Can we stop Karen?

Photo by Olga Lioncat on

If I see one more video or post with the title “‘Karen’ does _____”, I might go crazy. Don’t get me wrong, bad public behavior occasionally needs to be called out, but “Karen” is not the way. “Karen” and its variations are sexist and controlling.

In case you’ve not been paying attention to trends, “Karen” is a title placed on people (usually white women of middle age) who behave badly in public space. The title is accompanied by a photo or video and shared on social media and sometimes junk “news” websites. There is no standard for what makes a person a “Karen” beyond bad public behavior.

The main problem with “Karen” is that it targets women in public space. Women are already judged, harassed, belittled in public space through catcalling, stalking, etc… To be woman and in public is dangerous to our health and safety. Adding an element of public shaming, which is what “Karen” is, just makes it even more dangerous.

Additionally, social media makes it easy to share images and video in virtual form (Twitter has a popular Karen hashtag). These women don’t give permission to have their picture taken, but it’s taken and shared nonetheless. This act could violate state law, or at the very least the sense of common good which teaches to respect another persons body and image.

“Karen” targets WOMEN. Louder for those in the back: “KAREN” TARGETS WOMEN. You can make the claim that there is a male equivalent, but there is not. Men aren’t being called out in the media (or social media). WOMEN are.

Additionally, there is a low bar for what behavior is acceptable in public. One person was shamed for wanting mustard and mayo on her fries. Seriously?!? Yes, how dare she want condiments on her fries. Or maybe the problem was that she was eating in the first place. Another was shamed for looking at pictures on her phone at a concert. When people start to police and “Karen” (or share in a permanent way) others behavior, we start to devolve as a society. We need to feel safe and able to exist in public space… it is after all- PUBLIC.

So, please stop “Karen”. It’s not safe and sexist. Will we make the Karens wear scarlet letters next?

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