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Karen: A Few Words on Her Name

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Fin lives in California's Central Valley and is interested in social issues.


What's in a Name?

According to Wikipedia, the name "Karen" entered the English language from Danish, and its variants include Caren, Caryn, Karena, Karin, Karyn, and others.

However, recently, the name has been used to describe a female - usually a white female - who publicly behaves in ways that are angry, violent, or even racist. These meltdowns are in public and often caught on camera. The victims are usually men of color or sometimes even children.

In this article I question whether or not the title "Karen" is a severe enough punishment, but will try and avoid becoming overly condemning. We live in volatile times and there is much angst in our society concerning race and gender. We are seeing various flareups that range from small arguments and protests to mass shootings.

Ultimately, we are all human and all of us are subject to the social pressures of our environment. We are all sometimes victims and sometimes the one who victimize. Everyone has experienced some sort of discriminationm and as misguided or volatile "Karen's" rants may be, she is no different.

Some Karens

Some Karens

The Original Karen

The origin of the Karen name seems unclear - although one online source attributes the name to a Dane Cook comedy routine in which Cook refers to a Karen, who "is the friend, nobody likes".

It is however a moniker that is designed to be an offensive term, describing a "middle-aged, white woman, whose behavior in public is outrageous, and sometimes violent. She does things like call the police on African American children selling lemonade, or preventing a black man from entering his own apartment. Sometimes she holds a parking space for her friends or even takes a baseball bat to someone else's already parked car.

The name as it is used, implies a sense of privilege of a racial nature, along with a sense of entitlement - "enjoyed" by Caucasian females. Karen is used to describe females who openly assume authority and through their self-designated position offer unsolicited guidance to those around them. She seems to believe that she is right and that this righteousness is appointed through the divine. Karen believes that the world owes her and needs to create an open pathway wherever she decides to set her feet.

Anyone who questions the Karen is wrong to do so. She demands to be left alone, yet seems to propagate her own drama for the sake of attention. She makes regular appearances on news blurbs, video channels, gas stations, hotels and restaurants. She lurks around parking lots and sneaks up on people while they are walking to their apartment or sunning in their own front yards.

Dane Cook "Karen" Comedy Routine

Some Questions, Some Concerns

One must wonder, in this day and age of information immediacy, if this is a new phenomena. Are there white women who are acting out more often and if so, why is this? Have Karen's always been around in some form or another? Is it fair to label people together - these females - under one title? Are there Karens from other communities - I won't bother naming them? Would they call a man a Karen if he were to grab a young woman, accusing her of taking his phone? Or if he started to punch someone's truck for taking his parking space? Would they instead of picking up their phone and recording the incident, contact the police immediately?

We certainly live in interesting times and of course, most of you are aware that this statement refers to "an ancient Chinese curse", May you live in interesting times. The world seems to becoming a more angry place and the sense of entitlement from various groups - there are too many to name right here - has become a struggle whose voice is ubiquitous and unrelenting.

How much of the entitlement attribute is accurate? Are Karen's really lashing out at others. Could it possibly be that the visible angst and agitations are the pressures she is feeling is a modern, stressful society? In other words, instead of responding to external stimulation inspired by an other in her environment, are the Karens acting out from an internalized turmoil?

If so,what could those tensions be?

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A Karen meme

A Karen meme

Karens Come In Many Colors, Shapes, Sizes, Genders

Even though there have been clips of people having meltdowns in public, or going on some socially influenced outrage, the name Karen is reserved for white women. It seems to be a pretty basic name that sounds like it is classically American, white bread, middle-class.

It's roots seem to be in the fact that there is a perceived notion of White-privilege (notice how the female element is left out). The perception is that anyone who is white, based on historical elements, have an easier time with life, are not burdened with issues or worries reserved for non-whites, and often use their position (basically their skin color) to take advantage of everyone who is not in their demographic.

Is there really such a thing as white privilege and is this something that all non-colored persons benefit from? Does it not occur to anyone in the popular culture or media that labeling someone based on the color of their skin - even if it is the dominant culture - is a form of discrimination? This sort of decision making is often referred to as "reverse racism", a term that seems to justify this social practice.

Ultimately, we all have advantages in life that make some of our efforts and experiences somewhat easier. In addition, there are social barriers we all face. Some of these hindrances are based on physical characteristics such as skin color, age, height and weight, or perceived attractiveness. Sometimes it means being born into a higher class household, or living near the right elementary schools.

So the question with the idea of Karen is: Are white women being singled out and given this label? Is this label a pejorative and should a more accurately intense phrase be used to describe these women?

Soho Karen

There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race - scientifically, anthropologically.

— Toni Morrison

A Woman Attacks a Car


It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.

— Jon Krakauer

Amber Guyger demonstrates her pose

Amber Guyger demonstrates her pose

The Amber Guyger Incident

You are probably familiar with the Dallas Police police officer who shot Botham Jean while he was sitting in his own apartment. A brief summary of the incident: Amber, a white female, arrives home from work and walks into an apartment which she claims she believed was her own. She sees a male figure stand up and approach her and fearing for her life, shoots him dead.

Amber is a white female and Botham Jean is a man of color. She is a police officer and he is a citizen sitting at home, eating ice cream, in front of his television set. She reported that she was experience work related fatigue (although evidence indicated that she was engaged in inappropriate messaging with a male colleague) and that the apartment hallways were similar in appearance. She believed she was entering her own living space and that it was occupied by (a dangerous man) someone who was trying to hurt her.

In short, Guyger believed that the use of deadly force - to defend herself -was warranted.

Some questions I ponder:

What if it were a male, who was in Amber's place? What if he was not a police officer, or if he were a man of color?

What if the victim were female? A white female?

Would the outcome have been different? Would the public reaction be different?

A Tense World: Race and Gender and Class and Sexuality....

The emphasis on race, gender, class and sexual orientation seems to be a modern phenomena that is probably going to stay with us for several generations. It seems to be difficult to avoid these topics when attending a class, applying for a job, or even trying to make a decision at the poll when voting. And, if you are to talk about another group which you are not a member of, you have to use careful language.

People seem to be more defensive now and along with that comes a sense of entitlement. Whites in particular are more alienated and seem to be being pushed up against a wall, with very few social mechanisms to defend themselves. If you are Caucasian or from a European origin, there is an unfair amount of blame.

Along with the historical elements - we are described in the United States as a society designed for White, male, heterosexual, Christians - that are referred to, comes a sense of blame. With that, there is probably a sense of guilt that many white Americans are expected to feel. This seems a bit unfair.

There is no exception to the white female living today. Along with the blame and sense of alienation directed toward whites, white women also have other concerns related to gender as well as the social pressures of survival we all deal with.

White Female Privilege

White Female Privilege

Can't We All Just Get Along

Many of those who are reading this piece might recall the Rodney King incident where he proclaimed, "Can't we all just get along?" after the riots which were inspired by his beating captured on video.

The saying became a bit of a joke, but honestly, it doesn't seem to be that funny. When we look at the news clips that offer us a synopsis of our day, we expect to hear about another mass shooting.

There is too much pressure on people today and trying to place an emphasis on issues such as race or gender etc are more divisive than unifying.

Instead of seeing an angry woman (or man) who is acting up, oblivious to the cameras around her, I think we should see the Karen as a woman who is troubled by the sense of social alienation that seems to abound on our modern world. We are all Karens in a way. Some of these women have taken things to extremes of course, but it seems more symptomatic of something internal, some disturbance, rather than elements in the environment.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Fin

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