Don’t Use ‘Karen’ To Objectify Women
I’ve been pretty lucky in the name department. With the exception of that brief period when I hated the fact that “Christine” became a symbol for women who couldn’t keep their hair out of their faces and whispered before Congress about an alleged assault no one else could remember, I’ve never been ashamed to, as Beyonce sang, say my name.
That’s why I feel so bad for women named Karen. It’s a lovely name, and I have some equally lovely female friends who share it. There is Karen from Pittsburgh who has the most beautiful little grandsons I have ever seen. There is the Karen from Narberth who is fiercely and courageously pro-life. There is the Karen, loving mother and cat owner from Chester County who exudes kindness.
Karen is an honorable, consequential name.
Lately, though, some people have tried to make it a scarlett letter, but instead of the “A” that poor Hester Prynne sported because of her adultery, it is a bright and burning “K” which apparently stands for, alternately, busy-body, entitled suburbanite or the most common (and worst) connotation: Racist woman.
Can we first just agree that we are dealing with the most obvious form of misogyny here? “Karen” is virtually always applied to women, even though a few men have been tagged with the moniker. There seems to be a great deal of animus out there for people who speak out, particularly if they have ovaries.
My good friend Joan pointed out that Karen memes reminder her of the Jewish-American princess stereotype. She wrote both “have a way of making prejudice… socially acceptable, which shouldn’t happen.”
The use of a name to dehumanize someone and make them feel as if they are “lesser than,” is as old as the Bible. I mean, ever heard of the word Philistine used in a good way? And there are words that we absolutely cannot, and should not, use these days which demean people because of their faith, their race, their gender, their ethnicity, and even their political affiliations.
So why, all of a sudden, is it okay to define women with opinions as “Karens?” Have you seen poor women called “Karens?” Have you seen Black women called “Karens?” Have you seen Asians or Latinos or Muslim women called “Karens?”
If you have, please send me some examples so I can include them in my next column about how I always address my mistakes. But I sincerely doubt you will find a significant quantity of Karen stories that are not accompanied by memes of attractive, middle-aged and affluent white blonde women with that Kate Gosselin hairdo.
Recently, a women in Delaware County in Pennsylvania was publicly shamed on social media for counter-protesting at a Black Lives Matter rally. I do not remember any social media posts criticizing the people who called her names, gave her the finger or essentially dehumanized her. At best, they would call her a “Karen,” a woman who has no right to have an opinion unless that opinion is sanctioned by a certain section of society.
Also, recently, a columnist at another paper used the term “Karen” in a pejorative manner to describe that class of well-to-do folk who never had to deal with the harsher vicissitudes of life in this post George Floyd landscape. Clearly, her use of the term Karen was not complimentary.
My point is that when we start to objectify people – usually women – with labels, we run the risk of looking like rank hypocrites when we talk about how bigoted other people are, how intolerant, how prejudiced and sheltered.
Think about it, before your next round of “Karenization.” And purchase a larger mirror.
Copyright 2020 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at email@example.com.Copyright 2020 Christine Flowers, All Rights Reserved. Credit: Cagle.com