The Karen/Becky meme has officially gone too far

Today, yet another “Karen” video went viral online. This time, it seems a woman flipped off a male driver, one Karlos Dillard, who then followed her home and filmed her as she melted down into hysterics, posting the video online, which included her home address and licence plate. Over eight million views later (sure to be more by the time you read this), and Dillard is selling t-shirts based on the incident.

It seems this is a hobby for Dillard, who has posted other similarly antagonistic videos, accusing women of “racism” (despite no evidence of racism) in an attempt to turn Karen virality into profit. Other t-shirts for sale on his Instagram profile include one with the words, “Karen… Are you OK?” and another reading, “Keep that same energy, Karen.”

The Karen meme has been misogynist from the get-go, originating from an anonymous male Reddit user, Fuck_You_Karen, who was angry at his ex-wife, named Karen, for taking custody of his children. In 2017, his misogynist rants became a subreddit, r/FuckYouKaren.

Recently, the meaning of “Karen” was said to refer specifically to middle class, middle aged white women who are so entitled they ask to speak to the manager when perturbed, but has since morphed into a specifically racist white woman, who “weaponizes” white, female fragility against largely black men. This connects to sexist tropes that claim women use their emotions, vulnerability, and tears to manipulate men.

What began as a joke has become more than that, and has moved into explicitly misogynist (and, in my opinion, dangerous) territory.

“Becky,” which originated as a means to refer to basic white women — the Uggs-wearing, Starbucks-buying, pumpkin spice-loving kind — probably young, probably blonde, probably not working class. Like “Karen,” I never found this to be particularly offensive, as I had little desire to defend boring people who love Starbucks, but what was once a joke has become something much more egregious.

Following someone to their home, doxxing, filming, and harassing them because they gave you the finger is unhinged. People are going to act like assholes in this world, and you need to learn to deal with that. Moreover, these viral videos, like the Amy Cooper/Christian Cooper bird watching/dog-off-the-leash incident, are always decontextualized. No one really knows what happened preceding the video, nor do they know why either party reacted as they did. We all know social media leaves little room for nuance, and far too many people enjoy a rage reaction over asking questions or considering they may not know the full story. The truth is that, today, people’s lives can be destroyed in an instant, via a viral post. And our culture is wielding that power with very little care.

While those participating in the mobs targeting the subjects of these currently popular Karen videos claim some form of racial justice, this is not an accurate representation.

This has little to do with race, and everything to do with a progressive left that has adopted woman-hating as political virtue signalling.

Last week, journalist and editor Jonathan Kay tweeted a “Wanted” poster he’d come across in Toronto, depicting a young, blonde, white woman. The text below her face mocked her as a “Basic Bitch” — privileged, entitled, and unwoke. The image and text presents “Becky” as dangerous — the new enemy. The A.C.A.B. (All Cops Are Bastards) logo on the poster implies it likely was produced and distributed by young anarchist men. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were white men, considering the face of groups (or non-groups, depending on who you ask) like Antifa.

The trend of presenting women as a threat extends beyond Becky and Karen. In recent years, Antifa, anarchists, trans activists, and leftists have targeted feminists who question the impact of gender identity ideology on women’s rights as dangerous — even more so than male predators. Rhetoric that claims “TERFs kill” intentionally erases the fact that it is men who are overwhelmingly responsible for violence against both women and men (including trans-identified males). As a result, reversing this claim to say “Kill TERFs” or to show up at events discussing gender identity with cardboard guillotines with the words “TERFs and SWERFs step right up” written on them has become an acceptable form of “activism.”

This has all happened within a left that has consistently ignored and even defended the misogyny, racism, and violence of prostitution and pornography, painting women who fight the sex trade as “whorephobic” and as causing harm to “sex workers.” Everyone knows who is responsible for the abuse that happens to women in porn and prostitution. We can see it on PornHub or we can read about it in the news. Yet the left consistently fails to hold those men accountable for the harm they cause. No, no. The real problem is women. Terms like “TERF” (which means “trans exclusionary radical feminist,” but, in practice, is used to smear anyone who questions gender identity legislation or ideology) and “SWERF” (which means “sex worker exclusionary radical feminist,” but is used to smear women — even women who have worked in the sex trade — who wish to stop the universal violence and exploitation inherent to prostitution) exist to misrepresent, vilify, and end conversation. One cannot defend a “TERF” or “SWERF” any more than one can defend a “Karen” or “Becky,” unless they would like to be pilloried as unwoke and bigoted themselves.

A few years ago, trans activists and their progressive allies adopted the term “cis” to refer to those whose “gender identity matches their sex.” Putting aside the fact that no one’s “gender identity” matches their sex, as whether or not a person is male or female has nothing to do with whether or not they identify with a list of sexist gender stereotypes, the term “cis” is said to denote “privilege.” This means that a woman who understands she is female is, as per trans ideology, “privileged” over a man who desires to be viewed as a woman or who does not feel connected to masculine stereotypes. This is ridiculous, of course, as women are impacted by sexism on account of being born female, and are vulnerable to male violence regardless of how they identify. Understanding one is female does not make a woman “privileged,” it makes her a sane human being. In other words, “cis” or “cisprivilege” completely erases the reality of sexism and male violence against women. Suddenly, we are to believe women pose a threat to males who identify as transgender. Just as we are now to believe “Becky” and “Karen” are so dangerous they deserve to be hated, harassed, and destroyed. Maybe punched. Maybe worse.

This is, I’m afraid, woman-hating. And it is dangerous. The popularity of the Karen meme has led people to seek out and invent Karens in order to gain followers and profit, as evidenced by Dillard’s racket. And rhetoric that positions feminists as dangerous, harmful “TERFs” has led to the acceptance of open violent threats against women, simply for speaking out in defence of women’s rights and spaces. Karen, Becky, SWERF, and TERF are nothing more than excuses to hate women. And I am tired of people participating and defending this misogyny simply because it is on trend, and because it results in applause from the male centred left.

Yes, women can be assholes. Yes, women can be racist. No, women are not all innocent victims. But this has become about much more than calling out annoying, racist, or entitled behaviour. And, in fact, I think it was always about more than that. Let’s stop this before someone gets (literally) hurt.

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.