” based on real-life events that have gone viral. Some of these instances display acts of racism from these women. One famous example is when a white woman, by the name of Amy Cooper, called the police on an African American man in Central Park this past May. While the man asked if she could put a leash on her dog, per the park rules, she called the police claiming the man was threatening her life. The video footage has over 45 million views with social media users slamming Cooper for her outrageous claims. This incident clearly showcased the entitlement of the woman and how she used her privilege at the risk of someone else. She surely earned the name “Karen” from that situation.
The popular saying, “I’d like to speak to the manager”, has also been associated with “Karens” since most of the time when these women don’t get their way, they want to speak to someone at a higher level, in a demanding tone, to get what they want. It is a certainty that many workers in the foodservice industry have dealt with plenty of “Karens”. Whether that has been a woman causing a scene for being given the wrong salad dressing or giving attitude to the hostess because of where she was seated in a restaurant. There is no limit on how far a “Karen” will go.
The most recent examples of “Karens” being called out on social media are amid the COVID-19 pandemic. There seem to be many women who feel that they are above the facial covering requirements in several places even when mandated by some state laws. Hundreds of videos have gone viral on social media in the past few months showing these women fighting with business owners, managers, and even calling the police because they are not being served or allowed in a building without a mask. The fact that they think they are above a ruling during a global pandemic is exactly what makes them a “Karen”.
When you look up the hashtag “Karen” on Instagram, a whopping 944K posts will show up. Many of these include videos of dramatic, middle-aged white women, complaining and causing a scene in a public place. There has even been an Instagram profile created that is dedicated to showcasing these videos. The name of that handle is @crazykarens and has almost 90K followers.
“Karens” are a perfect example of the complete ignorance some women have regarding their privilege. It’s important that we all recognize that and learn from it.