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Old 02-20-2020, 01:38 PM
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Has the term 'Karen' become racist and sexist?


Originally, the appellation 'Karen' meant "demanding older White woman" in the context of customer service.

After seeing the term used to describe certain older White female politicians, I started thinking that much of the time, 'Karen' has evolved to mean "White bitch" generally.

I think that using a derogatory term which specifically calls out race and gender is not OK. But it seems the consensus is that White people are fair game for jokey name-calling, and that most women who are called 'Karens' are bitchy anyway, so they deserve it.

Am I just being oversensitive?
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Old 02-20-2020, 01:45 PM
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What the fuck are you talking about?

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 02-20-2020 at 01:47 PM.
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Old 02-20-2020, 01:52 PM
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Am I just being oversensitive?
Yes
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Old 02-20-2020, 01:56 PM
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What the fuck are you talking about?
The Karen stereotype denotes an old white mom, usually in 40-50s, with multiple kids, domineering soccer mom, henpecking wife, "I WANT TO SPEAK TO YOUR MANAGER" because she can't get her coupon honored at a store, etc.

The OP is asking if this is racist and sexist because it specifically targets a subset of white women.

Last edited by Velocity; 02-20-2020 at 01:59 PM.
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Old 02-20-2020, 01:57 PM
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Never heard the name used this way; gotta cite?
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:00 PM
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Never heard the name used this way; gotta cite?
https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Karen
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:04 PM
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Couldn't this argument be used to show that every single meme ever created is racist/sexist because the original picture is of a person with a race and gender? Bad news Brian? Overly obsessed girlfriend? Success kid? Ermahgerd? Good guy Greg? Willie Wonka?
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:05 PM
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I do think it's demeaning to people with that name. Which isn't to say one can never propagate things that single out people's names for their humor but I think this thing's had its 15 minutes.
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:07 PM
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Thanks.
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Am I just being oversensitive?
Yes.

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Old 02-20-2020, 02:08 PM
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Karen: The anti-vaxxer soccer mom with speak-to-the-manager hair, explained

Includes some reasonable discussion of the charge that the meme is sexist.
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:21 PM
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Racist? I've never heard the Karen meme being used to indicate that white people are inferior or some other race is superior.

Now sexist, perhaps.
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:24 PM
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Yes, you're being oversensitive. "Karen" is just a nickname for the concept. And it's not just "white bitch" but "entitled white bitch."
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:31 PM
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Been alive a long time and never heard of this. East Coast thing? Or something the kids are doing nowadays?
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:34 PM
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Racist? I've never heard the Karen meme being used to indicate that white people are inferior or some other race is superior.
I've never seen it used to demean someone explicitly for their race, only for their privileged and entitled attitude. But it's a demeaning epithet, and it's only ever applied to white women, I guess that's the argument.

A similar kind of epithet used against a minority racial group would not be acceptable, but I think this is a case where it's not symmetrical, and where the [prejudice+power] view of racism is applicable. To at least some extent, the stereotyped entitled attitude reflects the privileged position and attitude of white people. It makes little sense to say that you can't call out white privilege because that's racist against white people.

Last edited by Riemann; 02-20-2020 at 02:37 PM.
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:40 PM
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Been alive a long time and never heard of this. East Coast thing? Or something the kids are doing nowadays?
Internet meme
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:41 PM
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No, I don't think it has. But I must say I find it very odd lately, this trend of having stereotypes of people personified with names. Karen, Chad, Stacy, and Becky are four that seem to have emerged just over the past few years. I can't really think of any precedent for it (in American culture) other than maybe the name "Bubba" for a generic "hillbilly." I find this name-character-stereotype thing rather annoying, to be honest.
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:44 PM
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Been alive a long time and never heard of this. East Coast thing? Or something the kids are doing nowadays?
It's not a regional thing, it's an internet meme thing. Something you'd encounter on social media or reddit. Originally it would typically when somebody films an entitled middle-aged white woman abusing retail staff, but I'd say the usage has widened to nasty entitled white women having public meltdowns for other reasons - ranting at cops when they have been pulled over, for example; perhaps even situations where it's a white woman saying nasty racist things. But certainly always white women.

Last edited by Riemann; 02-20-2020 at 02:48 PM.
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:45 PM
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I've never seen it used to demean someone explicitly for their race, only for their privileged and entitled attitude. But it's a demeaning epithet, and it's only ever applied to white women, I guess that's the argument.

A similar kind of epithet used against a minority racial group would not be acceptable, but I think this is a case where it's not symmetrical, and where the [prejudice+power] view of racism is applicable. To at least some extent, the stereotyped entitled attitude reflects the privileged position and attitude of white people. It makes little sense to say that you can't call out white privilege because that's racist against white people.
Right. And I would say that 90% of the time (if not more) I see white people using the "Karen" meme.
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:46 PM
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No, I don't think it has. But I must say I find it very odd lately, this trend of having stereotypes of people personified with names. Karen, Chad, Stacy, and Becky are four that seem to have emerged just over the past few years. I can't really think of any precedent for it (in American culture) other than maybe the name "Bubba" for a generic "hillbilly." I find this name-character-stereotype thing rather annoying, to be honest.
The name "Leroy" has certain connotations for a different group.
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:47 PM
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What the fuck are you talking about?
LOL! I must concur, if that's possible.

My FB friend are always posting Karen memes, and I asked where that came from and they had no idea. My wife's name is Karen. She wasn't familiar with that idea either.
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:51 PM
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No, I don't think it has. But I must say I find it very odd lately, this trend of having stereotypes of people personified with names. Karen, Chad, Stacy, and Becky are four that seem to have emerged just over the past few years. I can't really think of any precedent for it (in American culture) other than maybe the name "Bubba" for a generic "hillbilly." I find this name-character-stereotype thing rather annoying, to be honest.
There is plenty of precedent for it in talking about racial minorities - Satchmo, Jose, etc.
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:53 PM
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Never heard the name used this way; gotta cite?
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Originally Posted by Typo Negative View Post
Been alive a long time and never heard of this. East Coast thing? Or something the kids are doing nowadays?
It's a really, really common thing. I run into "Karen" everywhere; Reddit, Facebook, private conversations, etc.

Amiright, everyone but Bo & Typo?
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:58 PM
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I can't really think of any precedent for it (in American culture) other than maybe the name "Bubba" for a generic "hillbilly." I find this name-character-stereotype thing rather annoying, to be honest.
Heck, one of the oldest concepts in American culture (indeed predating American culture) is the somewhat-derisive term "Yankee", which (some linguists argue) is derived from the Dutch name Jan ("John"), possibly Jan Kaas ("John Cheese"), a nickname some Dutch settlers had for other Dutch settlers, before the whole region became English (by conquest) and eventually American (by revolution).
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Old 02-20-2020, 03:02 PM
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It's a really, really common thing. I run into "Karen" everywhere; Reddit, Facebook, private conversations, etc.

Amiright, everyone but Bo & Typo?
I'm with them. Never heard of it. To me, "Karen" is a common girls' name.

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Old 02-20-2020, 03:05 PM
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Try being a Becky.
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Old 02-20-2020, 03:09 PM
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Been alive a long time and never heard of this. East Coast thing? Or something the kids are doing nowadays?
Same demographic that thinks, "ok, boomer," is hilarious.
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Old 02-20-2020, 03:10 PM
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There is plenty of precedent for it in talking about racial minorities - Satchmo, Jose, etc.
Satchmo? Other than Louis Armstrong, I've never, ever heard this term used to describe a single soul.
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Old 02-20-2020, 03:22 PM
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Try being a Becky.
At least you've got the good hair.
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Old 02-20-2020, 03:25 PM
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I also run into it everywhere, social media and real life. It's every third meme on some humor sites.
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Old 02-20-2020, 03:29 PM
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Is there anyone who has never been made fun for their name? Either it rhymes with something funny, or is associated with TV or movie character, or some other negative cultural icon? Kids do that kind of hazing all the time, and sometimes it persists into adulthood.
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Old 02-20-2020, 03:44 PM
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"Dolores!"
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Old 02-20-2020, 03:58 PM
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Old 02-20-2020, 04:30 PM
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It's a really, really common thing. I run into "Karen" everywhere; Reddit, Facebook, private conversations, etc.

Amiright, everyone but Bo & Typo?
I've never heard "Karen" used to refer to anything/body other than somebody actually named Karen.

I opened this thread to find out what the OP was talking about. Ignorance fought, I suppose.
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Old 02-20-2020, 04:46 PM
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I can't really think of any precedent for it (in American culture) other than maybe the name "Bubba" for a generic "hillbilly."
If you are of a certain age, long ago you would have heard the name "Bruce" when spoken with a lisp, indicating an effeminite gay man. So, the idea of a name used as a stereotype is not new.
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Old 02-20-2020, 04:51 PM
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If you are of a certain age, long ago you would have heard the name "Bruce" when spoken with a lisp, indicating an effeminite gay man. So, the idea of a name used as a stereotype is not new.
And the article I linked to upthread pointed out:
Quote:
There’s plenty of historical precedent for using a proper name to stand in for a whole archetype or stereotype of a character. This linguistic use is usually referred to as an eponym; calling someone a “Scrooge” is perhaps the most recognizable example, in reference to a wealth-hoarding, greedy personality.
...
Names like “Paddy” and “Mick” functioned as anti-Irish slurs in the 19th century, while “Guido” was a common slur for Italians.
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Old 02-20-2020, 04:56 PM
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It's a really, really common thing. I run into "Karen" everywhere; Reddit, Facebook, private conversations, etc.

Amiright, everyone but Bo & Typo?
Other than this thread, I’ve never heard of this thing. On the other hand, I don’t have Reddit or Facebook apps, and rarely have private conversations.

If it’s not a thing on the SDMB, I’ll probably miss it.
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Old 02-20-2020, 05:10 PM
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Is there anyone who has never been made fun for their name? Either it rhymes with something funny, or is associated with TV or movie character, or some other negative cultural icon? Kids do that kind of hazing all the time, and sometimes it persists into adulthood.
That's not what this is, it's not about making fun of someone whose real name is Karen.

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And the article I linked to upthread pointed out:
Quote:
...There’s plenty of historical precedent for using a proper name to stand in for a whole archetype or stereotype of a character. This linguistic use is usually referred to as an eponym..
Describing "Karen" as an eponym does not seem correct. That's when something is named after a specific person. I'm pretty sure that there was no original Karen - nor Paddy nor Guido for that matter. Paddy is a common name that's distinctively Irish; perhaps similarly Karen was a relatively popular name for women born 40-50 years ago. And there's just a random viral element to why they caught on to denote a stereotype.

Last edited by Riemann; 02-20-2020 at 05:11 PM.
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Old 02-20-2020, 05:14 PM
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Satchmo? Other than Louis Armstrong, I've never, ever heard this term used to describe a single soul.
I've heard a few more, but it certainly was Louis Armstrong's nickname. I suspect he meant to say Sambo. Which acquired very strong racial overtones. But I read Little Black Sambo as a child, and that child was quite clever. I'm not sure how it became a derogatory name.
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Old 02-20-2020, 05:32 PM
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Couldn't this argument be used to show that every single meme ever created is racist/sexist because the original picture is of a person with a race and gender? Bad news Brian? Overly obsessed girlfriend? Success kid? Ermahgerd? Good guy Greg? Willie Wonka?
Ermahgerd, Becky!! 2 beck's in one thread()
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Old 02-20-2020, 06:58 PM
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It's a really, really common thing. I run into "Karen" everywhere; Reddit, Facebook, private conversations, etc.

Amiright, everyone but Bo & Typo?
Never heard of it.

To the OP, yes, you're being overly sensitive.

Also, this thread seems more suited to IMHO.
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Old 02-20-2020, 07:01 PM
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"Dolores!"
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiQiTz3KWCE

...Bart, Cart, Dart, Eeart...Can't see anything wrong with Bart!

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Old 02-20-2020, 08:46 PM
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My first wife is named Karen, and if you looked up Karen in the dictionary, for this definition, her picture would be there. She is the most Karen that ever Karened and one of the many reasons she is an ex.
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Old 02-20-2020, 09:08 PM
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I've never seen it used to demean someone explicitly for their race, only for their privileged and entitled attitude.
Those on the sexism side argue that it’s increasingly used to belittle and dismiss any kind of woman with any kind of attitude that speaks up for any reason, thus discouraging women from “making a fuss” for fear of being branded a Karen. A little like what happened with “social justice warrior” and “intel.”
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Old 02-20-2020, 09:09 PM
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I'm with them. Never heard of it. To me, "Karen" is a common girls' name.
Or was a common a girls' name--like Mary, Kathy, Donna, Susan. Nowadays the popularity of many of the common girls' names has declined substantially [and similarly for common boys' names].

Last edited by PastTense; 02-20-2020 at 09:12 PM.
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Old 02-20-2020, 09:12 PM
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Thank you, I really appreciate your extensive contribution to the discussion.
Bless your heart; you're welcome.
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Old 02-20-2020, 09:47 PM
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I had never heard of Karen being used in a derogatory context either.

I can't think of a single well-known antivaxer named Karen. Jenny, Barbara, Louise and Suzanne, O.K., but not Karen.
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Old 02-20-2020, 09:55 PM
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I've never seen it used to demean someone explicitly for their race,
Millions of Burmese have...
  #48  
Old 02-21-2020, 01:55 AM
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Hmm... pak puteh means 'white daddy' in Malay. Mengapa anda memilih nama itu?
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Old 02-21-2020, 02:10 AM
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Thank you, I really appreciate your extensive contribution to the discussion.
Way to Britta the thread.
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  #50  
Old 02-21-2020, 09:01 AM
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I don't think it's necessarily racist or sexist. Just rude. Like "OK boomer". I'm sure there are plenty of perfectly nice Karens that are the butt of jokes, and I don't think that's a good thing.
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