The name Karen has now become synonymous with negative connotations in 2020. A meme that has taken over the internet.
Two real-life Karen’s offer their thoughts on how and when to be a Karen, and how and when to shut up. They have written a book titled The Karen Book of Rules by Karin Schimke and Karen Jeynes. The digital launch of the book took place on 13 October and was hosted by journalist Lester Kiwett.
Schimke said the first time she saw the Karen meme was around 2017 but the stereotype of the name dates as far back as the popular culture classic film Mean Girls in 2005. The character Karen Smith played by Amanda Seyfried was reprimanded by head mean girl Regina George (Rachel McAdams) who tells her: “Oh my God Karen you can’t be asking people why they are white.”
Schimke says: “As a white person you are never aware of being a stereotype. So when I saw the memes, it was a bit of a shock, ‘what, I am a stereotype’?” Schimke describes a stereotypical Karen with short hair, complains to the manager, demands attention all the time and has a lot of power. The co-author said she needed to let her frustrations out to a fellow Karen, by harnessing your inner Karen for the greater good.
Jeynes says the name started being used a lot on black Twitter and the persona of a Karen started to grow, with a funny side to it and on the other hand a serious side too. Schimke adds Karens are a certain group of middle-aged white women, during a time of naming girls Karen was quite popular a few decades ago. The first group of women who were not afraid to say what is on their mind, a particular type of women who is not under a man’s power.
Karen’s tendencies also can come from men Schimke says, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a female. I think many people have witnessed a ‘Karen’ or a ‘Karen’ moment, a tantrum at the tills, calling for the manager, road rage incidents can turn racist or messages on WhatsApp groups that raise many eyebrows.
Kiwett said he had noticed a growing referencing of other names such as the male version of a Karen a Ken, Chad’s are younger in age, Becky as well. Jeynes a scriptwriter by profession says the stereotypes are used because there is some element of truth to them.
“There is a social power to names…we attach a whole lot of social meaning when we see or hear a person’s name, we are starting an assumption whether we are doing that consciously or unconsciously. Using that shorthand, that stereotype, the memes, that sort of pop-culture referencing gives us a way to quickly reference something that people would automatically make people jump to conclusions.” She adds using stereotypes for the white middle class is less common and it has been an interesting dynamic to see these stereotypes and reason behind it.
People should ask, why is it, that Karen is a thing in 2020? Is there is really some truth here?
The age of recording and filming racist, bigot behaviour has been particularly amplified in America context, giving raise for the Karen archetype. A video of Amy Cooper consciously threatening a black man, Christopher Cooper in Central Park, New York, that she will call the cops on him after she didn’t like his insistence she leashes her dog. She knowingly called 911 and blatantly lies says she is being threatened by an “African American”. The incident was infamously called Central Park ‘Karen’ because Amy was well aware of the power she had and how calling the cops on Christopher threatened his life as a black man.
Schimke said the books gives personal experiences from Karen’s during the Black Lives Matter movement and the impact of the pandemic and the personal effects of the memes to them. “Their stories fitted so well at what we were trying to say in the book. Laughing and poking fun at themselves for the things they have done, they really came to the party on the Karen meme.”
The authors aim is to have people think, look deep within the stereotype and hopefully change their ways to. Even though some intentions may not be rude or racist because some are unaware of it, Schimke adds that people need to be conscious of how they say things and the effect they have on people.
“We all sometimes have good intentions but sometimes the effect is not what we expect or what we want. We all want good manners, being nice to other people but it is not all about being nice, nice isn’t going to fix the world. It’s going to make it a little bit less kak.”
Doing the ‘Karen’ way to do good.