A journalist asked a question that sparked a debate and a bunch of jokes: should “Karen” be considered a slur?
Karens is crazy.
Over the weekend, Julie Bindel, a journalist based in the UK, asked a simple yet puzzling question: “Does anyone else think the ‘Karen’ slur is woman hating and based on class prejudice?”
Does anyone else think the ‘Karen’ slur is woman hating and based on class prejudice?
— Julie Bindel (@bindelj) April 5, 2020
This tweet did not go well for Julie. Within hours “Karen” was trending on twitter and Julie was getting flamed for asking a Karen-type of question. What didn’t help was that the Twitter account Friends of Journalism, which is run by the same right-wing trolls that run Journalism Excellence Worldwide, compared the term to the N-word.
But let’s rewind. Where does this idea that Karen is a slur come from? Last fall Vox did an excellent article about the origins of Karen. According to Vox, Karen falls in line with other names for basic white people, like Becky.
Vox explains that the “Karen-type is is “blonde, has multiple young kids, and is usually an anti-vaxxer. Karen has a “can I speak to the manager” haircut and a controlling, superior attitude to go along with it.”
The word gained popularity due to a Reddit and a subreddit called FuckYouKaren, which was started by a 17-year-old from Irvine, California. He started it as a joke, dedicated toward another Reddit user named Fuck_You_Karen, who complained about his ex-girlfriend (which may or may not have actually existed.) From there the subreddit blew up into a meme machine.
When people use Karen, they are basically describing an entitled, clueless white woman.
Anyway, back to Julie Bindel.
There were a couple of people who agreed with Julie (not many):
But most of the people were strongly against Julie. Strongly.
White people calling something a slur because it hurt their feelings, while simultaneously and systematically oppressing (knowing and unknowingly) people of color around them daily and weaponizing their privilege is peak Karen, Karen.
— Fancy (@lifeofprettie) April 5, 2020
“Karen” was a term created *specifically by Black women* to talk about white women’s interpersonal + state violence against us and our communities: calling the police on us for getting coffee, threatening to have us fired, talking down to us at work (where we’re now “essential”).
— a Black-passing Latina. (@aliciasanchez) April 5, 2020
Most of the derision came from the idea that anyone would compare Karen to the N-Word. To be fair, Julie didn’t suggest that, it was the troll account. But still, this led to a rich collection of joke tweets.
I hear Quentin Tarantino uses Karen 324 times in his next movie.
— Hanna Ines Flint (@HannaFlint) April 6, 2020
My dad is 1/8th Karen so I’m allowed to say it.
— Dani Fernandez (@msdanifernandez) April 6, 2020
— Phonte (@phontigallo) April 6, 2020
i have white friends so i can say karen
— stop calling me emo (@baldboyblues) April 6, 2020
🗣THIS KAREN EATIN BEANS.
— and that’s on maryhadalillamb. (@MsPackyetti) April 6, 2020
Our sources have confirmed that this woman's name was Karen pic.twitter.com/2DbxtBp3UW
— The Most (@Most) April 6, 2020
Karen’s give me heebee jeebees
— numa perrier (@missnuma) April 6, 2020
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) April 6, 2020
Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor at the Washington Post, and also a Karen, put the final touches on if Karen is comparable to the N-word.
"Karen" is not, and never will be, the "N-word" for white women.
"Karen" has not been part and parcel of centuries of violence and state-sanctioned oppression.
The N-word was a tool of white supremacy. "Karen" gives the historically oppressed a tool to discuss white supremacy.
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) April 6, 2020
So, in short, no Karen isn’t a slur. And, it damn sure isn’t the N-word for white women.