If you landed here thinking you were going to gleefully indulge in the eye rolling, tongue wagging vitriol aimed at one of the latest atrocities a “Karen” has committed then you are wrong. I guess that makes me a “Karen” since I got you here under false pretenses. I must admit, when I started this blog, I wondered if I should write under a pseudonym. No shame in that, right? Authors do it all the time. I decided to forge ahead and use my now ill reputed first name. It is what my loving parents bestowed upon me at my birth and up until the last few years it has served me well.
The name Karen is of Scandinavian origin from the Greek word Aikaterine which means “pure”. Much to to my chagrin, it has morphed into the polar opposite, representing not the purest but, the most vile of people. What happened? Why did my name suddenly become synonymous with “bitch”. I have to admit that personally, I have never met a Karen that I didn’t like, and there are a lot of us.
How has this phenomenon changed me you might ask? Well, when I have to state my name to anyone for any reason, be it the barista at Starbucks or a new client at work, I do hesitate before giving my name. For a few hot seconds I think about spouting out a false name, any name, as long as it is not the much-maligned “Karen”. It’s an odd feeling, being embarrassed to say your own name when you have done nothing to produce the scorn associated with it. I find myself being overly amiable just to prove to all that I am not one of those “Karens”.
Remember the Cake song “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” that came out in 2001? You know the one…”She’s changing her name from Kitty to Karen”. The “Karen” in that song is changing her name as a testament to her newfound power, her maturation, her strength (no offense Kitty). Now, because of one bad actor, Karen is a middle aged out of control racist shrew. Maybe Karen should go back to being Kitty and call it a day.
“Oh, it’s all in fun”, “it’s not about you”, says anyone NOT named Karen. Still, it’s my name and it’s not fun. It is my identity. Since the day I was born I have been loved with it, comforted by it, greeted with it, I have fought battles with it and survived with it. It is on my birth certificate, my passport and my driver’s license. I have taken vows with it, won awards with it, established careers with it, and yet, this word that identifies me has become the personification of an ugly, horrible human being. Does it matter to me? In a word, YES!
Every time I think this phenomenon is calming down there is a new barrage of nonsense. A “Karen” Movie on Netflix, a “Karen” firework and even a “Karen” costume for Halloween. “Karen’s” are a nauseatingly unceasing topic on Social Media and they make appearances in all genres of TV and movies.
I know I am not alone in this circumstance. “Karen” is not the only name that has been batted around in our society. There is “Nancy” and “Mary”, interchangeable with coward and or effeminate (which in and of itself brings up a whole host of issues too numerous to address here), There’s Lolita, the sultry seducer of older men (from the book of the same name). The nickname for Richard (you know what that is) and, at some point even Becky was thrown in there. The list of name shaming goes on and we continue to add to it. Some of which we know how they originated while others we can only guess as to why they came into play. So, why do we do it?
What drives our need to demonize and subsequently separate ourselves from the newly minted devils? To hold ourselves up as better than? Part of the anti-Karen movement, I believe, was directly driven by the Covid epidemic. All of us shuttered in our homes for far too long. We looked for something to embody the anger, sadness and frustration we felt and so, we found someone to demonize. Someone to point our fingers at and release our collective rage. A tangible scapegoat.
I am well aware that my problem is inconsequential compared to those who have faced far worse malevolence than I due to the color of their skin, their sex, their beliefs or who they love, and I even feel a bit guilty about complaining when there are so many more abhorrent things going on in this world. After all, Karen bashing is just a symptom of an age-old problem. The narrative of our lives has become great chasms of divide growing further and further apart while at the same time splintering into smaller factions creating new cells of hate.
This is a problem that has plagued human beings since the beginning of time. Some would say that it is human nature to divide and conquer. I can’t help but think that this great divide has gotten greater over the years or… maybe it hasn’t, maybe I am abundantly more aware it because of the 24-hour news cycle and social media. I don’t have the answer, I don’t know how to fix the egregious disdain for others that I see perpetrated everywhere and often. If I did, I would achieve a feat that historically has been impossible so far and attempted by minds far greater than mine.
To me, the answer is so very simple. It is what our parents taught us as children and is echoed throughout our lives by our teachers, academic and spiritual. Be nice to each other. That is it!
Just be nice and let’s call a spade a spade and not a “Karen”.