The pandemic and racial tension in the United States popularized this name to refer to a stereotype of a woman who believes herself superior to others. This pejorative nickname used to denounce acts of racism, and bad citizen behavior has its opponents, who consider it misogynistic. In Colombia, it can be compared to “Don’t you know who I am?”

It is becoming more and more common to see videos on social networks of women screaming or making a panic scene because their interlocutor is from a racial minority or points out a violation. These videos of them insulting, threatening, and asking for help have made the ‘Karen’ stereotype fashionable, popularized in memes and comic routines.

How Are They Identified?

‘Karen’ is a stereotype of a white woman, middle-aged, middle or upper class, superficial or hollow, and she often commits discriminatory acts in public against blacks, Latinos, Asians, or any other minority. Generally, she sees them as a threat to her physical integrity and uses her social status to win the favor of the authorities by pointing them out unfairly. During the pandemic, the ‘Karen’ has been given the characteristic of being against any measure to control the spread of the coronavirus. The name also serves to refer to those people who, by their social status, believe that they can do whatever they want.

The Origin Of The Term

‘Karen’ is not a new concept. Historians of popular culture draw attention to common stereotypes to characterize women who behave in this way in recent decades. In the eighties and nineties, they used the name Becky to describe a white woman, blissfully ignorant and unaware of the status her race affords her. She believes that she is not racist because she has black colleagues at work or because she hires a Mexican gardener, although she dislikes his habits and culture. It’s still confusing to know when ‘Karen’ came about. Some claim that the term comes from an American comedian who said in 2007 that “we all have a friend named Karen, and we are ashamed. “

Others think it is the evolution of a cliché that existed a few years ago, in which a blonde woman with short hair and bangs says, “May I speak to the manager?” to demonstrate their class superiority. But this year, the Black Lives Matter movement has used ‘Karen’ to denounce racism. It also serves to point out the ignorance of a certain sector of Americans about COVID-19.

Many have found it funny or useful to name the ‘Karen’ to denounce racism. But feminists, in addition to being pejorative, consider the word misogynistic and sexist. For them, there are many videos of men doing the same things as the ‘Karen,’ and there is no name to identify them. They also argue that ‘Karen’ is related to a way of seeing women as the only ones who star in scenes of hysteria.

Some Famous Cases

Amy Cooper
This has been one of the most famous and probably the one that made the term viral. In this episode, Amy Cooper, a white woman walking her dog through Central Park, called the police because, allegedly, a black man was threatening her. The man was Christian Cooper, who only claimed him because the dog was not on a leash. Thanks to the fact that the man was recording, the event went viral, and people verified that it was a false complaint. Amy Cooper was fired from her job and faced charges for false reports. This case occurred the same day George Floyd was murdered.

Amber Lynn Gilles
She became known when she had an altercation with a barista at a Starbucks in San Diego. The employee, of Hispanic origin, told her that he could not attend her if she did not put on a mask, to which the woman responded with shouts and insults and recorded the episode to denounce the barista. The video went viral, but against her, because people did not hesitate to call her ‘Karen.’ Later, on social networks, they promoted a petition to ban him from any Starbucks.

Debra Hunter
This woman was also rebuked and recorded for not wearing a mask. The person who filmed it was Heather Sprague, a cancer patient. Hunter, upon being exposed, decided to deliberately cough into the other woman’s face. The video served for the authorities to arrest her.