Meet Karen. She is your neighbor; she drives your kids to school when you work early. She’s on the PTA and bakes for all the fundraisers. She made you chicken soup the last time you had the flu. She’s a mother, a teacher, and a friend. And now, she’s the target of online harassment and discrimination.
The “Karen” slur began as most derogatory symbols do these days, in a meme. Meme culture has helped to spread most of the popular hate speech of today. We are all familiar with Pepe, the 4chan hate toad, the more recent “boomer” that heavily targeted the elderly, and the “OK” symbol that became and white supremacists dog whistle. The Karen, a meme that supposedly pokes fun at a woman who “complains too much” and “asks to speak to the manager,” is now taking its place among the greatest hate memes of our time.
Karen, a misogynistic slur, is an alt-right attempt to shame women into silence. By making women afraid to speak their minds lest they are called a “Karen” these memes are slowly sending women back 50 years or more. The old adages “speak when spoken to” and “seen but not heard” come to mind.
Finally, people are taking to Twitter to speak out against the hate. Notably, a recent post from Friends of Journalism posed the question of whether the term Karen should be outright banned from Twitter. The tweet spread like wildfire gaining a quarter of a million votes in 24 hours. With all this drama Twitter still has 5 days left before the results of this poll release. The anticipation may be unbearable.
Tonight, a fierce battle rages on twitter between trolls who refuse to let go of hate speech and those who are brave enough to stand up to oppressors and fight for Karen. Which side do you stand on?