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Mean Girls Karen.jpg

Do We Really Need To Explain That ‘Karen’ Is Not a Slur Now?!

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Politics | April 6, 2020 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Politics | April 6, 2020 |

Mean Girls Karen.jpg

Christ, it’s Monday, we’re in the middle of a bloody pandemic, and now we have to deal with this steaming pile of nonsense? Is it too late to hit reset on this week/month/year?

Are you familiar with Karen? Not the name or any person associated with it but the slang term? She’s not quite a Becky or the female version of a Chad. A ‘Karen’ is your proto-typical entitled middle-aged white woman, the kind who is always asking to speak to the manager or tell those ‘urban kids’ to turn their music down. She probably owns a minivan. She is definitely transphobic. Karen wants preferential treatment at her yoga studio and has asked multiple people of color where they’re ‘really from.’ If you’ve ever played music at a house party featuring swear words, it’s a Karen who will take issue with it. Her potato salad recipe is also atrocious.

The ‘Karen’ joke has been around for a long time. Of course, now that a certain group of white women in the media has discovered it, they are too shocked to allow such an insult to stick. Yes, we have entered that step in the cycle of white feminist bullsh*t. Honestly, I’m kind of surprised it took this long.

Oh dear f**king powers that be, where do we even start with this?

First of all, it’s worth noting that both Julie Bindel and Hadley Freeman have faced years of criticisms for their transphobic rhetoric. Bindel also has a history of biphobia and queerphobia and loves to attack any woman who she sees as ‘pretending’ to be anything other than straight for supposed cool points. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there’s a pretty big crossover between women who are mad at ‘Karen’ and those who think TERF and cis are slurs.

Second, have you all noticed that all of these people so egregiously offended by ‘Karen’ and comparing it to the N-word won’t, you know, actually say or type out the N-word? It’s almost like they’re not the same thing at all. What’s that John Mulaney joke again? When you’re debating the badness of two words and you can’t even say one of them, that is most definitely the worse word. We’ve been through this rigmarole many times, from ‘cracker’ to ‘Becky’ to the mere concept of referring to white people as white. Shockingly, none of those words have ever been used while enslaving an entire race of people, lynching them, denying them civil rights, or having cops shoot them in the back for no damn reason.

Alicia Sanchez Gill was one of many Black women who took to Twitter to try and explain to bullies like Bindel the etymological origins of ‘Karen’ and why Black women in particular found use for it. She was subjected to massive amounts of racist and sexist abuse for doing so.

Let’s be blunt here: A lot of white people desperately want to be oppressed. To be more accurate, they want the illusion of oppression to be available to them, like a stylish jacket they can wear at their convenience, one that will act as a handy shield whenever their own privilege or bigotry is on display. These are people who ‘don’t see color or gender’ so use their own ignorance, wilful or otherwise, to exacerbate these systems of tyranny. They think that there is some sort of privilege in being subjected to abuse because they see it as some sort of game to be won. Oh, you can’t use public bathrooms because you’re afraid you’ll be beaten and there are governments trying to legislate against your mere presence in such places? Well, someone online called me cis and that’s just as bad so I know how you feel. You’ve spent a lifetime being subjected to racist violence and don’t trust the police because they may kill you in cold blood just for being black? But what about that time I called the cops on those kids having a BBQ and they called me a Karen? How is that any better?! We’re all the same, right?

Trying to appropriate obvious jokes as ‘slurs’ is another weapon of violence utilized by white supremacy to maintain the bigoted pecking order. With ‘Karen,’ what we face is another way for white women to deny their role in upholding racism. White feminism is partly rooted in the idea that to be a woman (read: white, cishet, middle-class, English speaking) is to be utterly devoid of the power to harm or reinforce bigotry. It’s the historical whitewash that pretends white women never owned slaves, overlooks how many first-generation suffragettes were racists, eugenicists, or straight-up fascists, and calls Margaret Thatcher a girlboss. If being called ‘Karen’ upsets you, that’s on you and that’s an issue you need to deal with. Come on, fellow white women, let’s not do this.

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Kayleigh is a features writer for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter or listen to her podcast, The Hollywood Read.

Header Image Source: Paramount Pictures