Feel free to use Karen memes, just stop pretending it’s politically justified

I did not want to write about Karen, because I did not care about Karen. But you all will not stop talking about Karen, so now I have to write about Karen.

Ironically, “Karen” was ignorable and even potentially funny until it was politicized by those claiming that “Karen” is not just a joke, but in fact politically righteous, and that the women responding negatively to the meme are being, well, Karens

Let’s start with the truth, rather then the convenient strawmen internet SJWs love, because they earn retweets:

– No one is saying that calling a woman “Karen” is “as bad as the n-word” (apart from one parody account that hundreds of people who claim to understand jokes and who have spent all day mocking others for their inability to take a joke seem to have taken seriously).

– No one is saying that being called “Karen” is oppression.

– No one is trying to “get Karen classified as a slur” in any official capacity.

– Stop inventing dumb shit just so you have something to talk about.

People (let’s call them women) are trying to have a conversation, and discussing the implications of “Karen” — that is to say, how it is used, and the purpose of that use. In fact, the response to those arguing “Karen” is a means to insult, dismiss, and mock women demonstrates the purpose of “Karen” rather precisely: you are a stupid woman and your concerns don’t matter — you don’t deserve to be taken seriously as a human being, you are silly, unimportant, and to be mocked.

Now, I love mockery as much as the next person — probably even more. I like jokes more than I like political correctness, so I think few words should be off the table, simply because they offend or trigger individuals. Especially for the purpose of comedy. Just because you have a connection to a word that triggers upset for you doesn’t mean the word itself is inherently offensive. I have been called “cunt” by shitty men, yet am uninterested in insisting women don’t use it. I feel similarly about pretty much every swear word imaginable, and use terms like “guys” (which is said to be “gendered” and therefore inappropriate for feminist use) and “retarded” (although never in reference to people with intellectual disabilities, only in reference to situations and individuals I deem irritating and stupid) with abandon. One generally knows when a word is being used with hateful or bigoted intention versus neutral, fond, and humourous intention. (This is why, for example, women joking amongst themselves about being “TERFs” is harmless, whereas those who use “TERF” as a means to demonize, threaten, dehumanize, and silence women are misogynist, hateful, and often dangerous.)

Either way, I support your free speech, and I also support the right to criticize, condemn, or choose not to engage in that speech or use that language yourself.

What annoys me even more than words is disingenuousness. And the response to those who are arguing that “Karen” is misogynist (or simply asking the question in order to prompt discussion) is completely disingenuous.

While some women have said the term is a means to deride women based on their sex and class, it has not been argued “Karen” is a racist slur. Race was brought up, in this context, to defend sexism, and in order to avoid addressing the sex factor, which progressives have deemed an irrelevant issue today. This is also the way “white feminism” has been used: that is to say, as a means to dismiss feminism (particularly feminists who oppose things like prostitution, pornography, and gender identity ideology).

The popular thing has been, for some time, to hate “white men.” “White men” were bad and could be mocked, vilified, and dismissed, no matter what, because they were “white men.” It is unnecessary to engage with ideas and arguments we do not wish to engage with if a white man puts forth those ideas, and easier to simply dismiss him as a “white man.” I am quite certain I engaged in this myself, many times. It’s easy, and is applauded unthinkingly by most liberals and leftists. Today, my perspective is that everyone’s voice and opinion matters, regardless of who they are, and it is not healthy, rational, or democratic to silence or dismiss people solely because of their identities, race, sex, or class position. (Unless of course their opinion is dumb, in which case fuck ’em.) In recent years, it’s become popular to speak of “white women” with disdain as well. “White women” are all stupid, privileged, rich, uptight, and generally either bad or irrelevant. This is a fun and productive way to create divides among women, ensuring no cohesive feminist movement can exist, and also to scare young women in particular into avoiding taking up certain feminist fights and allying with those deemed “white feminists” (or “TERFs” or “SWERFs”). That is to say, the social justice warrior-type are encouraged and supported to use “white women” as a retort, insult, or dismissal — a means to stereotype, decontextualize, silence, or deride. It is no coincidence all three labels are used in congruence, including today, in the context of the Great Karening.

To be clear (though I suspect that no matter how clear I am, I will be gleefully and lazily misinterpreted, misrepresented, and cancelled for the 80th time), I am not suggesting that racism doesn’t exist and that there isn’t a long history of white privilege and white-led oppression of black, indigenous, and Asian people in North America. But that reality does not mean all white women are inherently “privileged” (indeed, women of all races and classes are subject to sexism, and many white women are poor and abused), and even if they were, that doesn’t mean their lives and opinions are inherently silly or irrelevant.

This is classic sexism, dressed up as progressivism, as evidenced by the way the trans activist movement has used both “cisness” and “whiteness” as a means to position men with sexual fetishes, mental illnesses, or disinterest in traditional masculinity as more “oppressed” than all women. This is a dumb game that goes nowhere good — a contest no one wins, that can easily turn around and bite us in the ass at any given moment, depending on how Twitter “activists” decide to reposition the privilege/identity scale.

I did not much care about or take offence to the use of “Karen,” until a bunch of like-seeking internet children who fancy themselves woke because they have their pronouns in their Twitter bios began pretending this was an issue of race, and using it to virtue signal their “intersectional” cred. Of course “Karen” is a sex-based meme, and of course it exists to mock and dismiss women. It can also be funny, if used in a successfully comedic way. You can share Karen memes as much as you like, but stop pretending they are politically justified because of “privilege,” and stop pretending like women are up in arms about “reverse racism” over this. It’s basic as fuck.

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.