Added: Lelani Giambrone - Date: 16.09.2021 13:39 - Views: 23237 - Clicks: 2710
Updated at a. ET on August 24, The origins of any meme are hard to pin down, and this one has spread with the same intensity as the coronavirus, and often in parallel with it. Karens have short hair. Karens are selfish. Oh, and Karens are most definitely white. Let that ease your conscience if you were beginning to wonder whether the meme was, perhaps, a little bit sexist in identifying various universal negative behaviors and attributing them exclusively to women.
Sorry, but no. And so Karen has followed the trajectory of dozens of words before it, becoming a cloak for casual sexism as well as a method of criticizing the perceived faux vulnerability of white women. To understand why the Karen debate has been so fierce and emotive, you need to understand the two separate and opposing traditions on which it draws: anti-racism and sexism. You also need to understand the challenge that white women as a group pose to modern activist culture.
Are they the oppressors or the oppressed? Worse than that, what if they are using their apparent disadvantage—being a woman—as a weapon? One phrase above all has come to encapsulate the essence of a Karen: She is the kind of woman who asks to speak to the manager. In doing so, Karen is causing trouble for others. It is taken as read that her complaint is bogus, or at least disproportionate to the vigor with which she pursues it.
Read: How a popular joke about entitled white women became a pandemic meme. This includes the schism between white suffragists and the abolitionist movement, where prominent white women expressed affronted rage that Black men might be granted the vote ahead of them. Anthony in at a conference of the American Equal Rights Association. The tension is even more obvious in another infamous case.
A Black teenage boy walked into the store, and then—well, no one knows, exactly.
None of that made any difference to the boy, who was hunted down by Roy Bryant and killed. His body was found days later, so mutilated that his mother insisted on an open-casket funeral, which would force the world to witness what had been done to him. His name was Emmett Till.
Yet even that case is more morally complex than it once seemed. Inthe Duke University professor Timothy B. Tyson, who was researching a book on the case, discovered that Roy Bryant was physically abusive to his wife.
Cooper lost her job and is facing criminal charges for filing a false report. The big splits in the British suffrage movement were between violent and nonviolent tactics, and on whether men under 30 should receive the vote before women. Yet British newspapers have rushed to explain the Karen meme to their readers, because Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—the prime sites for Karen-spotting—are widely used in this country.
In fact, the Karen discussion has spread throughout the English-speaking internet, reaching as far as New Zealand. At some point, though, the particular American history behind Karen got lost. What started as an indictment of racial privilege has become divorced from its original context, and is now a catchall term for shaming women online. Never mind the fact that research shows men are less likely to wear masksanyway.
That means he can say the quiet part out loud. Cut back to the man on the bike, incredulous at being challenged. Read: The coronavirus is a disaster for feminism. This is the hazard of memes, as well as the phenomenon of viral shaming more broadly. Karen has become synonymous with woman among those who consider woman an insult. There is now a market, measured in attention and approbation, for anyone who can sniff out a Karen. And to invent oppression when none is happening to you? Because white women can be both oppressors and oppressed, Karen is a scissor.
Does the word describe a particular type of behavior that resonates because of the particular racial history of the United States? Is that the only way it is used? As it happens, the casually sexist roots of the meme are as deep as the anti-racist ones.
The intensity of the blowback when pointing facts like this out is itself instructive. The chorus of disdain that greets any white woman who questions the Karen meme comes from a broad, and unexpected, coalition: anti-racists and bog-standard misogynists. Finally, a political stance to bring this troubled world together. For the same reason, the Karen meme divides white women themselves. On one side are those who register its sexist useswho feel the familiar tang of misogyny.
Women are too loudtoo demanding, too entitled. Others push aside those echoesreasoning that if Black women want a word to describe their experience of racism, they should be allowed to have it.
There is a strong incentive to be cool about other women being Karened, lest you be Karened yourself. Read: The epic political battle over the legacy of the suffragettes.
And underneath that: What do white women have to complain about, anyway? Ageism is also a factor. As a name, Karen peaked in the U. As women shout and rant and protest in out-of-context clips deed to paint them in the most viral-friendly light possible, they are portrayed as witches, harridans, harpies: women who dare to keep existing, speaking, and asking to see the manager, after their reproductive peak.
You will find yourself in unsavory company alongside those who see white women as ludicrous whiners. It did not come. This uneasy history explains why the Karen debate has become so furious. It prods at several questions that are too painful for many of us to address. How far does white skin shield a woman from sexism? How do Black women navigate competing demands for solidarity from their white sisters and their Black brothers? And why is it okay to be more angry with the white women questioning the Karen meme than the white men appropriating it?
The Karen debate can, and perhaps will, go on forever, because it is equally defensible to argue that white women are oppressed for their sex, and privileged by their race. If successive generations of schoolchildren can see that, maybe adults can too. Mayella Ewell is half victim, half accomplice—a victim of male violence, and an accomplice to white supremacy. Her story, therefore, is one of both complicity and oppression. It is not simple or easy. Popular Latest. The Atlantic Crossword. In Subscribe.Where is my white woman
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