Thursday, March 30, 2023

The name Karen has been unfairly tainted

Karen originated as a Danish name.  It is the Danish short form of Katherine, deriving from the Greek word Aikaterine, which is believed to mean "pure."  It became popular in the English-speaking world after the 1930s.  In more recent years, Karen has become a pejorative term for a woman whose behaviour is rude and demanding, especially a privileged white woman.  This meme has become increasingly prevalent in everyday conversation.  It is frequently used in the media,

What is the origin of the use of "Karen" as a pejorative?  Some point the finger at American stand-up comedian Dane Cook because of his 2007 comedy sketch "The Friend Nobody Likes," in which he named that friend "Karen."  Others suggest that it may have originated from the 2004 teenage comedy Mean Girls,.  A character in the film, played by Amanda Seyfried is reprimanded for asking her friend Cady, played by Lindssay Lohan, how can she "be from Africa if she's white?"

My name is not Karen, nor is Karen the name of anyone in my immediate family.  However, I do feel that every woman with that name has been tarnished with the same brush.  The stigma of entitlement has been attached to all women named Karen.  If it were my moniker, I would feel a great injustice for three main reasons.  Firstly, there is no concrete evidence that women named Karen are more racist and privileged than other women?  Secondly, women of all ethnic and racial backgrounds have been named Karen.  There are, of course, Black women named Karen.  How do they feel about being lumped with privileged white women?

Thirdly, I must also point out that there is a sexist aspect to the meme "Karen."  Why is it that women named Karen are tagged with being privileged and demanding?  Do you know any men named Karen?  Are there not men of entitlement?  What is the point of singling out a particular female name such as Karen?  A "Karen" is supposedly the kind of woman who demands to speak to the manager.  Really?  Don't any men demand to speak to the manager?  

Let me be clear.  I am not defending anyone of any race or gender who behaves in a privileged manner.  I just don't think that the name Karen should be labelled in such a way.  It is mean-spirited  and patently unfair.  

A great deal of money is being made off of the "Karen" meme.  There are stickers and poster for sale about the so-called "Karens."  There is even a book by Brad Gosse entitled Meet The Karens: They're Angry and They Demand Attention.

Some may accuse me of being too sensitive, but  stereotypes attached to specific names hurt.  That's why I encourage all women named Karen to be proud of your name.  Don't let an insidious meme get to you.  By the way, I urge any readers named Karen to let me know how you feel about how your name is being used as a meme for a privileged white women.  

- Joanne