It is with a heavy heart I must announce the Karens are at it again. This time, they’re trying to claim victimhood for being called out on their shit.
A Karen, of course, is a white, middle-class woman who uses her status to oppress others. Anyone who’s worked in retail or hospo has probably had a Karen ask to speak to their manager at one point or another.
Now, a bunch of problematic white women on Twitter are claiming term “Karen” is a slur like the N-word. The short answer is: it’s not.
Usually, the people who cry “slur!” at the utterance of Karen often have a bunch of other shithouse opinions too.
Not only are they misappropriating the metalanguage of oppression against people of colour, the queer community, people with disabilities and others, but they typically also see no problem when they themselves use oppressive language against certain other groups of people.
This particular wave of calling ‘Karen’ a slur is being spearheaded by British TERFs – trans-exclusionary radical feminists. These are the same cis women who misgender trans women, sometimes using, you guessed it, slurs.
Julie Bindel kicked things off with a tweet. The author and campaigner has a long history of transphobic comments and has also dabbled in bi erasure and whorepobia, so she’s not exactly an authority on slurs.
Does anyone else think the ‘Karen’ slur is woman hating and based on class prejudice?
— Julie Bindel (@bindelj) April 5, 2020
In a followup tweet, Bindel went on to describe the term “Becky” as “ageist” and “anti-Semitic”.
Author Hadley Freeman, who also has a history making transphobic comments, replied that “Karen” was somehow also “classist”. Wanting to speak to the manager by definition excludes you from being a victim of classist language, Karen.
Ophelia Benson, another writer who as been accused of making transphobic comments, agreed.
But Karen is not a slur. Karen is a term used to point out privilege, and membership within an oppressive group.
Slurs rely on violence and power dynamics to carry the weight they do. This is simply inapplicable to Karens as they are the ones being called out for wielding (and misusing) such power.
Washington Post opinion editor Karen Attiah put it most articulately: “The N-word was a tool of white supremacy. ‘Karen’ gives the historically oppressed a tool to discuss white supremacy.”
“Karen” is not, and never will be, the “N-word” for white women.
“Karen” has not been part and parcel of centuries of violence and state-sanctioned oppression.
The N-word was a tool of white supremacy. “Karen” gives the historically oppressed a tool to discuss white supremacy.
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) April 6, 2020
“Karen” was a term created *specifically by Black women* to talk about white women’s interpersonal + state violence against us and our communities: calling the police on us for getting coffee, threatening to have us fired, talking down to us at work (where we’re now “essential”).
— alicia sanchez gill. (@aliciasanchez) April 5, 2020
When someone gets called out as a Karen, they’re not being called out for simply being a woman. They’re being called out for wielding their white, middle-class womanhood as a tool of oppression.
At best, Karen demands to speak to the manager. At worst, she calls the cops on a group of black people having a picnic.
As the debate went on, Twitter users collectively dunked on the Karens playing victim.
There are sadly many derogatory terms used against women. Karen is not one off them.
i’ve dated a white women before so im allowed to say karen with a hard n
— ? (@artfulhussey) April 6, 2020
I got kicked out of The Container Store for saying “Karen” with a hard “n”
— ben is the one to watch for flores (@limitlessjest) April 5, 2020
My dad is 1/8th Karen so I’m allowed to say it.
— Dani Fernandez (@msdanifernandez) April 6, 2020
White people made the n-word over skin color; nobody chooses their skin color & there is no wrong skin color.
We made Karen over your shit ass entitled wannbe-oppressed attitude, something you choose to have & it’s absolutely the wrong one to have.
— samsterham (@sami_automatik) April 7, 2020
Bitch Karen, snitch Karen, ho Karen, bitch Karen pic.twitter.com/cYTbJrjqmR
— Clarkisha Kent (@IWriteAllDay_) April 6, 2020
I hear Quentin Tarantino uses Karen 324 times in his next movie.
— Hanna Ines Flint (@HannaFlint) April 6, 2020