If You Think "Karen" Is a Slur, Then You're Definitely a Karen
A brief history of "Karens" and how to spot them at your local Women's March.
Whether you know someone actually named Karen or not, there's a high possibility that you've met a "Karen."
Not all "Karens" are named Karen, and not everyone named Karen is a "Karen"—but "Karens" are constantly walking (and tweeting) among us. Not too far removed from the "can I speak to your manager?" meme before it, "Karen" has become a catch-all name for the type of white woman with whom we've unfortunately grown all-too familiar. "Karens" live with the idea that their womanhood exonerates them from white privilege, and their day-to-day shenanigans prove they truly don't know how to read the room.
If you're so lucky as to not have dealt with a Karen in real life, then you've probably read about them in stories online. The woman in Oakland who called the police on a black family for barbecuing by the lake? She's a Karen. That time "gun girl" Kaitlyn Bennett said "we don't live in a racist society"? She was being especially Karen-like. Just this week, when Alyssa Milano—starter of the #MeToo movement—said she was continuing to endorse Joe Biden, without acknowledging the sexual assault allegations against him? Peak Karen behavior.
But the most Karen of all Karens is writer Julie Bindel, who tweeted some absolute insanity over the weekend: "Does anyone else think the 'Karen' slur is woman hating and based on class prejudice?" Ah, yes—good ol' class prejudice against upper-middle-class white folks. What could be more nefarious?
As with a lot of slang that's been adopted by the masses over the past decade, this usage of "Karen" was first coined by black people. It's since become canonized in reference to women like Bindel, who are so caught up in their narrow, self-centered view of feminism that they fail to acknowledge their glaring white privilege.
Most of all, Karens don't want to be left out of anything—especially oppression. They will latch onto any inconvenience that gives them the tiniest semblance of systematic oppression, arguing that "Karen" generalizes a specific collection of traits—white, middle-aged, upper-middle-class—as if those aren't the exact traits most frequently found in men of power. What makes Karens so dangerous is that they claim to be feminists but only act on it when that feminism directly benefits them; their racism, homophobia, and transphobia aren't always explicit, but their actions lack all the nuance of intersectionality.
Worst of all, Bindel's tweet seems to liken "Karen" with racial slurs, as if "the K-word" could ever come close to approximating the malicious history of actual derogatory words (plus, FYI, there already is another "k-word").
In summary: Don't be a Karen. "Karen" isn't a slur. If you're innocent and your name just so happens to be Karen, I'm so terribly sorry.
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