The Trouble With “Karen”

I have always quite liked my name. Not absolutely loved it you understand, (I always fancied being named “Cally” for some reason), but certainly not hated it. Apparently, I was almost a Belinda, and I know which one I prefer. Apparently my parents chose it because you couldn’t shorten it. I guess there are worse ways to pick a name…

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Names are funny aren’t they? At school it seemed to me that Tracey’s were usually glamorous, Joanna’s were funny, Jane’s were beautiful, Lynn’s were clever, and Sally’s were popular. What sweeping generalisations! Well, if I ever was guilty of these generalisations at school, and I may have been, if only in my head, I have been fully paid back now.

Somehow in the last few years, Karen has become a classic synonym for a thoroughly unpleasant woman. Karen seems to epitomise bad mannered, opinionated, entitled, middle class white women: In the past, looking up the name ‘Karen’ on Wikipedia or Google, you would get the origin of the name, (comes from Katherine, meaning Pure) but now you get this;

Karen is a pejorative term for a woman seeming to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is normal. The term also refers to memes depicting white women who use their privilege to demand their own way.”

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Karen at the beach

Examples of ‘Karen Syndrome’ are all over the news on a daily basis: For example the case of Amy Cooper who called the police in New York because someone had dared to ask her to put a lead on her out of control dog. Although clearly named AMY, she is referred to as Central Park Karen.

Karen’s have taken over the internet with all sorts of memes and gifs. “Karen” is associated with the kind of person who insists she must “speak to the manager” in order to demean and belittle restaurant or retail staff. She is anti-vaccination; “Coronavirus Karen” refuses to wear a face covering in shops, won’t stick to lockdown rules, and thinks the whole pandemic is probably a hoax.

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Karen is irritated by rules (that don’t apply to her), and will enjoy creating problems for those in local government. For example, Karen sues the local county council after they installed a new sign that hides the sun from her window for a few minutes a day. She also automatically complains if they try and stop her putting up a fence or cutting down a tree. Karen is a law unto herself.

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Karen on a bike

Karen will complain that her favourite parking spot at the library was replaced by a ramp for wheelchair users. (She parks her car in that space anyway). She is a favourite at the local council where she complains about the states of the roads on a weekly basis. And woe betide the council worker who has to deal with the Karen whose car has hit a pothole.

Karen is selfish, prejudiced, and is endowed with a massively enlarged sense of her own entitlement. She doesn’t believe in climate change and is not interested in helping to save the environment in any way shape or form, believing that this is yet another government hoax.

It would seem that choosing the name Karen to epitomise this type of woman was a matter of chance. It could as easily have been Jane, Tracy or Sharon, names which were equally as popular in the 1960’s. But Karen it became, and I guess we are stuck with it for the time being… though the younger generation don’t have to worry, as there have been very few children named Karen this century. The name actually reached its highest popularity in 1965, though it was still popular through to the mid seventies, which means that in 2021 the people named Karen are mostly now in their forties and fifties.

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Social media has (of course) helped the cause massively – there are millions of memes and tweets poking fun at Karen’s increasingly bad reputation. “Do babies named Karen even exist or do they just appear one day with 3 kids and wanna speak to the manager,” one person tweeted.

So how does one cope with being named Karen in 2021? Well, even though the name is dying out, there are certainly plenty of us still around! And let’s not forget, the insults are not about us individually….. Karen is a concept, NOT a person. Actually, if anything irritates me about this whole issue, it’s that there is no male version of the Karen meme. No Ken or Karl? An angry white man is just an anonymous angry white man it would seem. But that is probably a blog post for another day….

Please follow this particular Karen on Instagram:

9 replies »

  1. I’ve come across this one quite a lot recently but hadn’t really twigged about it until 2021. I get the impression some geezers came up with it to counter the various phrases levelled at geezers: softbois, mansplaining, manspreading etc.

    I’d embrace your non-Karenness by being an exemplary Karen for the world to see the slang term is wrong. Mission accomplished already, I’d say!

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