Is “Karen” the N-Word for White Women? An Investigation

Dimas Sanfiorenzo Dimas Sanfiorenzo is the Managing Editor for Okayplayer. He specializes…
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Photo Credit: Westend61

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?”

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.

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.

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.


So, in short, no Karen isn’t a slur. And, it damn sure isn’t the N-word for white women.


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