Ok so at first glance I thought this book would be entirely frivolous and at best would make an hilarious gift for the genuine birth certified Karen’s in my life (not karen’s as in behavior type from the countless memes). And indeed it would make a fun gift, but I totally didn’t expect an ounce of self reflection nor did I imagine for a single minute that I may actually learn something! (I am ashamed to concede that this is apparently a karen thing – being a know-it-all).
Anyway, there is an entire karen self diagnosing checklist situation and the truth is that all karens are:
- Middle class
- Middle aged
- Educated (to some extent or at least familiar with their rights)
- Prefect/Headgirl types
This presents a rather tricky situation because I tick ALL of those boxes. Also, there is nothing I can do about these characteristics. In order to escape the blight of actual karenness I have to be pretty damn certain never to tick a single one of the remaining boxes. These are characteristics over which one is able to exercise some control. Karens are (in addition to those bullet points listed above) also:
- Always right
- More important than anyone else (especially wrt their time which is exceedingly precious and obv more so than anyone else’s time)
- Often outraged (on their own account)
- Rule devotees (iro exclusively karen-endorsed rules)
- (Exceedingly) inclined to report folk for breaking these rules
- Given to fear mongering/sharing fake news/drama
- Prone to demanding to see the manager (especially at Woolies)
- Racist (apparently karens like to insist that they don’t see colour – a fact which they fail to grasp is in itself racist).
- Patronizing do-gooders who like to capture selfies with the unfortunates they are engaged in rescuing
- Have great hair of the longer-side-swept-bob in-the-front/shorter-at-the back variety)
Karen is an actual thing and she didn’t start with the meme in 2014 (some sources say as far back as 2005). She used to be called “Miss Ann” by enslaved people when referring to white women who liked to exert power over them (even when they had nor right or reason to do so) or to weaponise their privilege to make trouble for others. Karen can in some cases be a gender neutral term – recently an American scientist referred to Elon Musk as “Space Karen” (How utterly hilarious! although karen’s male counterpart is usually referred to as ken. Or sometimes hugo in RSA (see the “Hugo! Bel die polisie! meme)
The authors urge readers to aim their righteous indignation superpower at systemic and petty racism rather than taking offence at the karen stereotype or proper noun tuned epithet. To use their position of privilege to collaborate rather than to dominate. After all, it would be a great idea to use all this confident outspokenness for the good of everyone or to get service delivery not just for the good of karen in the Woolies customer services queue.
The book loses its way a bit in the middle and gets slightly preachy (the authors are called Karen/Karin after all) – but the chapter on privilege is great and I will certainly use the Privilege snakes and Patriarchy ladders game as a fun and brilliant resource for helping any ken or karen in denial about their own privilege to see the light (and maybe change their hairstyle).
Just going to dart out and exit all those social media groups I’m part of populated almost entirely by karens!