The Damage of the Karen Meme

by Aug 25, 2022

Damage of the Karen Meme

As a result of a meme which uses a specific name to illustrate a negative stereotype, some women are seriously considering changing theirs 

 

I have just spoken to a woman called Karen who is seriously considering changing her name because of the Karen meme. She feels it is impacting  what people think of her and how they are boxing her into a negative sterteotype.

The name Karen itself was originally a Danish form of “Katherine,” descended from the ancient name “Aikaterine. ” It was popular in the US in the mid-60s and has been doing the social media rounds in the past couple of years to convey a specific stereotype.  It has become a pejorative symbol that conjures up an image of a white, overly privileged, middle-aged, (not Boomer) racist woman, frequently anti-vax, usually behaving badly (no appallingly) in a public place.

Stereotyping

A common feature of the “Karen” stereotype is that they weaponise the privilege of their race and gender to make life difficult for people they perceive to be inferior to them. In extreme cases they make fictitious police complaints against black people.

This seems to have stemmed from the popular “Can I speak to a manager?” meme, which became have become infamous online for shameless displays of entitlement, privilege, and racism, and the tendency of some people to call the police when they don’t get what they want.

 

Damage of the Karen Meme

 

Worth a read: Understanding gender stereotypes – why we are missing the point

A bevy of Karens

Over the course of the years, these “Karens” have been filmed during their various tirades. Amy Cooper, a white woman, called the New York police from Central Park because an avid bird watcher who happened to be black asked her to put her dog on a leash. She told the police that an “African-American man” was threatening her, emphasizing his race to the operator. This incident now has its own Wikipedia page.

The name Karen has also become associated with anti-vax behaviour and refusal to wear masks in public places.

Since the out outbreak of the pandemic, video recordings have surfaced on social media of people refusing to wear face masks in shops and restaurants. “Karens” are frequently abusive to staff regardless of their ethnicity.  The same stereotype is also applied to women who share misinformation and fake news about the corona virus, as well as other conspiracy theories.

Bullying of another group

But is this fair to real women named Karen to objectify them all with a blanket negative sexist stereotype? It is de-humanising and “othering” so it is hardly surprising that the number of baby girls named Karen is now plumetting.

My own contact Karen is about to become Katerina, and I suspect we will see more of that, if the damage of the Karen meme continues. What we conveniently gloss over is that this is just another form of stigmatizing, bullying and mobbing.

We are basically using one negative behaviour to call out another.

 

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Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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